I always like to acknowledge senior citizens and shine a spotlight on all they contribute to our world. At the same time, however, I feel indifferent at best about the creation of a national holiday to celebrate them. To me it’s like Valentine’s Day, Secretaries Day, Grandparents’ Day, and even Mothers’ Day/Fathers’ Day — it feels fake and super commercially created by the card and flower industries.
Things Have Changed
Over my lifetime I’ve witnessed a severe falloff of the importance of elders in our communities. Older folks used to be the matriarchs and patriarchs whose existence was considered an integral part of all families. Now it feels more like we’re shuffled off to some corner where we’re expected to keep our thoughts and opinions to ourselves. I know this isn’t true in all families, and many elders play an active and celebrated role in their families.
There are lots of seniors, like me, who don’t have children or any other living members of their family to celebrate with on this holiday.
Additionally, technology has widened the gap between seniors and their children and grandchildren. The fewer gadgets we’re prolific with, the greater we are distanced from the rest of the world that has absorbed all things digital. It seems those oldsters who have been able to grasp swiftly changing technology, especially smart phones, are more involved with the younger members of their family.
National Senior Citizens’ Day first came into existence in August 1988, via President Ronald Reagan’s Proclamation 5847. It’s stated purpose was to “recognize and show appreciation for the value and contribution of elderly people to home, family and society.” In his presidential proclamation, President Reagan said, “For all they have achieved throughout life and for all they continue to accomplish, we owe older citizens our thanks and a heartfelt salute. We can best demonstrate our gratitude and esteem by making sure that our communities are good places in which to mature and grow older.”
On National Senior Citizens’ Day, our younger friends and families are told they should:
~Spend some time with senior citizens
~Show our appreciation for senior citizens
~Do volunteer work in support of the elderly
And, as seniors, we are encouraged to “enjoy specials and discounts” awarded to us for our advanced age.
If this approach makes you feel good, then I say, “Great, go for it.” But it kind of gives me the willies. I want attention when appropriate, not just one day of the year and certainly not unless the feelings are real.
Instead of some fake manufactured holiday hoopla, how about I give the younger set a gift on this day?
I promise not to be upset if you pass this holiday without doing a darned thing … for an elder or for anyone!
I promise not to make a scene or speak up just to remind you I’m hovering around in the background at any social function.
I promise to appreciate any genuine attention you give me, regardless of the day of the year.
I also promise to be here should you want to know about the stuff that went on in the family long before you were born.
I promise to share my advice and wisdom, but only when asked for it.
I promise to sit with you or any member of my extended family to support you, calm you, share with you and, most importantly, just listen to you.
Now this is my idea of a grand holiday celebration for all senior citizens … all year long.