The elderly population of Canada is continuing to grow in numbers, and with age comes bountiful wisdom. What can our Canadian youth learn from their elders? How can the thoughts and actions of our youth change the livelihoods of our country’s elders? The following is what Cheryl George has to say on these issues.
“An elder is someone who is deserving of our respect, someone who is here to teach us. [Being an elder] is not necessarily about age, young people can be elders as well.
People are no longer sending me those cartoons about being old and having a senior moment and all that stereotypical stuff about aging. I think that is what this whole “grey tsunami” is going to require – a change in our thinking and a change in our attitudes [towards elders]. I think long-term care is the last place people would have looked for the seeds to be planted to change the world, but maybe it’s where it was most needed. I think that is why this movement has begun where it has.
I think that we need to shift our focus from this model of treating people who are ill. I think if people who had mental health challenges weren’t always given drugs, their lives might be very different. I think that there are just so many times when we have made things worse when we think that there is a pill. Rather than realizing that “I need to keep exercising and watch my diet, so…I don’t develop diabetes,” we say, “that’s okay there is a pill I can take for that.” I really would love for us to realize that health is about the environment, it’s about education, and it’s about the world that we live in. Wouldn't it be wonderful if every person was supported with respect and dignity, love and kindness and was not ever forced to do things against their will? Our job is to be the person to help support them where they are, and not try to change them from who they are. The primary difference between adulthood and elderhood is that in adulthood our focus is on “doing,” and in elderhood our focus is on “being.” I often think that I would like to live long enough to become a human being.”
What can youth do to learn from our elders?
“Volunteering is a really big part of this…when you, on the ground level, know a person who is a part of a situation and when you care for this person. A level of understanding is created.
“We can be students of life and be lifelong learners. I see so many young people stopped because they are not sure what they want to do and they don’t want to waste [money] going to school so they don't go to school. And it is hard because not everyone likes that school environment, so it’s not necessarily for everyone. But a good “general education” is really fabulous. When I talk to first- and second-year nursing students that is always what I say, “don’t be limited by this label of who you are; see this as a way of opening doors and that the paths are many for you to take.”
"Education should never be limiting, it should be a stepping-stone along the way.”
How do you show our elders that you value them as part of our society? Let us know below.
photo by epSos.de on Flickr