Honoring the Value of Our Elders

Old people are irrelevant.

That’s a prevailing attitude, especially among younger generations.

It used to be that elder statesmen and community members passed the history of our nations, communities, and families down to the younger folks. But for more than a generation now, all historical information has been available digitally, even within families.

Technology has usurped our shared experiences, the experiences that taught and led those coming behind us, making seniors obsolete. Those over the age of sixty-five are now viewed as the dependent rather than productive part of society.

I don’t know about you, but

I feel a sense of dishonoring when I think that my station in life has been reduced to being tolerated or barely included and sometimes flat-out ignored. We’re clearly not esteemed as teachers or custodians of culture anymore. Has anyone knocked on your door in the last decade or two wanting to know how it was fifty or sixty years ago? Mine either!

Most records of what we experienced and earned in our lives is tossed once we’re gone. This hurts! I see my friends hanging on to pictures, journals, and historical narratives in the hopes that someday a family member will take an interest.

I remember when a family member passed a few years ago, her two sons were confronted by all the memorabilia she had left behind specifically to inform them of aspects of previous generations. They questioned the value of so much “old” info. They also struggled with the manner of the stuff she saved – boxes of photos versus digital images. They couldn’t relate! I would have scooped it all up, but I don’t have children to pass any of it to, so it felt like a waste.

Young people today …

While it might be too harsh to label senior citizens as lacking value to the current generation, it’s true that our role in the grander scheme of things has taken a huge hit. Young people today don’t need to seek out someone older, wiser, and/or more experienced to guide or teach them.

Instead they can fire up YouTube and Google to learn how to do just about anything and everything … ANYTHING! Want to know how to saddle a horse, make bread, write a book, be a good friend, or even kiss? You can learn easily online. Gone are the days when senior citizens shared their experiences to help instruct and guide people with less skills.

My wish

For those of you whose sensibility was rankled the minute you read the first sentence here, my wish is that it was because you have a loving family that does far more than just make sure your body appears at each important family milestone.

There are stories of events within families and communities that express the richness of non-historical happenings that are not captured by our high-tech society. Yes, ancestry.com, as well as a slew of other historical sites, exists to supply lineage facts from census and military sources, among others. Sometimes images from previous generations are also available.

Online data, however, doesn’t include anecdotal stories from our families. Nowhere, for instance, does the digital history exist to remind us of how a community came together to harvest the crops of an ailing farmer, thereby saving the family’s homestead. These are the exclusive stories of sharing intimate experiences, not necessarily noteworthy, but highly personal to the speaker and potentially meaningful to our kids and their kids.

To be valued is to be listened to and really absorbed into a conversation because of a unique perspective.

I hope the value of what elders bring to the family, and ideally to our communities, won’t be lost to future generations.