Treating the Elderly with Respect and Dignity
Respecting our elders should be a courtesy ingrained in every one of us. Common grace and manners are to treat elders with respect and dignity. Sadly, these important dignities have been largely forgotten in today’s society.
Today’s world has greatly changed, with the Information Age putting technology at the forefront of human communication. Between bustling schedules of juggling family life and work, in addition to reaching people through cyberspace as the main mode of connection; manners have somehow been forgotten. Instead of treating our elders with the appreciation and respect they deserve, many are often either too busy or simply dismiss them and their contributions to community and family.
Treating the Elderly with Respect and Dignity
Senior citizens — generations that have survived The Great Depression, World War II, Vietnam and The Great Recession — are amazing individuals. They have a thing or two to teach us about enduring change and handling life’s adversity. Even if a senior’s hearing or memory isn’t what it was in the past, our elders have great wisdom to impart. It’s one thing to read about Pearl Harbor; it’s more engrossing to hear about it from someone with first-hand knowlege.Younger generations must learn the importance of respecting their elders and make time to listen and spend quality with them.
Dr. Cheryl Woodson, geriatrician and author of “To Survive Caregiving: A Daughter’s Experience, A Doctor’s Advice,” and “The Doctor is In: Answering Your Questions about How to Survive Caregiving” feels very strongly about treating elders with the respect they deserve:
“I hate it when people call seniors ‘cute.’ Martin Luther King, Jr. would have been in his 90s. My 89-year old Aunt Terri does all the seating charts for events and trips for her senior group. She taught 5 line dancing classes a year until 2 years ago when she thought her hearing loss made her a less effective teacher, even though her classes disagreed. These people are powerful. They created the comforts younger Americans take for granted. They are not cute like babies or puppies, and I think it’s demeaning to treat them as though they are. We must treat our elders with respect, even if their minds or bodies are beginning to fail them.”
Ageism Is Rampant
People can become uncomfortable dealing with the emotions of aging and the trials and tribulations of the golden years. Ageism defined is a tendency to regard older persons as debilitated, unworthy of attention. Ageism makes younger generations dismiss the elderly. Unfortunately this sentiment is rampant, but we have to remember that senior citizens are knowledgeable people who have lived through both the heartache and jubilation of life. They have something to contribute to society in the wisdom they’ve gained from their life histories, even if it’s a story about life or history. It’s more than respect — it’s about really taking the time to listen to our parents and grandparents.
The simple act of paying attention does wonders, even if loved ones suffer from cognitive diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. Compassion, patience and learning how to pay attention to small details will not only make their day, but often yours. After all, spending quality time together and learning history — or even about your family’s heritage — can be irreplaceable memories.
Baby Boomers’ parents and grandparents raised them to believe in the importance of treating others with courtesy and respect and the validity of a handshake. The ‘golden rule’ has always been important to our parents and grandparents. These generations have held tight to dignity, ethics, faith, honesty and integrity; which is exactly why condescending comments or even inadvertent belittling are not okay — even when the goal is to protect, rather than harm.
It’s a painful process when elders must accept the loss of their independence. Dr. Woodson comments:
“One of my pet peeves is providers calling seniors by their first names. They do this thinking that familiarity signifies bonding and is less intimidating. That may be true for children or for people with dementia who have regressed to an earlier time and remember only their first names. However, for many seniors, it is just disrespectful, especially when the person speaking to them is younger. Many seniors will not comment, but they will withdraw, making further communication ineffective.”
Caregivers Take Note
Being a caregiver can be a tough responsibility as the role can be both emotionally and physically taxing. It will demand devotion and patience since the loss of independence is one of the most difficult transitions for anyone who suddenly requires the intrusion of a caregiver. Being patient in difficult situations can be exhausting, but showing our elders respect and dignity is always the best choice.
It’s important to remember to be not only considerate, but also polite to people whose mind and bodies are failing them simply because of the hands of time. Ageism exists, but being kind and showing compassion is at least one step in the right direction in a world that is often devoid of manners and humanity.
Have you experienced ageism? How do you think society should deal with disrespect toward seniors? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.
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