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Treating the Elderly With Respect

Dana Larsen
By Dana LarsenJanuary 15, 2018

Last Updated: January 15, 2018

Common grace and manners are to treat our elders with dignity and respect. Sadly, 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 their community and family.

Why It’s Important to Treat Our Elders With Respect

Seniors 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.

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Younger generations must learn the importance of respecting their elders and make time to listen and spend quality with them.

Dr. Cheryl Woodson, a geriatrician and the author of “To Survive Caregiving: A Daughter’s Experience, A Doctor’s Advice” feels very strongly about treating elders with the respect they deserve:

“I hate it when people call seniors ‘cute.’ My 89-year old Aunt Terri does all the seating charts for events and trips for her senior group. She taught five line dancing classes a year until two 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 bodies or minds are beginning to fail them.”

When Ageism Is Rampant

People can become uncomfortable dealing with the emotions of aging and the trials and tribulations of the golden years, which contributes to ageism. Ageism is defined as a tendency to regard older persons as debilitated, unworthy of attention.

Unfortunately, this sentiment is rampant, but we have to remember that seniors are knowledgeable people who 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 grandparents and parents.

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. After all, learning history and spending quality time together can benefit everyone and create irreplaceable memories.

Our grandparents and parents raised us to believe in the importance of treating others with courtesy and respect. These past generations have held tight to their dignity, ethics, faith, honesty and integrity; which is exactly why condescending or even inadvertent belittling is not okay — even when the goal is to protect, rather than harm.

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.”

What Caregivers Should Take Note Of

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 is always the best choice.

It’s important to remember to be not only considerate but also polite to people whose bodies and minds are aging, 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.

For more information on Dr. Woodson and her books, visit her blog: “Straight Talk with Dr. Cheryl.” Facebook, or website.

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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