Wednesday Journal is to be commended for once again emphasizing Celebrating Seniors Week and publicizing the many related events. Should we be celebrating seniors? Indeed we should; we all should. But why? Because we all could benefit by bringing elderly family members closer, even if they’re far away, including seniors in our community if they’re here.
Family members are too far apart. I had a history professor who 40 years ago argued that the development of the automobile and other magic forms of transportation worked eventually to loosen, if not sever the bonds of the extended family. He was right, of course. We now often live great distances from one another and rely on our vast array of communication tools to try and bridge the gap.
But how good a job of that do we really do? “Oh, yes,” one of us might say, “I call Mom once a week and we even Skype occasionally. And I email her pictures of the kids. She’s not very good on the computer, but she’s trying.” I suspect Mom wants and needs more.
No, our extended families are not likely to be rejoined any time soon. But does that mean we can’t try harder and take more time to have more meaningful contact?
Not only can we do a better job of staying in touch with our distant families, but we can also have more worthwhile contact with the elderly who live here. Many have a wealth of experience and wisdom.
Sure they may move a little more slowly, may be hard of hearing and may be more forgetful. But those are reasons to slow down and be more patient with them, not to ignore them. Our young people certainly could benefit by interacting with and learning from these wonderful sources of knowledge. The interaction could take the form of tutoring or storytelling or sharing personal histories. It also can be as simple as a smile and hello or holding a door.
And those of us who are Boomers are becoming seniors. We’re certainly not likely to go quietly into the night. We haven’t yet. Imagine the respect and attention we’ll want and likely demand. So, if nothing else, let’s see how it’s done and share the experiences of those who are blazing the trail. They sure gave us wonderful opportunities they never had. And we have the resources and can make the time to bring our families closer together and make our elderly feel like they’re part of our community, our family.
I knew an elderly woman whose face would light up at the sight of one of her grandchildren. It was like watching the sunrise. Let’s see that kind of light more often.
Celebrate seniors? Absolutely. It’s never too late and it won’t get old.
Lance Taylor is an Oak Park attorney who specializes in legal issues for seniors.