Open letter published in Québecor media for International Day of Older Persons
Do you think that’s a compliment I received as I confidently walked down the stairs? No. That’s what I once said to a 14- or 15-year-old boy I’d just been introduced to. Do you think he took it as a compliment? No! He smiled politely, but I think I insulted him. He probably would have preferred it if I’d said to him: ” Hey, you look old for your age!
Rest assured, it has had time to mature since then! He’s probably around 50 today. But is he old? And you, who are reading this, are you young? What does it mean to be young? What does it mean to be old?
For the past 16 years, I’ve had the honor of being the official spokesperson for the Little Brothers organization. Its admirable mission is to ensure that as many elderly people as possible are not all alone. And believe me, there are a lot of them out there. And more and more. Why is this so? Is this normal? Is it the same everywhere on the planet? No. Not at all.
Open your mind, eyes and ears
When we’re young and moving forward in life, we want to learn. We have plans. We want to do this, we want to do that. We want to conquer the world. These things happen. Sometimes they don’t, but you must set goals in life. Perhaps you’ve experienced failures and disappointments. I have myself. We all have. Moments of great happiness too. And suffering. That’s what gaining years of experience is all about. You learn to accept the difficult stages and control your life as best you can
There’s beauty all around us, always within reach. But sometimes we don’t see it, we stop seeing it. There’s no need for a special aptitude to perceive it. We simply need each other to help us discover or rediscover it, to put on different glasses so that we can appreciate beauty in the little things of everyday life and achieve a more meaningful existence.
You might say that beauty is hard to find for the elderly, who live alone, often without friends or other people to comfort them. Especially if they never leave the house. And you’d be right.
International Seniors’ Day
October 1st is the International Day of Older Persons. What saddens me is that ageism is still very present in Quebec. Here, the longer you live, the more likely you are to find yourself alone and isolated. Did you know that in 2022, the proportion of people over 65 in Quebec surpassed that of people under 20?
Some people isolate themselves after some misfortune, and I understand them perfectly. I’m a very active person by nature, and I still need a bit of peace and quiet to get away from it all. But I don’t isolate myself for weeks on end! Yet some people do. So they need us to go and get them, to encourage them.
I don’t know what decade of your life you’re in, but there will be other milestones ahead. You know we never stop learning and evolving.
If you think of yourself as “old”, and you see someone who still has “crusts to eat” (as you’ve no doubt often thought when meeting young people), smile at them. You’ll surprise them, and you’ll have opened up a breach in the invisible wall that too often separates the generations.
If you think of yourself as “young” and you come across an “older person”, smile at her first if she doesn’t smile back. The important thing is to engage in communication.
Every day, every person, whether they’re 25 or 95, should say to themselves, “I’m here, I’m alive and I’m part of this diverse world, and I’m going to try to understand it.” After all, we’re all building it together.
Remember that International Seniors Day is 365 days a year.
Actress and patron of Les Petits Frères and the Salon des aînés de Saint-Jérôme
Photo credit: Mélanie Bernier