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It’s Time to Readjust Our Outlook on Aging. Why the Elderly are National Treasures
Posted By Leigh Anne Tuohy On February 28, 2012 @ 2:30 pm In Volunteering,Your Life | Comments Disabled
What does “older American” mean? Seriously…I see that term used more and more often. This past week it actually hit me right in the face and made me laugh. I had my mother with me out of town on a job. My mom is in her early seventies, and I never categorized her as an older American. When I flipped through some definitions of the words old and older, the answers I found amused me… far advanced in years of life, made long ago, mature, belonging to a remote or former period of history, having become slower in flow, exhibiting the effects of time, and let’s don’t leave out that it could suggest frailness or infirmity.
What does all that mean? You might as well just use the word antique or relic because all those descriptions I just gave you sound like a piece of furniture that I have had for a long time and not a human being. This morning I read an
article in the paper about an older American, an 86-year-old man in Detroit who was carjacked a day or so ago as he was pumping gas. Apparently his leg was broken in the car jacking, and he was trying to get into the station for help. The video surveillance cameras literally show people passing him as he crawled to get help. That is unimaginable to me. I hope the entire city of Detroit is up in arms over this. How pathetic that not a soul came to this man’s aid.
America as a whole should be appalled at a situation like this. We hear about these nightmare incidents far too often, and they involve those older Americans who have invested their lives to make this country what it is today. I just can’t get my arms around it. This man was a WWII vet. He fought so we could have the freedoms that we have today and when he needed help, people walked by him. He is a National Treasure, not an older American! I hope they find the people who did this heinous act and charge them with a crime as they will the ones who carjacked him.
This is just another example of how we invest so little in the true treasures. The people who are over a certain age. Shouldn’t we take an insurance policy out on them like we do other valuable things? We are one of the few cultures that don’t truly value those who were here before us and paved the way. These people have vast amounts of knowledge; they have history in their heads. They have been there, done that and have lived to tell about it. We honestly have no idea just how interesting an older person can be.
Let me tell you something…DO NOT ever regret growing old. It is a privilege that so many people never get to experience! We need to adjust our attitude, our way of thinking about getting old and what we can do or want to do with the new opportunities available to us. I can make you a long list of people who I know and love who are over 65 and they are generous, loving, trustworthy, helpful…they are anything but antiques! We must keep in mind that this group of individuals faces the same issues that we all face. Age is not discriminatory when it comes to tight budgets, illness, loss, hunger or any other travesty that comes in this journey we called life. Yes, just because you reach a certain number of years doesn’t mean you can’t use the Internet, have an IPhone, download music, much less be able to go to Yoga, find a “friend” on match.com or take a continuing education class.
It seems to me society almost forces its will on us that at a certain mile marker it is time to shut it down. News flash, its not happening with this broad! I have friends in my life who when I grow up I want to be just like them. Ed Victor is one who immediately comes to mind. He is my fabulous book editor. He will have dinner in Hong Kong and the next day be back stage with U2. I’m not sure of Ed’s age, but his mother-in-law just turned 108! I guess it just struck a chord with me that there are people other than those in Michael Oher’s age bracket who society deems less valuable than others and to me they are National Treasures.
The gentleman who Detroit valued so little that he was stepped over is just one example of many. The time I spent with my mother made me really realize that she too, was a treasure. She was just as entertaining as any companion I could have been with. Plus she is an excellent cook, and many of my friends can’t cook at all. Late one afternoon, Mom and I had been going at it most of the day with little to no food and water. She paused, looked at me and said, “I’m so hungry that my stomach thinks my throat’s been cut.” Before I could respond she looked at me and said, “Yes, that is an old saying, but don’t you categorize me as old.” I just chuckled as I thought the expression was amusing. Then as we were leaving the parking lot from dinner, a couple with a few years on my mom pulled out in front of our car. Mom exclaimed, “People should not be allowed to drive when they get that old.” I looked at her and said, “Mom, they are not that old,” hoping to make her feel like a spring chicken, but she put me in my place quickly and came right back with “They are as old as dirt.” I’ve never really considered the age of dirt but according to my mom it is old. However, the
couple, apparently Snowbirds, were enjoying life to the fullest.
So February 29th is a free day. It is a gimmie, one that we only get occasionally. Use those extra hours to do something for a person who you consider to be old! I consider my husband old because at least once a week someone says to him, “Oh, you are that old point guard from Ole Miss.” I tell him he is a dinosaur! He tells me the best is yet to come. I like that; the best is still yet to come. Do not be embarrassed about your age. Don’t think you are unimportant. You are useful until you and you alone make that call not to be. There are two sides to this equation. We need to make sure that when we see a person who is a little more seasoned than we are to seek their advice, help them plug into meaningful moments and make sure they have access to help and security. On the other hand, if you are the person who is seasoned, then don’t be stubborn. Ask for help and make sure that you are doing all that you can do to continue on by helping those who could so desperately use your help. If we all make the effort, we would all be the better for it!
Photo credit by: D7000Nikon 
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