Older Americans month serves as a valuable reminder

May is a time for flowers, graduations, and the start of summer like weather.

It’s also designated as Older Americans Month. It’s a distinction that we all should recognize. We all need to consider what our elderly should mean to us.

On the surface every reasonable person wants to treat the elderly in a favorable way. We open doors for them or step aside if they’re out and about. We greet them. We take the time to wish them a nice day.

Even so, individuals and families lead busy lives. It can affect how often we call an older relative. It might affect how often we have conversations with an older neighbor.

When making those daily choices, it’s important to remember that life is very different for people who usually aren’t busy. Many people wish for a day or two when there’s nothing to get done, just a whole day to enjoy whatever we choose.

For someone who has that every day, it can at times be hard to fill up the hours. There’s only so much television a person can enjoy. It helps to have a favorite hobby or two; something like card games, puzzles, music or a host of other pastimes.

Even with those amusements, there’s still plenty of extra time. Relatives and neighbors are often the best way to put something extra into someone’s day. It’s a highlight to interact with them.

It’s rare nowadays to have three generations in the same home, or in close proximity in the same neighborhood or smaller community.

As a result, children often have very little interaction with the elderly. They see grandparents mainly on holidays. They don’t get opportunities to talk to neighbors.

My grandparents taught me a lot of good things. I still know most of the card games, still like to grow flowers and vegetables. I can still enjoy cooking and baking and recall the time my grandmothers spent in the kitchen.

Things like the recipe for dressing that goes with a turkey dinner and sugar cookies for afternoon snacks are well remembered. One of these days I’ll have to spend a little extra at the store to get a can of mixed nuts. One of my grandfathers especially like them during sports events.

The elderly have many valuable things to contribute when it comes to daily interaction. They bring a wealth of life experience to every situation.

They’re often not likely to be surprised. They’ve probably seen something very similar at some point in the past. Sometimes younger people remind them of themselves at the same age.

The pandemic created even more intergenerational barriers in the past year than what we ordinarily see because of our busy lives. It’s been great to see young people again be able to interact with elderly loved ones. Hopefully that will keep coming back, and with luck we’ll also have a resurgence in the number of times schools and community youth groups can sponsor something especially for senior citizens.

Everyone benefits from interaction that crosses generational lines. The elderly get something different in their daily routine. Younger generations get a valuable opportunity to learn.

Older Americans Month is a helpful reminder that we shouldn’t forget about the senior citizens in our lives. We might not be able to spend as much time with them as we’d ideally like, yet it’s important to enjoy plenty of quality time, plenty of time to stay up to date on what’s happening in life.

It’s equally worthwhile to share memories, to pass along details of family life that hopefully children will someday share with future generations. We were all young once. Someday everyone grows old. Hopefully we all contribute to the social fabric that will continue beyond our years.


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