There is nothing sadder than to see a person, of any age, sitting by herself with nothing to do. It is especially difficult to see elderly people who once led productive lives, figuratively thrown on the scrap heap and described as burdens because they now require so much care from others.

It would do us all good to take a breath and think about elderly people in a new light. Just as you may now have a job and a family to care for, they once did too. They sometimes worked in jobs they didn’t like, or gave birth to a lot of children, but they were always mindful of providing for their families. They were productive – each day they had a lot of things to do. Time was precious to them and there was little leisure time.

Now, in the final years of their lives, they have too much time on their hands and the work they once did – their purpose in life – is no longer evident. Yet they have many skills that can be tapped into if only we would take the time to talk to older people and listen to their life stories. We could learn so much from people who have lived long and productive lives.

While nursing homes provide food and accommodation to take care of older folks’ physical needs, their families may not be able to visit as often as they would like so there is an emotional deficit. Everything is done for them so there is no need to think, and their mental faculties become weak from lack of use.

As a writer, I have always thought that it would be a great project for budding Journalists to go into nursing homes and talk to people with a view to recording their stories for posterity. It would provide company and mental stimulation for the older folk and it would be a great lesson for the Journalist in listening and creating stories from recollections.

Have you ever watched the face of an old woman in a shopping centre as she gazes, smiling, at babies as they pass by? You can tell that she is re-living days gone by when her own children were small and needed her, and it gives her a warm feeling to watch young mothers and their children.

As some children don’t have grandparents living nearby, it would be a happy experience for both older person and child if a pre-school took little ones to visit a nursing home every now and then, and share morning tea with them. The older folk could help the children with craft and colouring in and singing songs. It would provide those deprived of the joy of mixing with the generations something to look forward to and talk about long after the event had passed.

Let’s celebrate our older folk and make them feel wanted, needed and loved. We all have something to contribute to society – it just takes a little time and patience to find out what that something is.