How you can be a little kinder toward the elderly.
In the last few months our world has changed radically from what we once knew. No one could have guessed even in February of 2020 that we would have a global pandemic and mass demonstrations about race inequality at the same time. The result is questioning our relationships with others. We are at the same time fearful of others and feel closer to them.
What this world needs to remember is kindness. A “do unto others” mantra but we are all human and sometimes that is difficult. How do we become kinder to older adults?
Put yourself in their shoes. They may have been an expert in their field, now they can’t remember what they just told you or where they put their glasses. Remember they don’t want to be that way, but they are. Let them repeat themselves and answer the same question over and over again. If you get too frustrated, write down answers to questions and leave written reminders.
Call and visit often. You may think calling once a month for a few minutes is great, but they may live for that call. Frequency is better even if the call is short. Talking to or seeing grandchildren or great-grandchildren may be the only thing that gets someone out of bed.
Listen to their stories. Everyone wants to be heard and leave a legacy. Saturday Night Live once had a skit about Alexa Silver that would say, ” aha” every few seconds when an older adult would tell a story. We don’t have that, so you need to be that person (or device). Try to resist the temptation to say, “You told me that a hundred times.”
Do small kindnesses. Bake a few extra cookies and bring them over. Offer to pick up a few things when you go grocery shopping. Call just to say hi. Kindness doesn’t have to big a grand gesture; it can be built with scores of small actions.
Don’t infantilize them. I had more than one resident of the independent living apartment I ran, roll their eyes when their relatives treated them like children. Never use baby talk or treat them like your child. Even someone with advanced dementia, who has limited understanding, should be treated like an adult.
Let others do tasks that frustrate you and make you less kind. Have someone else take them shopping if you lose your patience when it takes ten minutes to pick out three oranges. The Extra Daughter is perfect for this, by the way. Ask their house of worship if there is a congregant who can make friendly calls. Ask siblings to shoulder some of the responsibility.
Think of your relationship as one with mutual gain. While they may need much help from you, I bet you also get something positive from the relationship as well. If it is a parent who needs much help from you, your attitude should be that you are just doing your share now just as they did when you were young.
Remember, if you are blessed with a long life, you will be the one looking for kindness when you are old. Be a role model for the next generation (no matter their age) and show them how to express kindness to the people who will be helping you.