It is my observation that the rapid changes that occur as a child grows are noticed more by his or her parents, and caregivers than by the child. We marvel at their milestones as babies grow into toddlers and toddlers grow into preschoolers and it goes on and on until, just as a caterpillar emerges as a beautiful butterfly so does your child transform into an complete adult. We won’t go into the rapid changes of puberty as that is a whole different metamorphosis! But on the whole, these changes are viewed with positive anticipation, inevitably life goes on and we embrace the future for our children.
Those darling children have now become adults and are in the next stage of planning their lives and preparing for careers, cohabitation and ultimate independence. These butterflies, on the whole are viewed as a welcome addition to our garden and their very existence delights us. Youth appears to most, a time when we can achieve almost anything and we again see most adults embracing the future. Society has molded their youth for this garden and the butterfly remains centre stage. Any subtle signs of aging go unnoticed and both our inner and the outer world still marvel at the butterflies’ existence. But now the changes that age brings are less accepted as positive. Society has placed the aged person backstage where they are less visible for the up and coming youth, who fear being upstaged by their wisdom. The aging butterfly can no longer hold our attention and ceases to flitter and flutter beautifying our garden.
At no other life stage do we devalue people in the way that older adults are devalued today. Society is constantly bombarded with the negative connotations of growing old by the media, holding the elderly in a place of dis empowerment. The grey power appears now to be of little political importance and the government and media, rather market them as a drain on the youth as the only tax payers. On a recent television special called ‘Absolutely Champers’ which toured the champagne regions of Europe, Joanna Lumley then 63 years old, said that elderly women don’t really know how to ‘do grey.’ Here she was talking about hair colour, as she explained that this generation is the one where most women now colour their hair, preferring to hide fact that they are getting old. I suppose she meant that there was an expectation not to grow old gracefully. From hair colouring and teeth whitening, to the more dramatic treatments like Botox, there is a pressure for us to hide any signs of aging. Seniors need to own their wisdom and know they can be of great value in society despite looking old. History has shown us that the elderly are capable of rare insights and fantastic potential just as their younger counterparts.
So this has got me thinking, “How do you tell an old butterfly from young butterfly?” Nature has graced us with an insight, you just can’t tell, the butterfly exists purely as a butterfly till it ceases to, and its life cycle ends. I hope next time you see a butterfly; you remind yourself that the essence of a person soul doesn’t change from the crib to the grave, they just are, who they are. And just as we adore our tiny new babe so too must we adore our aging parents and grandparents. They aren’t called grandparents for nothing.