How the elderly in the Netherlands are aging, in their own ways, more gracefully, than most of the elderly in the Asian world, because they were able to, maintain their own independence, and their own offspring aren’t, burdened, or feel suffocated from taking care of them, an alternative perspective, translated…
Although I was only there for just a short year, but, decades had passed, and I’d, still, kept the rituals of visiting the Netherlands every year………
Is it, that I may have, watched, too many Korean soaps? The Opa and Oma in Dutch, doesn’t mean “brother” like it does in Korean, it’d meant grandpa; then, oma shouldn’t be that hard to guess then? Yup, it means, “Grandma”
My Dutch Grandma
I have a Dutch grandma, the mother of the homestay mom as I’d boarded in my studying in the Netherlands. That year, oma was eighty, and had a huge party thrown on her behalf; the elderly friends all put out their best, in preparations for the party, it’d, made me realized, that partying, is NOT the given rights of younger people.
The first few years after I’d finished my studies and returned back to Taiwan, we’d still, sent the cards, the letters to each other, but, the next time we’d all met up, it was, twelve years later. It was the winter, I’d, finished my work, and as I’d, “returned” back to the Netherlands, Oma was ninety-two, still kept at her appearances, dressed up nicely. She’d invited us to the seaside restaurant in Hague for supper, during the time, she’d even, joked with the male waiter too—ha, it didn’t matter how old, a hottie, looks like, a hottie! Before I returned to Taiwan, she’d phoned me to say goodbye, “Deary, I hope that I’ll still be around when you come back the next time.”
The following year, I’d returned, Oma at ninety-three had, lost so much weight then, and had, become forgetful too, no longer recognized anybody anymore. I’d felt, so sad, but still, I’d, forced on my smiles, talked with her, but suddenly, she’d, spoken, “how is your father’s pharmacy?”, it’s, shocked me—she’d, remembered me, remembered that I was pharmacist Chou’s daughter.
I have a very meaningful necklace, it was a gift from Oma to her daughter, and, her daughter, who didn’t have any children, my Dutch mom, gave it to me. Although, I’d only stayed in the Netherlands for just a year, but, I’d kept that ritual of visiting the Netherlands annually for the decades that’s, come to past.
Through Oma, I’d observed, how advanced medicine was in the Netherlands, how tolerant the society was, and most of the elderly in the Netherlands received wonderful care, and continued to pursue their hobbies, they’d not stopped living, because of their age. For this, a lot of the activities fitted for the elderly population came about, including the trending recent year, Oma’s Pop-up (grandma’s flash kitchen), which invited the retired and the elderly population, to make their best dishes, so others can have a chance to savor them. Anyways, the Netherlands won’t let you feel old that easily!
Having this free way of choosing how one is to age, it’d, allowed the elderly in the Netherlands to feel happier, and have more sense of their own independence. On the subject of rights, another first that the Netherlands had started, had caused a ton of attention and discussions.
The Courage to Say Goodbye
In the Asian communities, death is a tabooed subject, we’d normally, evade from discussing it; and in this conservative environment, as we’d, mentioned it, we’d be noted as jinx, unlucky. But, with the discussions of euthanasia coming back up into the discussion forums awhile ago, I couldn’t help but think, that there’s, a real-life case that’s happened, close to me, in the first country that legalized euthanasia.
I’d been connected very closely with the neighbors from opposite, Mr. and Mrs. Adrienne, Leiti, I’d gone to their house to play a lot in my schooling years, and, called them like their grandchildren would. They have a very pretty traditional Dutch garden, the front and backyard are, green. But, after they’d retired, in a few short years, they’d, decided, to move to an apartment for the elderly, because they no longer have it in them, to fix up the garden anymore (the Dutch believed, that it’s something shameful, when you can’t tend to your own gardens!)
The year the Mr. Adrienne was eighty-two, he could no longer live with his esophageal cancer, in his wife’s support, he’d, decided on euthanasia. And, toward the terminally ill patients, euthanasia offered them an alternative, to end their own lives, in a dignified manner. Even if you’re a Dutch citizen, the process of getting approved for euthanasia is not a simple one, although the costs were covered by the national health insurances, the government and the medical facilities will still be very careful in evaluating the cases, to make sure, that the patient fitted to the criteria of “Can no longer alleviate” and “Can’t be altered”, then, the euthanasia would be, approved.
Before saying that final goodbye to life, Adrien hosted a wake for himself, invited all of his families, and friends, as well as his neighbors too. This “party” was mixed with the celebration, and the sadness of his parting.
A week later, the same group gathered again. It’s just, that this time, it was, at Adrienne’s funeral.
The elderly in the Netherlands are unlike the elderly in Taiwan, our own grandparents were amazing, they’d, busied their lives away for their offspring their whole lives; the sense of filial piety doesn’t pale by comparison to the Asians in the Netherlands, but, “happiness”, this basic wasn’t ignored either. The elderly has a ton of socialization with their peers, to help better their qualities of life, and give their loved ones some rooms to breathe when they’re not together.
I think, what made Oma and Opa happy in this cross-generation relation, is because the generations respected, communicated with, and understood each other.
And so, this, is something we can, borrow from, how the people in the Netherlands, are aging better than people in Eastern countries, because, we are, tied down by the beliefs of filial piety, that we must, take care of our parents, not place them in a home, and sometimes, placing the parents in a home, may be the better option, because that way, the elderly parents would have the opportunities, to have more friends their own ages, to socialize with, but, here in Asian countries, it’s, a common belief, that if we sent our elderly parents into assisted living, then, we’d not done, our filial piety duties, and that should be changed!