Our relationship with the elderly can be a little bit mixed-up from time to time; there's no getting away from that. On the one hand we respect them, their life experiences and wisdom. On the other, we may often judge them for values some hold that aren't much in vogue today.
But while most of us would say that we respect our elders, we all have to face an uncomfortable truth. Hands up if you've never tutted when stuck behind an older person in a queue? Or if in your job, you've never exhaled in frustration as an older customer takes longer to get things right? If your hand is still up, good for you. But I have a feeling you're in the minority.
All of which is not to be in any way unkind about those who are older. What we don't get, at 20 or 35, is how much the aging process catches you unaware. And it makes life a lot tougher. So it's worth bearing in mind, if you know someone who is getting to that stage of life. It's also a good idea to think about how you can help.
As You Get Older, Isolation Is More Of A Threat
When you're at school, the number of friends and casual acquaintances you have is astounding. You lose contact with some as you go on to college, and then if you move away to work you're usually left with those you've made a special effort to keep. The older you get, the more friends slip away in one way or another.
A lot of older people find themselves isolated. Their families are busy, and it's more likely they'll have been bereaved by the loss of a friend or two. If you want to help, just be around. If they're not that well connected, you can help get them online. A cheap laptop and a web connection allow them a portal to the outside world and faraway friends.
You're At Greater Risk Of Illness And Injury
The younger we are, the less likely we are to remember one crucial thing: we get one body and it has to last a lifetime. We take risks with it and don't think about how those will catch up with us. By the time we do become aware, often a fair amount of damage has been done.
Along with age-related conditions like osteoporosis, this can make everyday life difficult. It can be painful. Along with that, seniors are just more prone to illness and slower to recover. Be ready to take care of an older friend if they're dealing with niggling conditions.
People Can Be Simultaneously Patronizing And Dismissive
As you get older, people's attitudes become similar to those they have towards babies and toddlers. A superficially encouraging tone of voice is used if you so much as know who a current film star is. It's like people expect you to be fading into senility. The phrase "there's life in the old dog yet" may be used.
This is hurtful on various levels. For one thing, kids might love to be talked to like that. An adult who has, very recently, been working full time and holding down a social life will feel mortified by it. Now they’re not working, their pension may mean that they are minding the pennies more. Help them to set up an account for an emergency fund should they need one.
Secondly, no-one needs to be reminded they're getting older. Your friend may worry about whether they have set enough by for end-of-life and funeral costs. They may feel it's already too late to do much about that. Take a practical approach and assist them with ways to save for those days. Point them towards insurance providers like seniorlifeinsuranceplans.com and others. Be there ready to talk, without platitudes, about their feelings.
People Target You For Scams
There is a regrettable section of society that sees older people, and their presumed receipt of a pension, as a source of easy cash. A disproportionate number of scams are directed at the elderly. Pressure sales tactics are deployed in very unpleasant ways. This is particularly popular with door-to-door salespeople.
Make a promise to pop round at an agreed signal (say, they call your cell and hang up after two rings) if your friend feels they may be in this situation. You can assist your friend in evaluating how reliable the salesperson is. You can also politely but firmly tell the salesperson where to go, if the answer is "not very".
Keep all of the above in mind if you have an elderly friend or family member you feel may be vulnerable. It can all make someone's life much better.