I am two years older than my husband. He loves this because right now I’m thirty, and he is still in his twenties. I love it because I can play the “older and wiser” card. Whenever we get into a minor spat, like our recent Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning conversation, I pull the “respect your elders” card on him. It never works. All kidding aside, there is a problem with people respecting the older generation in this country.
My parents raised me to have respect for adults, especially older people. That doesn’t mean I had to take BS from people just because they were adults (in fact, I didn’t), but I dealt with adults properly. I am concerned that we as a society no longer care for or about our elderly. My parents, who are in their mid-sixties (they don’t look that old, and I’m not just saying that), have been affected by ageism. They often get seated in the back of a restaurant or don’t get help in a store. Ever a firecracker, my mom says this is really stupid because she and my dad have more money than the people my age they cater to. As we can see in the media, the world really caters to people between the ages of 18-45.
Asian and Latin cultures really have it right when it comes to caring for their elderly. There, older people are respected and a central part of society. They are even celebrated! Their families care for them and only place them in a nursing home when there is no other option. I would have to imagine that this is beneficial to the older adult for several reasons. First, I would have to imagine that the person is happier, and I would bet it slows down the aging process in many cases. Also, the person is included in family life and forced to have social interactions, thus keeping his or her mind sharp. Although I’m not a doctor, I would have to imagine that the person would have a greater will to live knowing that he or she is cared for and remembered.
In the USA, it’s like old-timers have become invisible, even the ones not in nursing homes. Sure, they aren’t technologically savvy and that can be frustrating at times, but they have a lot of wisdom and insight from seventy, eighty, ninety years of living. While their “way” of doing things may seem archaic to you, it has worked for them for years, so best to just let them be. Give them some dignity. Regardless, they deserve our respect.
The next time you are out and you see a golden-ager all alone, smile at them. Maybe even say hi. Let them know they have not been forgotten. If you ever find yourself getting irritated with an older person, whether it’s a relative, co-worker, driver, stranger, ask yourself, “would I want someone to treat my mother or father this way?” I would bet the answer would be “no.” Believe it or not, one day you will be old, too, if you are lucky. And I hope that you get to live your golden years with love, dignity and respect.