The elderly are often painted as sickly, lonely, and vulnerable. This often triggers feelings of pity in many of us, which then triggers patronizing attitudes that are rarely respectful or constructive. Rather, they paint us in an altruistic light. The truth is, western society abandoned its elders, who are often isolated and sadly neglected. Around the world, a more humane and traditional societal model has prevailed and succeeded for eons; the elderly are directly taken under the wing of any relatives they may have when they get to an age where they can no longer rely on themselves. They remain crucial and respected members of their families and can prove to be important role models for their grandchildren. The first thing we all need for longevity is a strong sense of belonging, purpose, and community. Here are some things to help you understand your elders better.
They Are Not All Senile
Not all of our elders are completely with it. There are some, however, whose mind is still sharper than yours! The brain is one of the only things out there that gets sharper the more you use it. And even those who may seem harder to understand often make perfect sense. All it takes is to listen and have patience. Perhaps if we listened to them more, we would understand ourselves better. There used to be a time where the wisdom of past experiences informed future actions — we had ‘wise men’ and sages. Empathize, don’t patronize.
They Want To Have Good Times
We all know the stereotypes: card games, bingo, word games… Once you’re retired, you’ve got plenty of time on your hands and you really want to keep your brain active. Many elders play gambling games as the added stakes add to the excitement. Gambling can become a real problem! As long as you’re retired and you can afford it, both health and wallet-wise, you have a lot to look forward to. You can also often make new friends.
If you can take your loved ones on adventures in the outdoors, you really should. The fresh air will be good for them, not to mention the extra vitamin D from the sunlight, and the open expanses of space that exercise our eye muscles. A sad truth is that many children develop shortsightedness from not ever being exposed to the outdoors and their eyes never having to focus on anything distant. Take grandma out! Even if it’s just for a car ride.
Your Care Will Make Them Live Longer
Research has shown that if you spend more time with your parents, they will likely live a longer life. It’s not direct causation, but you can understand that allowing a parent to maintain their role in your life will make them happier. If you’re overwhelmed at the moment, there are services, as demonstrated by the folks at https://arcare.com.au/ in Australia, that can support you in caring for your loved ones and can always find someone to help out. If you have exhausted all possibilities, this help can be substituted by a care home.
They Don’t Always Want Healthy Stuff
And that’s OK. Though it is better to check with a doctor, to stay on the safe side, you can let them indulge. If your grandma can’t chew anymore you can’t just feed her carrots and broccoli. And if your grandpa has bowel problems maybe that bean salad isn’t the greatest idea. Simple yet tasty and moreish foods are usually a preference. And that’s fine. A happy stomach is half the job done toward a happy mind. A happier mind is a healthier mind. And, of course, a healthier mind means a healthier life. You do need to remember, though: everything in moderation.
During this recent pandemic, we have witnessed how certain care homes outside Australia can turn into death camps instead of havens of health. If you have no other choice than to send a loved one away to a private institution, you should consider the decision wisely, and make sure to book a visit to tour it for yourself first.
The key to health in old age is to have a wholesome life and to keep living it. There are many aspects in which this can be encouraged and reinforced, mainly emotionally. Empathizing with those who brought us into this world, especially when they are no longer able to take care of themselves, is how we can express our gratitude. For some, it may be difficult, or impossible, for many different reasons. But if you can care, you should.