Let Us Honor Our Elderly-They Deserve It!
Why We Should Honor Our Elders
Our elders are a vast storehouse of wisdom. They are living testimonials to the past. They educate us regarding historical lessons in addition to instructing us how to progress. Our elders furthermore teach us the trials and tribulations that they went through and how they overcome adversity. They instruct us regarding which mistakes to avoid.
In many ancient societies and many ethnic/racial groups, elderly people have an elevated status. People in those societies look to the elderly to depart wisdom and knowledge. In those societies, elderly people lived with their families and were supplementary advisers and caretakers. Children and younger members in such societies, as members of multigenerational families, learned that old age was to be revered and not to be feared. Younger members reared in such multigenerational famlies also learned that old age was a natural part of life.
With the increased dissolution of the multigenerational family and the rise of the nuclear family, family life became strictly compartmentalized with strictly delineated roles for parents and children. Until the middle 20th century, families often lived within close proximity of each other. However, as society became more advanced and urbanized, families started to live apart from each other in separate neighborhoods, cities, and/or states. With such advances, the multigenerational household became increasingly rare and the single generation household became the norm. The increasing complexity of late 20th and early 21st century life resulted in children and younger relatives visiting their grandparents and other older relatives on a sporadic basis oftentimes not receiving the full benefit of the elder's experience and knowledge.
In addition to generations of families living apart, there is a societal obsession with being young and youthful. In modern society, being young is equated with being smart, beautiful, sexy, and alert while being old is equated with being decayed, senile, asexual, ancient, unattractive, and crotchety. There are more negative synonyms associated to being old than it is associated to being youthful.
Elders who used to be treated with respect are now derided and disrespected. People, especially young people, are afraid to get old. This is because being old is associated with having declining facilities, health, and losing one's attractiveness. Elderly people are often seen as hindrances, burdens, and people to be avoided at all costs. Many times, elderly people are viewed contemptuously because they symbolize what each of us is going to become if we live long enough.
The elderly are oftentimes subjected and are the victims of discrimination. Many companies summarily inform quite capable elderly people to retire. What these companies do not realize is that many elderly people are viable, providing valuable expertise and knowledge in the workplace. Especially now in this recessive economy, many company are electing to terminated elderly and/or older employees to cut costs and hiring young employees at lower salaries.
Especially in Hollywood and other visual media, there are few or no roles for elderly actors and models of both sexes. The roles elderly actors portray are seldom positive roles of strength, attractiveness, intelligence, and sensuality. Many roles that elderly actors portray are negative stereotypes of the elderly persona. For example, the late Redd Foxx in SANFORD AND SON portrayed Fred Sanford, an old, crotchety junk dealer who is always grumpy and feigning a heart attack. Another character in the same television series is Grady Wilson, portrayed by the late Whitman Mayo. Grady Wilson exhibits an even more negative stereotype of old age than Fred Sanford. When Hollywood tires of a particular elderly actor as he/she no longer has a market value, he/she is put out to pasture. Elderly people should be viewed as competent and respected leaders but of their life experience; however, they are instead treated as non-entities and pushed aside.
Because elderly people in modern and postmodern societies are viewed as hindrances and burdens, many of them are routinely placed in nursing homes where they eventually deteriorate, vegetate, and subsequently die. In the average nursing home, elderly people seldom receive the individualized care as they would if they remained home. Many adult children, grandchildren, and other younger relatives clearly do not want their elderly relatives to live with them. They contend that if their parents, grandparents, and other elderly relatives live with them, their lifestyle would either be hampered or disrupted. One former co-worker stated to me that young people do not have the time to care for their elderly relatives. One former supervisor added caring for elderly relatives is what nursing homes are for.
However, there are many loving and caring young people who enjoy caring for their elderly loved ones. These people view their elderly relatives as repositors of knowledge and wisdom. Although many elderly relatives are not as strong as they used to be, they can still impart wisdom and are joys to be around which are lessons for younger generations.
My mother, who has alzheimers disease, has her moments of clarity and I can still learn something from her. Just because a person is elderly does not mean that his/her quality of life has diminished. With patience, love, and care from their younger family members and friends, they can still have a good quality of life and can still impart wisdom. All of us will become old eventually and we want people to honor us so in turn we should honor our elders.
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