Have you ever taken the time to think about the things that people have seen throughout their lifetimes? Today's elderly population have been through many wars, including a World War. They have more than likely been through a part of the Great Depression & through the recovery from those things. They've seen the invention of automobiles & how they've taken over our national landscape. They've seen flight & how it has become commonplace, radio, television, epidemics & cures for certain diseases. They've seen space travel, the moon landing, and countless other disasters & advancements. They've also experienced all of these things while simultaneously going through their own family's personal triumphs & tragedies. Imagine all of those things contained within one person's lifetime! It's incredible to think about! Now think about that wealth of knowledge & experience being wasted because very few people will slow down in order to benefit from it. That is what is happening, by and large, in our society right now. I know. I get it. We're all terribly busy. But what if we are missing out on opportunities to help those around us while learning things that may make our lives (& society as a whole) a better place because we paid attention to those who are experienced? In this article, we'll discuss ways that we can give back to those who have already been through so much in their lives, but lest we think more highly of ourselves for what we do, let's remember what they've already been through, & try to learn from them as we offer thanks for paving the way for our generations.
- Ask them about their lives. You may wonder how this might be considered “giving back”, but please imagine going through all of the things that they have been through & having no one who is willing to listen and learn from those things! One would wonder if it was all a waste & it might create deep sadness. When you're around someone of an older generation, ask about their lives & experiences & what they remember about the major world events of their times. You'll learn about them & also about world history. You'll also help them to know that they have important things to teach to the next generation.
- Offer to help. Many of the people who are now considered elderly still live in their own homes. Even if they're mentally sharp, their bodies continue to age. Offer to do landscaping or yard work for them. Yes, they can possibly pay someone else to do it, but many times the elderly are on very fixed incomes. You offering to do yard work might help them to have enough extra money to buy a necessary medicine or more nutritious food. Besides, you'll get exercise in the process!
- Cook for them. Find out if they have certain meals that they really enjoy. Cook them for your family and make a couple of extra portions to bring to them. It makes much more sense to add an extra meal into your regimin than for them to buy all the ingredients for them to make it & many times they won't bother to do it because of the extra cost & bother.
- Eat with them. Have them over for meals, or if they're at assisted living homes or nursing homes, go and share a meal with them. Community & conversation are increased around the dining table.
- Celebrate with them. Find out the special days in their calendar. Birthdays, anniversaries, special holidays are good places to start. As you get to know them better find out times that might be more difficult for them, the anniversary of the death of a loved one might be an even better time to visit them to remind them about the life & love that are available to them now.
- Offer to shop with them or for them. If they're able to go out, they may not shop often because they don't want to inconvenience anyone. If they do go to a store, they might not go to all the places they really need to visit for the same reason. They may choose to only have a person run into a pharmacy, but not stop by the department store for necessary undergarments because they don't want to take too much of their day. Make it clear that you want them to feel free to go to any store they need to within their energy level, or that you're willing to run in to get what they need. If you can afford it, give a little extra & pay for something if they'll allow it & not be offended.
- Share your life with them. If you have children, let them visit with you, make pictures for them, pick flowers for them, dance for them. It is in seeing life in all stages of development that we get to truly experience it. Do not rob them of those moments because you're afraid that the children might be a little rowdy.
- Play games or do activities with them, whether that means checkers, painting or another kind of activity or if they'd like to learn how to use Facebook to keep in touch with family. Spending time can automatically translate into feelings of care and well being.
- Finally, show deference and respect. Even if you don't understand all of their ways, there is probably a reason why they have them. Always be respectful & caring for them. It will not be long until you are walking in their shoes through the sunset of life.