Why can children and teens face death with dignity but many seniors cannot?


This is something that has weighed heavily on my mind lately because it seems there are so many seniors out there (personal experience with my family included) that seem to be oblivious to the fact they are aging, have never given much thought to planning financially and are hateful and belitting to many of the caregivers who take them in. Add to the fact the stastic I read on this forum that as many as 30% of caregivers pass away before those they are caring for and it is a sobering situation to say the least.
I am not addressing patients with dementia or alzheimers but people who are normally aging. I see many who I swear would trade a dozen of their family members for just six more months. People who once they showed any signs of aging increased their hatefulness because they had somehow felt they were "above" getting old.
When my dad found out he had cancer the first time, he was 49. He said he was feeling sorry for himself and turned on the television one night and saw a commercial for St. Jude's Children's Hospital. He said he was almost ashamed at his pity party when these little children were much sicker and fighting for their lives -- some with no hope. That story always stuck with me.
My daughter has been working with kid's charities for a few years and recently had an opportunity to work with one of the major charities that helps essentially dying or very ill children. The children are so grateful for anything. Not bitter, not lashing out, not calling their parents names or threatening them. Many are dying and doing so with dignity.
What is spiritually/morally wrong with our senior population that many cannot and will not be thankful for the 80 or 90 years many have been given? Many who have had a chance for higher education, marriage, children, careers, grandchildren but they are hateful wanting to do more for themselves or demand it be done for them. I know not all seniors are this way, but for many - there is no joy in spending any of their last years or months with them. Why is it never enough for them but a dying child or teenager who will never go to college, never have a family can often have such wisdom you sit in awe?
My FIL has gambled away his pension, has womanized, you name it. He recently said if he could live his life over -- he would do MORE of the same. Some of these seniors have done little for a church or charity. Yet I recently read a story of a courageous little girl who was battling cancer and received a gift box while in the hospital. That inspired her to do the same for other kids -- and she did until she died. Her parents continued her work. I read the same for other children's foundations where the parents continue the work that many times a child has started.
So does anyone have thoughts as to what is wrong with the current generation being cared for? Why must many put their families through a living Hell when there are dying children starting foundations and leaving a legacy when they die?

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maybe because children don't have the ability to comprehend the finality of death and the loss of things they never had? They haven't been beaten down by the trials of life, they haven't had to struggle and see all they have worked so hard for fade and degrade. They haven't seen their children looking with contempt at them or read about how horrible old people are...people have more sympathy for a sick child...how many of us have shrugged off an elderly person saying they didn't feel good?

yes, it's sad for a child to be sick but they don't face the same challenges, they don't have to worry about where they are going to live or die, they don't have to worry about being left alone, they don't have their belongings taken and sold off or thrown out. How many charities give 'dream vacations' or 'make a wish' to kids.....have you EVER heard of an old person being surprised with a 'dream vacation' regardless of what disease they have?

Children aren't blamed for their own conditions...but we do that to old people: "She should have watched her weight!" "He shouldn't have smoked"..

yeah, it's a bit easier to be charitable and happy when you are a child instead of an old person.
Helpful Answer (21)

Children are already dependent on adults for all of their practical needs, so they don't experience the loss of independence, privacy, and autonomy that an aging elder does. They don't have the dramatic shift in their whole identity and place in the world. So even while dying, they aren't coming from the same place and like has already been said people in general probably naturally respond to them with more compassion because they are children.
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Excellent post, joycews; also, very perceptive responses from others.
While the innocence of childhood certainly has its blessing and limitations, adulthood brings the power to make good choices, and to not be a victim.

My elderly parents (90+) are exactly as described in the original post, and were the same way when they were a lot younger. No one wanted to be around them then, and no one wants to be around them now. Fortunately for them, they made enough money to PAY for someone to put up with them now.

Lesson learned: if you don't want to be alone, you need to be the kind of person that people WANT to be around - your choice.
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Thank you for starting such an interesting thread. When I first read your post I was feeling the same way this morning. Why does my 90 year old Mom not realize all we do for her and be more grateful. When I asked my Mom how she was this morning she said "why am I still alive?" Then followed that with "I have to go to the doctor because my knee is bothering me." Then I read the other posts and had to really think about this. I was starting to think that the WWII generation was especially entitled but now I think maybe they have just lived too long. Medical science does not ensure quality of life just additional quantity.
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Applause to "wantingtime"! The post, above, is well said. Bravo!!!

Not all senior citizens are grumpy. The ones who are, I think, are angry for a variety of reasons (often not recognized by them or vocalized) because they know their time is limited and can't do anything about it. They are angry because perhaps they want to do more, but health and/or finances limit them. They quite possibly are lonely, because many of their lifelong friends have passed, are in a facility, or are physically or mentally incapable of continuing the friendship. Family members are busy, and don't visit often. And...it can be as simple as 'things have changed' from how it was..."the good old days"...that will not return. They can feel left out, ignored, lacking purpose, and nothing to look forward to.

In general I think grumpy senior citizens are not happy with how things are in their life, but don't feel they can improve it or change it. They are tired and perhaps feel trapped.

You could possibly put them in better spirits by letting them know...they still matter. Ask for their advice on an issue or topic. Ask them questions about them, their history, their accomplishments. Simply spend time with them and LISTEN.
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Probably because children and teens haven't been around long enough to be brainwashed by our death-denying culture.
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VERY well said, JoannaR! Am afraid my 3 years of caregiving, before my parents went to separate facilities, in addition to reading the many heartbreaking stories on this forum of destroyed caregivers' lives, has left me a bit harsh and judgmental on this topic.
I, too, wish to die with dignity, grace, love and honor, and that starts with facing reality and doing a little simplifying and planning accordingly, while I AM able to make those choices for myself. No, it is not pleasant to think about, but I don't want to be the crazy old lady forcibly removed from her home by Adult Protective Services, and warehoused in a government "home".

You are SO right, hadenough, about medical science. Great strides have been made to prolong the life of the physical body, but the mental health (Alzheimer's, dementia) has far to go. Don't think they realized until later how prevalent mental issues would be when extending the physical health.
I do think the WW2 generation was very strong and independent, and has a hard time being dependent on others for care when they are no longer able. But, that is simply the reality of aging. Again, facing reality will allow for a dignified transition.
(Sorry for the long vent......I don't usually do this.)
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First, I'm really sorry you have had family members who have been mean to you, and sorry your FIL is such a pain. Sounds as if the FIL in particular has always been selfish, so no reason to expect different behavior now. I think it's appropriate for you and your spouse to enforce boundaries, to not get sucked into his behavior, but instead to decide how much (if any) you want to be around him. I don't think it's a generational thing so much, though. I imagine plenty of parents of sick children have been kicked or hit or told "I hate you" by their children in the midst of treatment, but parents know not to take it personally and don't blame their children for it. And they don't mention those times in interviews. They know that the kids are in a very frightening situation. And, as alluded to in another comment, children are often treated more kindly by medical folks and others. (Children are innocent victims; older folks' behavior brought on their conditions. Yeah, that's often true. But they're both in pain and needing help and compassion, not judgment and begrudging service.)
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Yes, good points were made here. I guess it's not that black and white. I know that a high rate of seniors suffer from depression towards the end of life, and that in itself elevates irritability, etc. I also believe that character and personality traits play a huge part, as in what I've seen when people with difficult traits aren't always sweet and kind and in fact, their bad traits are only amplified. It's difficult. They say people die the way they lived. My beloved mother, Krystyna, wasn't exactly 'elder' at 66, but as she suffered with and died from cancer, she taught me how to die with dignity, grace, love and honor. Beauty. She never once complained and was literally an 'angel' to be around. What lessons! Sorry, you can choose to be a better person with age, or to be a sour lemon; there is no excuse to treat someone with disdain when they are trying to be there for you. It also shows the extent of someone's narcissistic and selfish side, which is very sad. All of us will cross over into the next life one day and we all have to find a way to make peace with that. Society also needs to start talking about death more and not pretend that it won't happen, because it WILL. God bless you all.
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Joycews, you don't address the REASONS why children are more likely to be upbeat...you are focusing on the caregivers. Yes, having a sick child is hard, no one has denied that. And I am sure there may be some charities that 'make a wish' for elders but you rarely see/hear about them.

Facts are facts...it's hard to be bitter about something you never knew or had. Children don't have the mental and emotional capacity to know what they are going to miss, they can't process it like adults can. Seniors on the other hand are fully aware that they USED to be able to do things they cant' do anymore, they know they have nothing to look forward to, children have some hope...they COULD find a cure, they MIGHT have a treatment, they COULD get a transplant and if they do, they MAY have decades and decades to live...no one is going to find a cure for old age, death is coming and time has run out on them, there will never be a chance to live their dreams, never be a chance to do what they wanted to do...there are no more 'coulds' or 'mays' for them. And people view them with contempt...'they've lived too long' or 'old people USED to be nice'...well, old people USED to stay home with their families...old people used to be honored...

We're all going to be old, God willing, it behooves us to extend the grace we want to recieve..
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