The Struggle for Keeping Dignity
After reading “My World Now” by Anna Mae Halgrim Seaver, I cannot help but wonder what my future will be like. Here was an accomplished woman – a professor of music, a survivor of the Great Depression, an 84 year old woman who can still communicate her thoughts with great clarity and coherence, and in writing at that. Seaver made great use of using undertones to relate her story. Her words were not meant to exact pity, yet Seaver’s account of her world inside a nursing home gripped my heart. Who will pity her when she herself did not allow herself to feel sorry for her plight? She was strong, and she held on to her reason and senses amidst the mediocrity around her.
Learning about her thoughts and feelings, I recognized her struggle as my own. Here was a woman whose whose humanity was being insulted right in front of her as she struggle to maintain control of her own body as it ages. She still has the faculty of her mind, but with her body slowly giving way to old age she found that she was being reduced to a mere body as if lacking personality. To me, Seaves’ essay was a plea – it was not written to beg for sympathy or attention, but it was an appeal made on the behalf of all those who will read it to change how we treat our old, because sooner or later, we will be in there shoes. Seaves is basically relating how our society pays no respect to our elders, no matter what we choose to believe. Outwardly we reason out that we send them to nursing homes because it is for their own good, but is it really? In fact what we are doing is taking them out of our way so we can go on living without having to bother with their pathetic existence, our show of concern reduced to paying their hospital bills. At the heart of it all, Seaves is asking us to rethink our conception of human dignity and respect. It is bad enough that humans age, and that as they age they lose control of their bodies and faculties, but to be treated as tasks to be done, mouths to be fed and diapers to be changed, as though they never mattered, as though their lives never meant anything – that is so sad, and so cold, and inhuman.
Perhaps Seaves thought that it was too late to effect change directly in her environment – after all, nobody listens to her anymore. That is why she resorted to writing, perhaps hoping against hope that some day someone will read her account and then even after she is gone there is still a chance that change may happen.