Our Elderly – A Treasure Trove of Knowledge

The headline does not need repeating as it is pellucid. The call is for the rest of us to harness the vast wealth of knowledge, skills and experiences stored within our older population before the inevitable, which is death, arrives at their door, because if we don’t do that it will not be good for our overall wellbeing.

Saint Lucia, in recent times, has lost to death citizens who have left behind works in certain fields that have shown the brilliance of their minds, minds which we have failed to tap before death claimed them.

This week we are mourning the death of two brilliant individuals, namely Lyndell Gordon whose engineering exploits in Saint Lucia have improved the lives of all citizens of this country and Denis Dabreo whose journalism feats and writing skills have enlightened many dark moments in Saint Lucia’s checkered political history.

Weeks before the above mentioned two, we mourned the death of another accomplished Saint Lucian, Charles Cadet whose body of work will live on forever in our culture. While we understand that death is inevitable and claims even the young amongst us, we need to ask ourselves whether we are doing enough to tap into the fountain of knowledge and experiences contained within our elderly population.

Any society worth its salt would recognize the immense value of its elderly population by way of the many skills and experiences they could pass on to the younger generation, learning tools that could help the younger generation avoid pitfalls to becoming someone of worth in the society.

As an old African proverb stated, ‘what an old man will see while seated, a small child cannot see even standing on top a mountain.’

The stereotyping of our older population needs to stop now. We say that because we know they are stereotyped, categorised or even pigeon-holed, in some cases. Such barriers need to be broken down and one way of doing that is by the two groups, meaning the older and younger populations, working together where the latter can be found appreciating the experiences of the former and the latter the  new skills of the former.

Stored in the minds of our elderly are the dos and don’ts of how some things should be done. Imparting such knowledge to the younger generation could prevent many a young man or woman from being scarred, sometimes for life, or from encountering failure and sad realities many of our elderly have encountered. This is how our culture evolves.

And so, before our elderly population arrive at the inevitable, it would serve us well to get involved in some intergenerational encounters where we match our knowledge-based older population with our eager-for-knowledge younger population, a combination we are sure would augur well for the country.

The older population, aside from having a wealth of knowledge and experiences, have lived through situations younger persons cannot imagine therefore we, as a nation, cannot dismiss these experiences. Surely the ultimate in futility and wastefulness is reinventing the wheel – after all we may not get it round every time.

Truly, as the old African proverb says, ‘the death of an elder is like a burning library.”

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