How to Recognize the Elders Amongst Us
Agism is an undercurrent that we don’t always recognize. Since I’ve been researching and putting together a program and process work on how to transition from adulthood to elderhood, I considered myself rather ‘enlightened’ in ‘seeing’ an Elder, who in my definition, is an old wise person. From the following encounter described next, I realized to what extent we unconsciously judge people passed a certain age.
I was waiting at the counter in a store to pay for an article when I noticed the woman who was serving the customer in front of me was arduously calculating something and it was taking her an inordinate amount of time (from my perspective). I noticed that she was likely in her mid- 60’s or older and immediately thought she was very slow because she was too old to be doing this. I realized how automatic that came. If she had been a young person, I would have just thought she was slow.
A young woman, about 18 years old, came to the counter and the older woman continued concentrating on her calculations. The young woman said hi and asked a hug from her. She extended her arms and gave her a hug. The young woman said she would come later. The customer whom she was serving in front of me commented she must be her grand-daughter. She replied: ‘oh no, she used to work here and I just encouraged her because her family was too busy. I didn’t think she should spend the rest of her life working in a store and I encouraged her to go back to school which she finally did. She saved the money and went back to school. I probably nagged her too much’. I replied: ‘whatever works!’ The woman in front of me agreed.
This older woman said all of this very matter-of-factly, like she was commenting on a movie she watched last night. She did not seem to realize the profound difference she made to this young woman. She just did it naturally, like there was nothing exceptional about it. She continued serving us attentively; taking the time she needed to serve us well.
If I had not done the research on how society, which means us, view older people (of which I a one at age 60), I would not likely have noticed what an amazing woman she was and the profound difference she made to that young woman who very clearly appreciated her.
How many of us truly ‘see’ people we consider old? How often do we just assume they are too slow and should not be ‘seen nor heard’?
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I offer one-on-one consultations and programs to support people transitioning into their third stage of life, from adulthood to elderhood, to realize a more meaningful fulfilled life. Please contact me at 613-833-1988 if you wish to explore further.