Many reviews have been written about the book Two Old Women by Velma Wallis, but I couldn’t resist doing just one more. Every time I read it I learn something new. It is a must read for every senior who has ever doubted his/her own capabilities. It is a spirited reminder that seniors everywhere can be independent, can survive, and can make a difference.
We’ve all heard stories about old people being left behind, but never from the viewpoint of the old people themselves. This book is the story of two old Indian women, left behind to die when their tribe moves on, who manage to survive and prove their worth. It speaks to all of us.
It is a delightful story in its own right, but it speaks to many issues prevalent in society today. The abandonment and isolation that occurs when the elderly are shuffled off to live in nursing homes and retirement communities is not so very different. Instead of seeing honor, dignity, wisdom in the old, we see only pathology and pathos. We feel better about ourselves because our old people are being “well taken care of” and there is no starvation or deprivation involved, but there is still abandonment, and perhaps that is even worse.
Perhaps some of the problem is how the elderly see themselves. The story reminds us a number of times that while they still contributed to communal living the women had fallen into the habit complaining constantly, and requesting more assistance than might have been warranted, just because they could.
At any rate, the two women decide to fight back. Instead of waiting to die they pooled their wisdom and their resources and not only survive but thrived. When the tribe returned they were able to share their bounty and their wisdom. The story is one of adventure, suspense and obstacles to overcome as well as being a message to our humanity.
Seniors themselves need to stop underestimating their capabilities, stop complaining about their infirmities and move forward as the valuable assesses that they are.