A heartfelt piece published recently in the Opinion section of The New York Times shines a light on an often overlooked population in our society: the elderly. The piece focuses on 82 year old Nancy Root- who is reliant on a wheelchair due to post-polio syndrome- and the immense role that her age and physical limitations play in the way people interact with her.
In the piece, Nancy recalls the direct correlation between her transition into using a wheelchair and becoming invisible to those around her. She recounts numerous occasions where the person pushing her wheelchair was expected to speak for her because it was assumed that her physical condition was indicative of her mental state. The writer reminds us how common dismissive treatment towards the elderly and infirm is and the sadness and exclusion that this brings.
This piece is a fantastic reminder to have empathy towards the older people we encounter in our lives, and to keep in mind that it is impossible to assume a person’s mental state based on looks alone. We will all grow old eventually (if we are lucky) and can only hope that we will continue to be seen and treated with respect at all stages of life.