Sometimes it seems to me that we live in a disposable society. Paper plates, Styrofoam cups, and plastic eating utensils make meals quick and easy. No one uses handkerchiefs anymore now that facial tissues are so readily available. We throw them away, and they are no longer our problem.
How simple it appears to apply that same mentality to all areas of our lives. When something (or someone) is no longer useful/attractive/clean/strong/desirable/convenient/new enough, we toss it aside. Couch looking a little worn? Get rid of it. Cat acting jealous of the new baby? Well, he's gotta go. Girlfriend didn't turn out to be as fun as you'd hoped? Dump her.
Everywhere we turn there are avenues for parting with that which no longer interests us. There are yard sales in neighborhoods every weekend. We advertise our "gently used" items on websites like Craig's List and Freecycle. When all else fails, drag it to the curb. Ever watch a toddler shove things off her plate and onto the floor because she doesn't want to eat it? It's a lot like that.
Inanimate objects don't care what happens to them after they've served their purpose. But living beings do. Kids and dogs who have become too difficult for their caregivers to handle don't enjoy bouncing from place to place, and their behavior shows it. Old senile Uncle Ezra doesn't want to leave his lifelong home and move into a nursing facility. Why do you think he refuses to get out of the car?
What we rarely stop to consider is that just because something is no longer our problem doesn't mean that no one else has to deal with it. Someone has to haul off our trash once a week. Unwanted kids and pets aren't allowed to just wander the streets. The homeless are herded around town like cattle. And that used-up girlfriend? Well, the next guy that takes her better be ready to help her with her baggage.
I don't believe anyone chooses to outlive their "usefulness." My clients who suffer from depression often express feeling as if they no longer have a purpose in life. They say that sometimes they just can't think of a reason to go on living. I can't help but wonder how many times they've found themselves sitting on the curb.