Society’s View of Elders
In my March article, I talked about how we don’t have a tendency to see the elders amongst us. The other impression that I have is that society has a tendency to see many older people as demanding and self-centered rather than wise. Does this mean we have fewer elders than previous generations in our society because we do not ‘see’ or respect it and therefore does not get fully developed or expressed? Or is it because we have become more ego-centric and therefore not as interested in developing our wisdom or interest in how we can make a difference in our society? I suspect the former is the greater culprit. Without a ‘fertile ground to flourish’, the potential atrophies.
The media has not demonstrated much interest in showing us the elders amongst us. I have seen very few articles in magazines, newspapers or television about elders’ contributions to society although I have no doubt there are many amazing ones. They rarely use people over 40 in advertising other than for promoting seniors’ residences or medical conditions. They seem invisible. The fact that a few movies have come out recently about older people and have had great reviews from the critics and the public, I think is an indication that we are interested.
Society seems to attach value only to those contributing in the workplace. Once they leave, they belong ‘out to pasture’, out of the way. Many of us, however are not interested in the leisurely retirement of just staying home, golfing and/or travelling, we want to participate.
The fact that society does not recognize elders affects those of us who are transitioning from adulthood to elderhood (usually between 50 and 65) as we experience a sense that we no longer belong where we used to have a very strong sense of belonging. I assume it affects as well the generation just before us, who are already elders and feel separate from society, not experiencing being an integrated part of it.
All of this is happening at a time when our lives have been extended 25 to 30 years at the end of our adult years and likely to be in relatively good health. In addition, the boomers are the first generation to outlive all previous ones before us as well as being the largest cohort of all time.
Why does all of this matter? Because how society views us impacts how we will experience our elder years ourselves. We will need to change society’s views of us, starting with our own perspective on aging. Although we are seen as the generation that had the most opportunities, the most privileged, most of us lived a full and active life, we worked hard, and wanted the best for our children and actively involved in their lives. We were demanding of what we wanted in life, we had high expectations and we fought for what we believed in. I think we learned a lot from what we lived and as a result, have a lot to give back.
Furthermore, as we transition into elderhood, we have a tendency to shift from busyness to meaningfulness. Our interests turn more towards our heart’s/soul’s needs than those of our ego. We are less interested in doing more than doing what matters. I believe this is a very worthwhile endeavour.
I would love your opinions on this article – please comment below.