Elderly people are viewed very differently depending upon the society and culture. Some see wisdom and knowledge, while others see an added responsibility. Think back to the oldest person that you have ever met in your entire life. What do you remember about them?
Some cultures revere the old and wise in their midst to a level that is rarely seen in the US. Haiti is one of those countries where the elderly are highly respected by society for their knowledge and experience.
I recently met a Haitian woman who was 103 and in amazing shape. At first glance, I did not think she was a day passed 80, but she very quickly and proudly proclaimed her age in Creole with a soft, country twang in her voice.
Most people in America have dentures after they get older, but this is not the case in Haiti. This woman was 103 years old and had teeth that looked like they came from a 20-year-old supermodel! They were pearly white without a plaque stain on them and perfectly straight. I wanted to find out how she was able to keep her teeth like this, but we did not have time to talk about that with her.
Her name was Madame Micius Francois which translated into English means "Wife of Micius Francois." Once a women in Haiti is married, she no longer has a first name. She is now called Madame (insert husbands name).
Madame Micius Francois left an impression with me. Our paths crossed at a medical clinic. Since I do not have medical training, I was put in charge of dispensing the pain relievers and other basic over-the-counters treatments to the people that were in pain like this elderly woman. The medical professionals would diagnose and evaluate the patients, and then they would be sent over to me to receive the treatment that was prescribed.
Since I do not speak enough Creole to converse with most people in the country, I used a translator named Kinsey who I will talk more about in a later post. As he was finding out more about her health issues along with the help of the medical professionals who were part of our team, they found out that this woman simply had nothing more than joint pains and a headache. Nothing serious at all, she just needed some Advil.
As she was getting up to walk out of the shed where we had set up our operation, I couldn’t help but notice her energy. She got out of her chair with the same enthusiasm that as young child headed to recess. There was not a sign of aging in this woman at all. She even hit an old man on her way out, and by his reaction, it must have caused him some pain.
Her energy and obvious enthusiasm where uplifting. She is still going very strong and could easily live to see 110 on her current track. The one sad thing that she mentioned was that she had outlived all of her children. Ironically they had all died of old age, but she was very proud of her great-great-granddaughter who was born last year.
Age and the way it affects people is different among cultures, but every person no matter how old has a story to tell. I’m glad I got to learn just a small bit about this remarkable woman.