If you read the title first, no doubt you might be imagining a sweet spring scene– a green, grassy yard with a spattering of kindly elderly folks slowly and happily making their way about the lawn and joyfully collecting a few eggs. That is what I would picture– but no, that is not what happened at the hunt our students helped with last week.
disclaimer: I am writing about this secondhand.. as told to me by fellow teachers and students who were actually there at this senior free for all.
Last week, my co-workers, Holly and Tammy, took their EC high school students to the local Senior Center to hold an Easter Celebration that included lunch, a visit from the ‘Easter Bunny,’ and an egg hunt outdoors. They came back exhausted, but laughing with a new perspective on the elderly: and I quote: “they are mean.”
Now before I even heard the story, I did agree, that indeed, a lot of old people can be mean. As a younger person, I had the notion that all elderly people were sweet and kind, but as I have gained more experience in the world [and met more old people], I have come to the conclusion that the state of getting and being old does not make one nicer. In fact, it might make you less nice. I think if you were charming and had good social skills as a younger or middle-aged person, then you might keep that into old age. You might lose some of your positive edge, if getting old involves some physical or emotional pain or if life has dealt you a lot of hard knocks, but if you were mean in youth, you will be mean [or meaner] in old age.
I have a neighbor who used to drive me crazy being rude and hurting my feelings all the time. I used to wonder how an old woman could be so awful, and then one day I had a lightbulb moment and realized that she had been like this all her life. As a young person, she was most likely controlling and socially and verbally inappropriate, as she aged, instead of getting softer and more enlightened, she just became a harder version of herself. That finally explained why even her children and grandchildren who lived in town, rarely came to see her. But, I digress.
The senior center egg hunt went something like this: Our students carefully hid three large grocery bags brim-full of plastic eggs filled with jelly beans along with some wrapped candy eggs. The senior hunters were then escorted down the ramp and out to the yard. Some of them were in wheelchairs, mind you, or had canes to assist them, but they all had their bags or baskets ready and were then let loose to find eggs. According to Tammy, it was a indeed a free-for-all, with the younger seniors who were more ambulatory, raping the green canvas of eggs in less time than it takes the average person to brush his/her teeth. The less ambulatory seniors had hardly maneuvered their wheelchairs down the ramp and onto the grass or used their canes to amble out onto the grass before it was over, and “poof” and they were left holding empty bags and baskets.
I asked if there were any acts of altruism– if perhaps, any of these more physically fortunate seniors shared their vast egg bounties with the others who were less competitive? The answer was “no; no one shared.” In fact, on their way to the grassy egg containment area, a few of these very excited seniors almost knocked over some of their less steady friends to get a jump on those eggs.
The stunned students and teachers who would have gladly helped the less physically able stood helplessly by as the eggs were swooped up by crazed ‘seniors’ running wildly about. These ‘fast ones’ were the ones who drove to the senior center that morning from their homes and parked their cars in the parking lot between Main and Foushee; some of them seemed like they were barely seniors at all. Much of the older and slower crowd had arrived by van from nursing homes and senior housing projects.
Prior to this, all had gathered for lunch inside the center. Even this was not pleasant. Many of those lunching complained about the food. “Is this all we get for our money?,” a few of them were heard to exclaim. Now, I have to tell you that the cost of the meal was $2.00 [yes, two dollars], and for this price they were given a hot dog, chips, two cookies, and a milk. One student serving was asked by a scruffy-looking man with very few teeth, if he could have two hot dogs. When the reply was negative, he asked for another buttermilk, and when told that each person was to have only one, he yelled, “I don’t see why; I’ve already had four!” This was the same man who later, after stepping outside, asked the student who was dressed up as the Easter Bunny [in a full bunny suit] if she had a cigarette.
All in all, this was an eye-opener for many of our students and for our teachers as well. Holly said she couldn’t wait to get out of there, but looking back on it, she did have to admit it was all pretty funny. By the way, Tuesday evening was the county egg hunt for children, which is always another really keen study on human nature. Virtually all of the children act nice, and most of the adults act like idiots trying to help their offspring ‘win’ and in turn teach them what is really important in life: getting the most eggs is much more important than the fun of helping someone else or sharing. And, we wonder how elderly people ever become greedy or mean..