The Aged

Commentary by Dr. Ursula A. Falk


Honor Thy Mother and Father that Thou Mayest Live Long on Earth


The fifth commandment is the only one of the ten commandments that includes a reward. 

Apparently it is not observed in our culture, since old agers, known as senior citizens, are ignored, abandoned, and treated with disdain.  The honorable and very well thought of physicians are very much a part of looking down upon their aged clients and do not extend themselves on their behalf, except, of course, for the folks who are wealthy and can pay additional fees for visits that sometimes are unnecessary and enrich the healer.

Because of their reputation and their stature, as well as the length of their schooling, they are admired and “trusted,” regardless of their edicts or the sincerity, or lack thereof, that they practice.  The physician, the healer, is believed to be capable of prolonging life, health, and the “pursuit of happiness” because of the skill, the knowledge which they have and with which they treat their patients. 

Looking at this through a mental telescope, we realize that these folk, in addition to their knowledge, are people who want to make a very comfortable living regardless of their Hippocratic oath.  The medical doctor's task is to use their learning, to be honest, and heal and or assist the patients and better their health.

In our Jewish religion we are to honor elders; the people who have raised us, nurtured us, and loved us.  We do not investigate them, nor whether or not they deserve to be honored.  It is enough of a struggle to be old and to suffer the various physical and emotional problems that often accompany old age.  The aged person has lived on this earth a long time and has experienced much, has seen the good, the stresses, and the day by day work, happiness, disappointments, and more.  To punish the aged for their years on earth, their disabilities, their strengths or lack thereof, is a “nevere,” a sin.  Unfortunately, they are frequently criticized, omitted from friendly visits, parties, or happier times, and treated as pariahs, as nuisances, or as unwanted children. If they are included, they are expected to be quiet and not to bring their “old fashioned” babble to the situation.

Recently the chief allergist of a group decided to close their practice to the elderly.  One after the other of the group's patients in their late seventies and upward were told that they did not need their allergy injections any longer.  Among others, they told a ninety year old man, a very competent professor, that he need not come any more since he has been treated with allergy injections for many years by this group and that he can handle whatever situation arises by himself. (This gentleman was told by the erstwhile, recently deceased head allergist of that group that his treatment, the monthly injections, are very important to his well being and should be continued).  Upon studying this situation, it was discovered that the new physicians were informed and did delete all aged people from their practice.

This is one example of situations that are faced by the old ager who is ignored, not cared for, left to be abandoned, and mistreated.  It is very unfortunate that the medical profession and some of its members are as guilty as the uninformed uncaring citizens.

As Jews we must honor the aged and call attention to prejudicial practices, because we are all aging, and what happens to our fellow humans today will happen to us tomorrow.


 Dr. Ursula A. Falk is a psychotherapist in private practice and the author of several books and articles.

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