There was a time when I didn't "see" elderly people. What I mean is, I was young, and because I was young, I was prejudiced against the aged. I didn't connect with them. I thought they were old and I really didn't give them much value. They were invisible.
As the saying goes, "What goes around, comes around." Now that I am over 50 (I won't tell you how much over 50 I am), old age is staring me in the face. I hate it and I am fighting it tooth and nail, but age is winning.
Because I am dealing with my own aging, and I have also dealt with my mom's-- having moved her into an assisted living residence a little over a year ago--I have suddenly become sensitive to how older people are treated. I made an extra effort on Sunday to pay momr a visit with my husband and take her out for a picnic lunch. When I pulled up to the facility where she lives, she and several other residents were sitting in rockers out front, waiting, I suppose for something exciting to happen.
She wasn't expecting me. It does not good to call ahead because she can't remember if we make plans. The look of delight on her face when she saw me and Jeff was priceless. We made her day.
I have been on the receiving end of being ignored or undervalued by younger people who never think that I might be bothered by their insensitivity. I see my own body changing, despite a champion effort to stay in shape. It ain't easy.
I think it often takes facing the very thing we don't respect to make us respectful of it. My own aging has made me more tender toward my mother (with whom I have always struggled to have a good relationship.)
Helen volunteers at the church office where I work. She comes once a month to help stuff our newsletter. The previous secretary didn't use her, claiming Helen's talking annoyed her. I don't really need her either and have realized that she can be quite chatty. I could do it myself, but Helen is retired and a widow. She moved to the area following her husband's death to be near her son and their family, but her son recently transferred out of the area so now she is very alone. She fills her time volunteering at other organizations. I am sure some of this is to off set loneliness.
She is still very sharp and I know that being valued matters, so I continue to use her. The last time she helped I told her, "You know, I only get to see you once a month. It's too bad you don't stop by more often." Her face brightened and she said, "Well, maybe I can come by when I'm in the neighborhood." Not too long after she dropped by the office and brought me some tomatoes she had purchased at a local fruit stand. I told her how much I appreciated it.
More than anything, people want to feel that they matter. If I want to be valued and cared about when I am old (not too far off now) shouldn't I make an extra effort to show older people that they count for something. Even the smallest things can brighten their day.
If you want to learn more about being valued and treasured, be sure to read Teena's book, The Treasure Seeker: Finding Love and Value in the Arms of Your Loving Heavenly Father.