Sunday, October 31, 2010


So, last weeks essay question I presented to my English students was this: What is your opinion of the role of elderly people in today's society? Whenever I give an essay to my students, I will also complete the task myself for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it shows my students that I'm also interested in the work they are doing. I'm not just some obstinate teacher who is good at giving out assignments and criticising. I also join them in their efforts by showing my effort. And secondly, I just love writing, and I get to post it on my blog so you can all read it too. For my previous essays please visit HERE for a discussion of the advantages of the Zenith Hotel, and you can also follow THIS LINK for a run-down of the benefits of a possible train-line linking Kuantan with KL.

This one definitely got me thinking and my essay is a lot longer than the suggested 350 words. But anyway, I hope it provides an interesting and worthwhile read.

In today's ever-changing, technologically-advanced world where aeroplanes rule the skies and computers run the land, elderly people find themselves in an increasingly daunting place where they are unsure whether to stick or twist. Sticking is the easier option, but leaves them generally irrelevant; twisting is extremely tough as the world they are trying to gamble into is an entirely disparate one from which they came. It is a dilemma of the times, unheard of in all previous generations.

Image taken from
(I do not endorse the destructive habit of gambling)

The elderly aren't particularly fond of today's youth culture where children run wild, hang out on street corners late at night, and generally cause problems and disturbances to home-owners the world over. Neither do they approve of their loose morals and rebellious behaviour. The youth in turn, are not exactly affectionate of the ageing population. To them, the old people are boring, old-fashioned and demanding - out of touch with 21st-century reality. Their standards of expectation are severely outdated and young people find the same old lecturing a troublesome bane.

So where does this leave the elderly? What does the world expect of them? What is their role in the most sophisticated, high-tech, yet indecent, obscene society?

I believe the elderly still have a respectable role to play in today's society which can be highly beneficial for all of us younger, less-experienced people. They can offer us much in the way of accumulated knowledge and historical accounts, as well as being engaged in the workforce and in their own families.

To present a balanced argument, I will first discuss a few significant points as to the struggles the elderly are facing.

The inception of the internet completely changed communication in the world overnight. It is now possible for a person in Malaysia to chat with and see video coverage of a person in England in instant time. Conference calling makes it possible for people in a number of countries dotted all around the world to see each other and have audio discussions in real time. We have come a long way from the days of hand-writing and sending letters, waiting weeks or months for a reply. Yet that is the method of communication which most elderly people are familiar with and represents the era in which they were born. But they are rapidly losing status, as face-to-face conversation is being outweighed by instant messaging on social networks like facebook, yahoo! and msn. Writing to a pen-pal is now done by surfing the internet for friends on facebook, twitter, blogger, or a whole host of other friend-finding sites. People today are spending increasingly more time typing frantically on a keyboard than enjoying face-to-face, heart-to-heart communication.

With cutting-edge technologies surfacing with every passing year, people, and society, are looking to the future, and not to the past. This presents another problem for the elderly. Where once they may have been respected for their intelligence and experience, now their experience has very limited relevance in today's futuristic society, their opinions and offerings casually dismissed as inapplicable to the current age.

We often hear of them being 'stuck in their old ways' as they live a rigidly docile, early 20th-century life, in a vastly different landscape of the "noughties" (a term used to describe the years between 2000-2009) and beyond. Their peers are passing on as age catches up with them, and there is an obstinacy attached to the elderly as they persist in their tried-and-tested formula for life which sadly doesn't wash in today's society where change is the only constant.

This image is taken from
Not all elderly people are 'stuck in their old ways' or 'obstinate' but for those who are futile to change, a quicker than planned journey to the cemetery may be on the cards.
Amidst these trials facing the elderly, there remains a justifiable role for them to play in the final acts of their life.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and that includes the elderly population. Despite their opinions, which are derived from life experiences in a different time to ours, being a little out of touch as mentioned previously, I still often find myself musing, "If we were in the old days..." The horrible decline in morals and standards displayed by teenagers and young adults today is a huge worry. I think we could do with having our minds refreshed with higher standards of modesty, dignity and self-control. On the whole, we are a graceless, ungrateful society who live a life of luxury and ease.

Without attempting to class my father as 'elderly', I remember him telling us how difficult life was back in his day, which included sleeping with the rats. Many of our grandparents will recount the travails of living amidst wars where safe shelter, protection and food were never guaranteed. Some things are good to remember and we could do with realising how lucky we are and the freedoms we enjoy today. 

Indeed, he who is not informed of history can never be properly prepared for the future.

Family history is now a major force in learning about our ancestors and finding out who we really are and where we came from. Elderly people can reveal many important gems of information such as names, dates and places to aid us in our genealogical quest. If we don't know our progenitors, we don't really know ourselves.

I also feel that the elderly can still contribute to a country's economy by bolstering the workforce. I'm sure, with all their experience and stories to tell, they would make fantastic teachers, particularly in the field of history. 90% of all my students have reported negativity with learning history at school. Contrast the two following situations:
1. A young teacher reads right out of the textbook concerning the Declaration of Independence of Malaysia concerning the day of 31st August, 1957 when Malaysia achieved its independence from British rule. The students have heard about it before and are tired of listening to another boring history class being dictated from a book.
2. A retired OAP (Old Aged Pensioner) puts the textbook to one side, and with a tear or two in his eyes, recounts the exact moment when he stood there watching the Malaysia flag be hoisted into the air, describing the immense feelings of pride that gripped his heart in that moment of history.

A large bulk of today's world leaders are elderly. They are charged with the painstaking task of making vital decisions for the peace and prosperity of the world.

Image taken from
World leaders including the Queen are largely into their 2nd half-century of years.
Young leaders have found it tough, most notably Barack Obama, who after a highly successful campaign trail, now endures criticisms of his leadership from all quarters. Even footballing superstars like Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes, considered 'elderly' within the sphere of football, bring so much magic and indispensable experience that no amount of money can simply purchase. The greatest football manager in the Premier League, Sir Alex Ferguson, is well into his 70's and is the most important man at Manchester United football club because of his years of experience in the game. Their enduring success lies in changing and adapting themselves to the modern game.

Image from
Sir Alex Ferguson holds the Premier League trophy for the eleventh time
Finally, elderly people find great joy in grandchildren. In today's busy world where both parents often go out to work, the elderly have the opportunity to be guardians of their grandchildren, help to raise them in a positive way, and of course, spoil them rotten!

I remember with fondness Saturday afternoons at Grandma's house. We were so excited to go there to play for a few hours each weekend. We went on trips down to the South Coast of England with my grandma, and we enjoyed eating our 'chip butties' at my other grandparents' house!

And so we are left with this task of deciding the status of elderly people. And they are left with the conundrum of whether to remain in their old-world ideals, or to adjust to the new world realities.

Stick or Twist?

That, most definitely, is the most prominent question on their minds.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. A somewhat polarised view on the aged.

  3. Thanks for reading the essay, Anonymous. I guess my polarisation leaves you to decide for yourself on this subject...


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