We thought we would take this week to focus on a topic that we feel is very important in our society but rarely discussed, that is the challenges faced by many elderly people today. Our culture tends to be very future-centric and places value on the latest and greatest. This makes for an incredibly progressive and innovative society, but surely there is value to life experience, wisdom, and tradition as well. Rediscovering the value of these wonderful things older adults have to offer can both broaden our perspectives, and allow them to make meaningful contributions to the world. Unfortunately however, we can observe the prioritization of “newness” reflected in the form of ageism in the workplace, the media, the healthcare system, and even just in day to day conversation. Ideologies like this, regardless of their source, have a much greater impact than we may realize.
The tragic truth is that, according to Mental Health America, despite only representing 13% of the population, senior citizens make up 20% of the yearly suicide rate in America. Depression is a serious issue for the elderly, and it doesn’t help that many chronic illnesses that typically onset in seniors such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, heart disease, cancer and arthritis are major contributors to depression. This is just a taste of the vast complexity to this issue and the multitude of factors that contribute to the poor mental health of many seniors. However, it is certainly enough to get us thinking more about how we can help reverse this by giving seniors a voice and helping them play a more active role in society. This week’s #bebetter52 challenge is to connect with the elderly people in our lives.
Becoming conscious of this information is a great first step to seeing the elderly in a different light. But how to we break this pattern? One way to do this is incorporating them in activities! We may not think to invite the seniors in our family to certain outings because we think they will be too physically demanding or uninteresting to people of their age group. But it will absolutely bring them joy that you thought to include them, and sometimes staying active and breaking up routine can be just what they need to keep them mentally healthy. This can also create a great bonding opportunity for the whole family! Along with spending more time with the elderly, it is important to be mindful of how we are addressing them and involving them in conversation. Older people have a lifetime of wisdom and an endless amount of stories to share. So call upon them to share these stories! They can be entertaining at the least, but often times valuable lessons can be derived from them. And always remember to talk to elderly people like equals; it is important for their sense of self-worth and self-efficacy to feel they are still competent despite any age-related mental impairments they may be struggling with.
We hope this challenge brought some awareness to some challenges seniors often face and ways we can be a catalyst for change. We can’t wait to hear your experiences this week as you connect with the elderly.