10 reasons why you need to talk with an elderly person
I love old people
Conventionally, “elderly” has been defined as a chronological age of 65 years old or older, while those from 65 through 74 years old are referred to as “early elderly” and those over 75 years old as “late elderly.” Whatever age someone qualifies as elderly (or old, or aged, or senior), is irrelevant to this hub. The people referred to as elderly herein are those who have advanced in years well beyond ourselves and so by spending time with them, we are able to learn about them and from them.
I love old people. I think they are some of the coolest dudes and dudettes on the planet. They intrigue me, fascinate me, amuse me and teach me whenever I am around them. From my experience interacting with the elderly, I have come up with 10 reasons why every person should spend time talking with older people.
1. To learn patience
Old people are slower than young people. That’s just the way it is. They move slower, think slower and talk slower. Their ability to transfer their thoughts into actions and words takes longer. So why use up your valuable, busy time with them? By waiting for the elderly person to say what it is they want to say, you learn the lost art of patience. We live in such a fast paced world. We expect the answer to our question as fast as we can click a mouse. We expect our hot food as quick as the microwave can warm it and even then we stand watching the numbers count down asking ourselves why it's taking so long.
We are in desperate need of patience today. We need to learn to stop and smell the roses. We need to rediscover the lost art of meaningful communication, no matter how long the person takes to speak. The elderly are always patient. They are never in a rush but they can sense when others are. The challenge when talking with an elderly person is to genuinely want to be with them at that time and for as long as is necessary to make them feel loved and wanted. Old people ooze patience and grace as they put up with the rudeness of the younger generations. We could take a leaf out of their book.
2. To hear their stories
You don’t get to be a senior citizen without encountering some amazing life stories along the way. We will spend copious amounts of money to watch movies that tell stories that are not any better than the real life adventures these elderly folk have lived through. Get any older veteran to start telling tales of WW2 and you will see the memories flooding his expressions as he re-lives each moment again whilst relating it to you. I had a great time listening to an old Canadian air force pilot from the war the other day who told me about how he had been forced to land in England, separated from all his squadron. He spent the next three years of the war living and fighting with the RAF out of Britain and told story after story about their exploits together. Then there’s the tales of how they survived with rations and would chew the tar off the roads like it was chewing gum.
Just ask an elderly person about their childhood, sit back and enjoy, for free, some of the greatest true stories ever told.
3. To help them live longer
It has been proven that laughter relieves stress and less stress increases length of life. There is nothing as heart warming as seeing an elderly lady with tears of laughter in her eyes. When I was a police officer, I befriended an elderly lady in the town where I worked. I had initially been called to her home because she had fallen, but we soon developed a close friendship and I would visit her every week, sometimes on duty and sometimes off. I remember the first time I took my wife with me to visit, and old Lucy would tease me about how I couldn’t possibly have a wife because she herself was my true love. We would laugh and joke around with each other. Whenever I entered her room she would be sitting crouched over sleeping, but by the time I left, her eyes were alive, she was radiant, and full of vim and vigor. Even after I had been posted elsewhere, I visited when I could, and Lucy’s daughter actually called me to let me know when her mother passed away so I could attend the funeral.
There is a tendency to look at old people as miserable because their faces have sagged, but the truth is that on the inside they still feel 20 years old and want to laugh. Go ahead, laugh with them and you will end up with the opportunity to laugh with them longer than you even expected.
4. To avoid regrets
Too many people are left standing at the graveside of an elderly loved one and wishing they had only spent more time with that person. Oh, we all have legitimate reasons for not stopping by and spending an afternoon with Nanna, but after they are gone those missed times cannot be regained. Don’t be a person that lives with regrets. Make it a point to schedule time to visit your elderly relatives, or maybe even just some of the older folks on your street. They will love the company and the investment, and the truth is that you will too. Don’t put off to tomorrow what you can do today, because for the elderly, the tomorrows are vanishing faster then you realize.
5. It helps to keep them mentally agile
If old people spend all their time around other old people, or worse, with no visitors at all, their minds will shut down. It is important that they are stimulated mentally. Regular visits and conversation that causes them to remember, analyze and compute things, helps to keep them alert and in turn alive longer. A muscle that is never used will atrophy and in the same way their unused brain will wither much faster. It is a beautiful cycle – spending more time with them causes them to use their mind more which causes them to live longer which enables you to spend more time with them. Get the idea?
6. To help them with technology
My own parents, who are in their 70’s, have embraced the technological age, being competent enough to surf the web and send emails. My dad can even attach a picture now! My in-laws on the other hand, are completely computer illiterate. I have offered to help them get familiar with the basics of a computer but they aren’t interested. There are elderly folks that could benefit tremendously from being able to use the internet to communicate, read and enjoy all it has to offer. Never assume that because someone is older they have no interest in technology. We will reach the point when all elderly people will have grown up with the internet. However, even then, technology will still be advancing at lightning speed so the older folk will need to be educated about the use of “thought messaging” or “tele-transportation” or whatever the human mind has come up with. Helping an old person with technology will test my 1st point about patience to its limits, but does that mean we shouldn’t do it? Never. Again, think about the benefits for the elderly person and help them program your number into their speed dial so they can call you at 4 am in the morning when they wake up!
7. To learn from their wisdom and experience
Solomon said that there is nothing new under the sun and that is actually a true statement in the eyes of an elderly person. They may see new fads and new technology come along, but they will tell you that it is usually just an old idea that has been re-packaged. They will relate everything to simple principles. You may be having a disagreement with your neighbor over his dog leaving packages on your lawn, but an elderly person will not be thinking so much about the packages but about the relationship you have with your neighbor that might last for years. They will always talk to you about what you need to do in the situation and not what the other person should do. You see, old people grew up being responsible for their own actions. They would admit if they were wrong and suffer the consequences. Nowadays, people always want to blame someone else. That is not wise. My Grandad would always tell me that you can only change one person in a situation and that is yourself. He was a wise man. He also taught me to hold a wine bottle by the neck and a woman by the waist, and not to get the two mixed up!
8. To learn to think outside yourself
We are an inherently selfish people and, with some notable exceptions, tend to think more about ourselves than others. That may serve well for a short while but ultimately it will lead to the breakdown of society. It is said that no man is an island, so we need others. We need the interaction of a variety of people, including our older relatives. If we were to stop inspecting our own navels for a bit and look at the elderly people around us who are lonely, confused and scared, we might learn to be able to give a little bit of ourselves away, and grow in the process. I challenge you to go out of your way to force yourself to invest some of your precious time with an elderly relative. Spend that time thinking about how you can encourage them. Do it all for their good and not your own. You will be surprised just how much joy you will get out of it if you attack it with the right attitude. Invest in them, and when you are elderly yourself, maybe someone will invest in you.
9. To learn to wear beige
This one is a little light-hearted, but take a look at the clothes that teenagers wear and you will see that variety is the spice of life with regards to styles and colours. Check out the middle aged and although they may not be “fashionable” they still embrace different colours. Yet, when a person (specifically a male person) reaches the status of elderly, he more often than not will dress from head to toe in beige. Now, there may be a variety of beige. For example, he may have tan shoes, khaki pants, a cream coloured sweater and fawn shirt, but the predominant colour swatch is that of a walking sandstorm. So why wear beige? My conclusion is in three parts:
- It blends effortlessly with their white hair. Bright colours would clash with the snowy top.
- Beige is notoriously good for hiding blemishes, such as dribbles or other less pleasant accidents.
- It is a neutral colour, and because a lot of older people feel worthless (due to lack of respect from younger people), they would rather not stand out from the crowd and be ridiculed.
10. To appreciate what they went through
By listening to an elderly person’s stories of the hardships they went through over the years, you grow to appreciate just how good your life is. Listen to them tell about what it was like to lose close friends in the bombings in WW2 or how the rations were shared out amongst the whole family, or how 6 siblings shared one bed in a small room. Listen to the stories of getting up in the early hours to trudge off to the factory to earn a meager living and then walk home to go to their other job just to make ends meet. Listen to the sacrifices they made so their children could succeed. Listen to the grandmothers speak of their husbands and sons who never came back from the battle. If you hear the “in my day” stories you might chuckle at first, but if you listen to what is really being said, you will appreciate exactly what these people had to endure for us to be where we are today.
Remember as you consider these 10 things I have learned from the elderly, that in however many years from now, you might be wishing someone else had considered these 10 things about you.