In the movie Sunset Boulevard, Norma Desmond is a fading star of the talkie era. She is glamorous and lives lavishly but a recluse, waiting eternally for the next movie script.
Norma’s time in the spotlight is over and everyone knows it but her. The talkies killed the silent movie star and Norma was one of the victims. She’s living in the past waiting for a future that isn’t coming.
I met a modern day Norma Desmond this past weekend. At 88 years of age, she still has a touch of glamour, although it’s hard to see unless you look closely. Her first name is Belle, which means beauty, and from what I experienced during my brief visit is that she’s hanging on to a past that has left her long ago.
Our elderly can be precious assets to our communities. From educating our youth, to passing on important cultural traditions, the old today are sometimes forgotten and treated less valuable based on their capabilities.
Belle lives on a secluded horse ranch in Southeastern Arizona. Driving up to the middle-of-nowhere property, a ranch hand will greet you, shirtless and quiet. Donkeys are grazing in the distance and the property is sadly alone.
Walking up to the house front door is a pile of dog food and the sound of several small dogs greeting you with a loud warning. Belle is sitting, wheelchair bound in the kitchen. She’s the first site you see just as you open the door to a home that is apparently neglected. Dishes are unwashed; food is spoiled.
This is not what an 88-year-old woman named Belle deserves during her golden years.
What does it say about us a nation, when the elderly become less valuable, as their mental sharpness fades away, and their mobility comes to a slow halt?
Asian cultures treasure their ancestors. A 70th or 80th birthday becomes a major life event. The elderly are celebrated. It is the child’s duty to care for their grandparents. In the Mediterranean culture, it is common for several generations to live in one household.
Somehow, Belle was left behind. She speaks of her glorious plans for the ranch. There is still a gleam in her eye.
Belle is holding on to her past, wishing and hoping, that her life’s dreams can still become a reality.
We all dream. We all wish the same as Belle. The next time you visit your grandparents or stop by a nursing home, let someone know that you care. Even better, help them create a life worth living, not one worth dreaming.
Originally published at https://www.linkedin.com on July 27, 2016.