Older Adults Are Amazing People
I am going to let you in on a secret that I have known since I was a child: older adults are amazing people! When I was younger, I enjoyed heading to the neighbors’ houses to sit and listen to the older adults in my life talk. I was fascinated by the stories they shared.
Later in life, as an optometrist, I gravitated toward working with older adults where I worked. Not only was I interested in the ophthalmic issues they presented, I truly enjoyed getting to know my older patients.
Now, I work with older adults as the chaplain of a life plan community, and I am fortunate enough to hear about their spiritual lives. They trust me with their stories of connection, and I truly feel the older adults in my life enhance my life. Making room in my life to celebrate the older adults who walk this journey with me makes sense.
Everyday Ways to Celebrate the Older Adults in Your Life (Even During a Pandemic)
- Listen to their stories. Whether you call, write, FaceTime or visit an older adult in person, pause to listen to them. Older adults have a lifetime worth of stories to share, and most would love to share them. We celebrate them by stopping to hear their tales.
- Be present. Whether you are meeting with an older adult for a window visit, an outdoor visit, a home visit or a phone call, give the older adult your full attention. Much in life may distract us from being fully present with others. The gift of our full attention is a great gift for the older adults in our lives.
- Ask questions. Did they fight in a war? Did they live through the Depression? Did they join Martin Luther King, Jr. in peaceful protests against segregation? Did they play a sport or an instrument in high school band? I once spent a year asking older adults in my life about the Depression. I was amazed at their responses. Their stories changed how I viewed the Depression in rural Ohio, as they shared with me stories of giving to neighbors and of truly loving their neighbors as they loved themselves.
- Use technology. I was talking with an older adult recently. He shared part of a song that his grandmother used to sing to him as a young boy. I told him that I had never heard the song. He said that he was unable to share the rest because he could not remember it. I pulled out my cellphone, and we looked up the song together. When I finally found the words, he listened to me tell him the song in its entirety. “Hearing those words brings back good memories,” he told me.
- Break bread together. If you are in a situation where you may safely share a meal with an older adult, this is a great way to celebrate them. For those who are unable to safely visit an older adult for a meal in person, you can break bread virtually. FaceTime, Houseparty app and Zoom are just a few examples of technology you can use to dine together. For older adults, eating a meal with others — in person or virtually — may help prevent weight loss, especially if the older adult is typically eating in isolation.
- Meet them where they are. For some of us, an older adult we know may be living with dementia. They may not be able to share stories in the same way as other older adults. Meet them where they are. We celebrate older adults living with dementia by respecting them, being kind, smiling and being present.
- Call them by name. I have a pet peeve. I find it disrespectful when we call older adults — even those we don’t know well —“honey” or “sweetie.” Celebrate older adults by calling them by the name of their choice.
These are a few simple ways to celebrate older adults daily. Who are the older adults in your life? How are you celebrating them? May we make room to celebrate the older adults in our lives. Happy celebrating!