The riddle of the sphinx (Oedipus): “What is the creature that walks on four legs in the morning, two legs at noon, and three legs in the evening?” is parable about a human life cycle, from infancy to old age. Infantile dependency to achieve adult dignity—upright posture and then find ourselves degraded at the old age. Each of us carries the fear of aging. We fear to become less than ourselves in the last stage of life.
Different cultures have different attitudes about old age, and these cultural perspectives can have huge effects on our experience of getting older. As it turns out, maybe by stroke, by Dementia or by whatever cause, we stand at risk of losing everything gained over a lifetime.
Dignity and respect matter because every one of us is vulnerable. In western cultures – the elderly are removed from the community and relegated to hospitals, nursing homes, and hospice houses – aging can become a unrespectful experience.