Maybe it's because at 41 years old, I still have 3 grandparents and 1 grandmother-in-law living and they all mean so much to me. Maybe it's because at 41, I can relate to the idea of getting older. Certainly, working in the field of aging for the past 6 years has a little something to do with it.
Last week, I had three separate conversations in which the gist of each was "People don't like to donate to old people causes."
It's the reality. I know it, but it still wasn't fun to be reminded of it. Why don't people want to donate to "senior" charities? Maybe it's because seniors aren't as cute and cuddly as toddlers. Maybe because we have a sense that older adults have had their time and we need to funnel resources to kids. Maybe it's because we don't want to face the reality of our own aging and the mortality that comes with it.
Let's face it. Most of us are going to get old. It beats the alternative. But "old" doesn't necessarily mean home-bound, bedridden, forgetful and grouchy. There are examples all over of older adults who are thriving into their 70s and 80s and beyond. Betty White, Morgan Freeman, Joe Paterno, and my favorite --80-year-old Pat Koch, owner of Holiday World in southern Indiana, a woman who completed her master's degree at age 71 and who can be found sweeping the grounds or serving food at the amusement park.
And yes, there are some older adults who need some help. Perhaps they need meals delivered to their home. Maybe they need a ride to the grocery store or the doctor. Maybe they are lonely. Today's transient families mean that more and more older adults are left without physical and emotional support nearby.
So what do I want you to do? I'll leave it up to you, but here are some ideas:
- Call or visit an older adult you know. Put a reminder on the calendar so it becomes a habit. Ask them to tell you stories of their youth, to pass down a recipe.
- Volunteer at a local senior center, adult day center or nursing home. Deliver meals for Meals on Wheels. Bring your kids with you so they learn to value the aging as well.
- If you contribute to your local United Way, consider designating some of your contribution to a senior-serving organization in your area. Or make a direct donation to an aging services charity near you.
- Start a "grandparents and grand-friends" club at your kids school as a way to encourage intergenerational learning and relationships.
- During the holidays, be a Santa to a senior.
- Stop talking about getting old as if it's a disease.
For more heartfelt posts, visit Shell at Things I Can't Say for PYHO Wednesday.