Where is the Respect for Elders?
Once upon a time elders in most communities were treated with dignity and respect. Sadly, I get the feeling that they are seen as problems these days. It is not helped by the media nor the government that goes on about the high cost of housing and health for the elderly. The government reducing some pensions in the manner it has done has not been helpful either.
How many times do seniors walk into a shop, where the sales person is a much younger soul and in many cases will ignore the older person. If a younger person walks in to the store, he/she is more likely to be attended to. So many times I have heard seniors say that they sometimes feel invisible. Does the salesperson think they might speak another language? Not have any money to spend, so of no value as a customer? Or do they just feel uncomfortable speaking with an older person?
In years gone by most families were more inclusive of generations – grandparents, parents, children, aunts and uncles were more involved with each other. Modern society with its huge workloads (work and social) for parents and children often leave the elderly out of the regular social events. I hear many grandparents lamenting the rare visits to or from their families.
Or did it change when first names became more familiar? I remember a time when an adult was addressed as Mr, Mrs, or Miss. Or Aunty, Uncle with their first name. Uncle Bob, Aunty Joyce etc. Now it is first names for everyone. Did that change the respect that was given to older people? I suspect that it had a hand in the changes. Not all seniors appreciate being referred to by their first name by very young folk.
I do think young people who have little contact with older people are uncomfortable with older people. The modern world has left a lot of seniors behind, so conversation can be challenging. If the senior person does not use much modern technology, or play the online games – even the conversation between grandparents and grandchildren can be limited. Unless a common bond is found e.g. sport, cooking, working with tools or cars, handcrafts etc it can be difficult to communicate.
Where are our Seniors Hiding?
Where do older people go? Do they go to places where children frequent? In Australia I think we tend to “hide” our seniors. Parks are for children – play equipment, skate parks etc. but seldom a place for seniors. Soft rubber walking tracks are rare in Australia – making it challenging for seniors. So much safer with a rubberised walking path!
In some Asian countries, the elderly are much more visible. Due in part no doubt because there are fewer other facilities for them. Ball room dancing in parks and malls is common thoughout China. It is one way they get great exercise!! Music is played in parks – be it from a CD player or a musical group practising. Card games in parks is common. Young and old can join in – and do, though the young often stop to watch or listen.
When the OWCH project was working to provide co-housing for senior women in London, UK, the locals objected to having so many “old” people residing nearby. What was that about?
Young people need to remember that they too will be older one day. Perhaps if they worked to make life happier for our older people now, they will have better facilities when they need it!