I just received this letter.
“Dear Avida Home Care,
Would you please explain why elderly people get treated as second class citizens? I don’t mean senior citizens, I mean some young people treat us like we’re invisible. My son and I go to a nearby restaurant for dinner once in a while. The waiter always talks to my son, even though I am capable of ordering for myself. I may be old, but I can still speak my mind.”
Thank you for your letter. This situation seems to be quite common among the elderly. It has actually happened to an older friend of mine when she and I go out to dinner.
Let’s start with the bright side and check out cultures that honor, celebrate and respect their elders.
In Greek and Greek American culture, the elder is the center of the family. In Native American cultures, the elderly pass on their wisdom to younger members of their families. In Korean and Chinese cultures, respect for their elders is the highest virtue. In India, elders are the head of their families. The Roman philosopher Cicero said, “For there is assuredly nothing dearer to a man than wisdom, and though age takes away all else, it undoubtedly brings us that.” They believed in the wisdom of their elderly.
Sadly, in the US, older people are valued less because we often define worth in terms of physical strength and youth. Yes, I know this is not fair. What about experience and decision making? You might ask. What about your story?
It stands to reason that the more experience you have, the better you are at your job.
A study in the Psychological Science journal found that older people’s wisdom helped them outperform younger people at looking at the bigger picture. Dr. Darrell Worthy, who led the study, said: “We found that older adults are better at evaluating the immediate and delayed benefits of each option they choose from. The younger adults were better when only the immediate rewards needed to be considered.” In other words, older people were able to make decisions based on the outcomes of both the “now” and the future, whereas younger people only considered the “now.”
In another study, Karl Pillemer, who wrote “30 Lessons for Loving,” talks about the practical wisdom from over 700 older Americans. He concludes that in their older years, people want to know that their lives were worthwhile. They want to see that their story was meaningful. Perhaps that’s why my father goes around asking people, “Do you know how old I am?” and proceeds to tell them about his life.
So, IG I hope that with this information you will feel not just senior, but also superior to that young waiter. And tell your son to turn his head away from the waiter. That way the waiter will have to talk to you.
One more thing, at AVIDA, we treat everyone with respect and dignity.