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Take Time To Remember The Elderly

August 27, 2009
By Jamie Probst, MSW

In this day and age I can’t help but feel that we take a lot of things for granted, and we do not always see the value they have in our lives.

Our elderly citizens are another one of those things we don’t fully appreciate.

Often times when thinking of the elderly, negative things immediately come to the minds of many. Many of us spend as little time around this group of people possible. For some it’s the thought of repeatedly listening to the life reflections of 80 years of experiences, the thought of being in close proximity to someone who may be close to death, or the thought that they may ask us to help them with something.

This group of people are just that, people, and we don’t always treat them that way.

For those who may feel this way, several thoughts come to my mind. Our elderly citizens provide us with a link to our past. I delight in the wonderful stories that so many seniors thoughtfully share with me, and I have a treasure trove of them that I have written down so that I do not forget.

People don’t share stories simply because they like to hear themselves talk. They share them because those memories are important to them, and they want you to share in their world of experiences.

By ignoring this, we ignore a person’s lifetime of experiences and send a message that “your life doesn’t matter”. Sure we don’t do it intentionally, but it’s often the message that is received anyway.

I think that when we know where we come from, by understanding the past, we gain a better sense of who we are and where we will go in the future. Listening to where others have been, as well as what and how they have overcome obstacles can help us in our own lives.

When a senior citizen looks to you for help, don’t get aggravated. We as a society put immense value on youthfulness and ignore the fact that youth does not last forever. With age comes a decrease in the ability to do certain things.

Since we all age, remember that you yourself are going to get old. You yourself are going to need help. How will you feel when you need that help and no one is giving it to you? If you don’t want to be around an older person because it depresses you, ask yourself “what does this say about me?” Perhaps its not that other person who is the problem, perhaps they are just a mirror for your own experiences and fears.

Are you afraid of the fact that the person before you may resemble you at some point in time? Is it that they are not the person you remember they were? It may be hard for you to see them like that, but it is likely much harder for them to BE like that.

Again, this goes back to the fact that we are all going to get old at some point. A fact that we don’t like to be reminded. But the sooner we can accept that, the sooner we can adjust to life as it is, rather than as we wish it to be.

It all goes back to a lesson that you learned in elementary school: “Treat others as you would like to be treated.”


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