Panel VII: Love

Do old people deserve our love and respect was the subject of the grilling to which writer Svetlana Žuchová subjected Czech sociologist Jiřina Šiklová.

Svetlana Žuchová. Photo: Peter Župník

Jiřina Šiklová began by dispelling a myth: „sex in old age is the same as when you’re young, except slower and less frequent“. She  sees no reason why old people should deserve love solely on account of their old age. „They do deserve our respect, but we don’t  necessarily have to follow their advice since their experience might be not applicable in present-day world. As Czech comic Jan Werich once said, ‚Every old idiot had once been a young idiot.‘ We might feel today that we are not treating old people well but if good relations with the old were something natural there would have been no need for the 4th commandment:  ‚Honour your father and mother.‘“ However, old people also bear responsibility for the state of the world today, even though they are reluctant to admit it.Jiřina Šiklová believes that these days aversion toward old people is more common than love because their numbers have grown and they have become more visible: „Europe is dying out and we are facing a  shortage of grandchildren and great grandchildren.“  Old people may have enjoyed more respect in the past but old age is a relative concept: the eponymous  Grandmother of Božena Němcová’s classic Czech novel was only 54 yeras old. „Imagine a present-day 54-year old mother moving in with her children without any money and no pension? She would be asked whether she had thought of retraining, and how good her English is.“ However, old people also bear responsibility for the state of the world today, even though they are reluctant to admit it. They often spread stereotypes about themselves: „Those who lose their power tend to present themselves as poor wretches in order not to cause resentment. This is a typical minority behaviour.“ Moving on from the issue of old age, Jiřina Šiklová pointed out that love and truth, as championed by Václav Havel, has lately been the target of mockery in Czech society and the adherents of this motto have been disparaged.

Jiřina Šiklová. Photo: Peter Župník