James Gray, an 85 year old retired British butler placed an ad in a newspaper looking for companionship on Christmas Day. After nine Christmases eating smoked salmon alone, he’d had enough. News of his bold actions (and the subsequent media coverage) swept the Internet this week. The story appeared in the heartwarming section, the splendid section and the news of the weird sections of major media outlets.
I’m struck by how common this likely is. The world hasn’t been very kind to our seniors. We live in a world where we can 3D print pizzas, get tacos delivered by drone, or call black cars on demand. We’ve built great technology for the privilaged (and I’m including myself in that cohort), but we haven’t figured out a noble way to care for the men and women who built the world we inherit.
I am haunted by the thought of nine Christmases eating smoked salmon alone. It’s a short hop from reading about Mr Gray to thinking about the solitary evenings of my own parents and grandparents. And then it’s a baby step to thinking about a future where I’m opening the capers for a Christmas breakfast made for one.
Five years from now, ten years from now or maybe fifty years from now, it will happen to you and me. You will be old. I will be old. Senior citizen. Retiree. Elderly.
Let’s expect more from the world of tomorrow than we have today. Let’s build a life where my parents and yours (and you and me) have companionship, dignity, independence and safety. Let’s do more than we’re doing today. Yes, I realize it is going to take more than medical alert systems to get there. And I’m ready for the challenge.