The elderly and children inquire us

“Society is not prepared either for the elderly or for children,” says Brazilian writer Lya Luft in Losses and Gains, her last book. She thinks that old age cannot be lost in regret and complain; old age, for her, must be a conquest that serves life. One must listen  people who are mature and responsible who have scoped into the great subjects that affect human beings and that have been this writer’s principal subject: life, death, solitude, cowardice.

In a delicious interview with journalist Carmen Morán, the author speaks from her 66 years of age to share her living experience and argues that she does not only want to pour out into the subject of the third age. Losses and Gains  is about the importance of life, of responsibility and of our natural cowardice for change But there is only life through change; “we are a bit cowardly, and regretting ourselves, complaining, life is wasted away.” I believe, she says, that maturity is to understand that we are a bit masters of our lives, of our destiny and that we can make decisions to gain freedom, to become happier, more sincere and more humane.

She confronts the infatuation for the young, the keynote of so many situations in our times: the media, fashion, leisure, culture and that attic with collective frustrations that represents the world of professional sports. One would say that being young is a value in itself when by definition, it’s ephemeral because it’s over with time. If you’ll forgive the dear repetition because when the media refer to youth, they whip themselves with the non-stop and insecure redundancy. Pay attention to advertisements. Especially in television or in the representations that they do out of their characters in television series. Many of them are worthy of embarrassment. It’s true that those who write about them are no longer young. Youngsters occupy themselves with living their lives, which is not a small thing.

Lya Luft argues against the claim that youth is a value in itself. How shall a rock, a flower or the cloud that digs the sky be a value in itself? Every value has an ethical foundation. We mustn’t only pay attention only to the physique, she says, or to the wild desire of remaining young and beautiful forever, or to think that beauty is present only in youth. We are sometimes mad about those impossible models that society imposes on us. Especially to women, but little by little to men as well.

In what concerns the experience that her 66 years of age give her, she claims that everything is more fun. “With 30 years of age, thins for which I would have pulled out my hair happened to me, things that I see differently now; everything is calmer, but not dead. One of old age’s worst things is bad mood; the elderly complain that they are alone, but nobody can bear being by their side. I don’t see why one must be unhappy or in a bad mood just for the reason of being 80 years old if one is healthy; it’s necessary to do activities, things.” 

The journalist asks, “Don’t you think there’s a certain obsession of being active?” And the Brazilian writer gracefully responds: calmness is not inactivity. To be active we don’t need to run like a youngster; it’s enough to love life, people, to contemplate nature, to listen to good music in order to feel alive. Youngster have losses and much anguish too, she assures. And they have the same needs as the elderly people: someone who listens, supports and listens to them… 

This is when the problem emerges of whether society is prepared for society’s ageing. And she expresses out loud the stated experience of sociologists, doctors and experts. Society is not prepared either for the elderly or for children. But old age  is individual, personal, each one most think about his or her own. Many people say, “This didn’t happen in my times, this didn’t use to be like this.” What poverty, time does not belong to us, it is us who become exiles of time, we put ourselves at the margin. That is why Lia Luft concludes with this message that is so clear, “I believe that when one becomes mature, one must have an inner background with positive things, with wisdom in order not to always behave like a little child. We must see what is expected from life and learn to live with solitude a bit. We must procure to have people we love who love us back, it is tissue that is constantly being weaved along life. Because otherwise not, we feel like victims; victimization produces hostility against everyone and against everything.

We cannot avoid the growing challenge that is posed to modern societies. What shall we do with the elderly? The latest we bring children to this world, the better, because we must live our lives first. And in this “latest” we have to resort to modern technologies in order not to get pregnant. Like that, in plural terms.


José Carlos Gª Fajardo
Translated by Carlos Miguélez