We don’t appreciate the elderly | PostIndependent.com

We don’t appreciate the elderly

Out on a Limb
Ross L. Talbott
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

I would like to think that I am not experientially qualified to write about old people. I do however have some insights that may be helpful.

The greatest tragedy is that our culture has, for the most part, sidelined the elderly. I believe it all started with the labor unions coming up with the idea of compulsory retirement. As workers moved up in the business and received higher wages, a plan was instituted to get them out of the way so others could move up.

The positive side was to develop a “retirement plan” so an elderly worker could retire with money to live on while he or she was healthy enough to enjoy a permanent vacation.

We have a culture that expects older people to get a motor home, go south and leave us the job and the house.

The first problem with this whole scenario is that our life span has extended considerably. Sixty years of age was considered to be the end of useful life. Expectations are now around the 80s.

Social Security didn’t anticipate this problem so now the financial obligations are problematic. It would however, still work if government hadn’t looted the funds.

I know several retirees who are now back working jobs, partly from financial necessity and partly due to the monotony of retirement. A large part of the problem is emotional. Retirees have a sense that they are of no use or importance.

The new generation of young people has become so inundated with technology that they feel the older generation has been left behind and can no longer compete.

The disintegration of the traditional family structure has also contributed to the condition. This, along with job requirements, has scattered families far apart so the older members are not even around to give counsel, wisdom, resources and support.

Even our government educational system has eliminated any interaction with the elderly. You cannot really learn from history if you never look at it from an experienced perspective. We are losing an incredible resource.

I participated in a group in Denver some years back and they were apologetic because I was the youngster in the group. I realized that I was surrounded by several hundred years of accumulated wisdom, knowledge, skills and experience. Wouldn’t it be remarkable if I could have just downloaded all that into my own brain.

It doesn’t work that way. The transfer comes through relational interaction. If we have pushed this great resource out of our lives we are the poorer.

We have retirement communities and retirement homes, where at least they can sit around and feel sorry for each other.

Again, you must realize that I am using generalities. There are wonderful exceptions to my cynicism.

Many retired people work in volunteer organizations, social clubs and churches and are greatly appreciated.

A person shouldn’t have to learn everything by personal experience. Listening to the wisdom of the elderly can save us from much pain and loss.

Even our great country seems to be headed into a sink hole because we have rejected the experience and wisdom of our forefathers.

Another downside to retirement is that those retirees often feel neglected and unappreciated.

After many years of interaction and participation in family and community, they suddenly feel that their life is of no importance or consequence.

Christmas might be a good time to re-establish family relationships, especially with the older members. If that’s not a possibility, a good Christian church can become that family.

Reaffirm the retirees and actively seek their valuable advice. You might be surprised by what you can learn.

Modern technology is a really great resource but a cell phone or i-Pod cannot give you wisdom or love.

Ross L. Talbott lives in New Castle.

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