Caring for Seniors

In some cultures seniors are respected and revered. We should follow those examples

By Marvin Druger

Everyone should be especially kind and caring to people who are over 55.

We have experienced a long set of experiences that form the backbone of society.

The younger generation has been nurtured by us and we are basically responsible for their attitudes and behaviors. The influence of older individuals on the youth of today cannot be underestimated. So, seniors do merit appreciation and preferential treatment.

In 1900, people in the U.S. lived for about 47 years. Medical advancements and healthier living extended this average lifespan to about 78 years in modern times.

We have lived a longer time and have had more experiences. With extended experiences, we should have greater wisdom and better judgements. Yet we still get embroiled in stupid, unnecessary wars and have abundant prejudices and hatred.

We learn from every experience, and every experience becomes part of who we are. Yet, I wonder whether living longer has changed behavior and negative attitudes very much.

My favorite sign of special treatment for seniors is the senior discount. It’s not the usual 10% discount for seniors that’s important. It’s the principle that seniors are special and should be recognized as such. I always ask for a senior discount. Often, I am told, “I already gave you one.” My usual response is, “How did you know that I was a senior?”

Lately, I have experienced many examples of recognition of my senior status.

One Thanksgiving, a friend and I were having lunch at a table in a café. An attractive younger lady was paying for a purchase at the counter. She came over to us and handed me a $5 bill. She said to me, “Have a happy Thanksgiving!”… and she walked out of the store. As she was leaving, she exclaimed, “Have a VERY happy Thanksgiving!” I was shocked. My friend and I were wearing sports jackets and a necktie. We certainly did not look like poor vagrants. I framed the $5 bill as a reminder to be kind to others, especially the elderly.

Many people open doors for me and treat me differently than they would have done years ago. My family is very over-protective. One of my sons won’t let me drive my car with him or my grandchildren in it. This is very annoying, although I know they are looking out for my welfare. I have been driving for longer than they have been alive and, if I had the slightest thought that I would have an accident, I wouldn’t drive.

Younger people don’t realize the resilience and abilities of the older generation. We can do a lot more than they think. But sometimes it’s nice when they say, “Can I get you a glass of water” or “Can I help you carry that grocery bag?”

I’m beginning to like when a stranger holds open a door for me at a store or lets me go ahead of her or him at a checkout line in a store, or calls me “sir.” When I was in a rehab center after some surgery a nurse came into the room and asked, “Can I help you peel that banana?” That comment may have been a bit extreme.

After having a major surgery to remove scar tissue from my intestine, I spent 11 days in a rehab facility. The very first day, I saw very old people sitting forlorn at a table, with depressed faces and not having any conversation, looking like they were just waiting to die. My reaction was, ”I don’t belong here.” The nurse agreed, but I did spend 11 days staring at a large clock on the wall day and night.

On the last night, I had a new senior roommate. He came to my side of the curtain separating us and asked, “Can you open your window?”

I said, “Why don’t you open your window?”

“My window doesn’t open,” he said, and he went back to his bed.

We had separate TV sets and his was still on at 1 a.m. I called the nurse and asked if she could tell him to turn off his TV. “Oh, he’s not here, he’s in the hospital.” It turned out that he had walked down the hall and found a window that he could open, then he jumped out of the second-story window.

He later died in the hospital.

This bizarre incident made me wonder about whether or not I could have done something to prevent this tragedy. Perhaps, a few kind words and conversation from me might have prevented the incident. Or, maybe, he might have jumped out of my window. I’ll never know, but this incident reminds me to be kind to seniors no matter what.

One evening, I was having dinner by myself in a Chinese restaurant. After dinner, the waitress brought me the bill and a wrapped Chinese fortune cookie. I struggled to get the wrapper off. A complete stranger at the next table saw my dilemma and she came to my table and said, “I can help you with that, honey,” and she unwrapped the cookie.

I have experienced many kind deeds. Once, I was waiting in a check-out line at a store to pay for a sandwich for lunch. The lady in front of me was paying for her purchase. She unexpectedly said to the cashier, “I’ll pay for his sandwich.” I was surprised. I said to her, “I wouldn’t have done that for you.” She said, “I like to do good deeds.” Great attitude.

Another time, I was waiting behind someone on a check-out line to pay for a bag of potato chips. The young man in front of me said to the cashier, “I’ll pay for his chips.” Another pleasant surprise.

As we age, some chores become boring and can be handled more easily by paying someone to do them. After my surgery, I couldn’t mow my lawn, so I hired someone to do it. Now that I’m able to mow the lawn, I am accustomed to having someone else doing it, so I abandoned that chore. If you have the financial means, it’s easier to hire someone to do jobs that you ordinarily would do by yourself. The danger is that when you give up doing anything except watching sports on TV, you and your skills and abilities wither away. So, as seniors, we should continue to do as much as we can by ourselves without becoming too dependent on others.

In some other cultures, seniors are respected and revered. When I visited India to attend my grandson’s wedding to an Indian-American woman, I was treated with great respect. Strangers knelt down to touch my feet (a sign of respect) and I gave blessings freely. I was regarded as a source of knowledge and wisdom. I felt like a holy man.

Maybe, I look like an old man who needs as much help as I can get. Or, maybe people recognize that I am a senior and they feel the need to be especially nice to seniors. Everyone has a mother and father. They gave you your existence on Earth, and now it’s payback time.

Philosophy of Life

These are several parts to my philosophy of life

1. Appreciate relationships. Many of my friends are either retired, terminally ill or dead,
2. We can’t escape or explain death. Ten out of every 10 people die. The risk is very high. It’s not a question of “will I die?” It’s a question of when and how.
3. Respect and enjoy this strange phenomenon called “life.”
4. Live enthusiastically. Keep laughing and do as many activities as possible.
5. Be kind to everyone, especially seniors.
6. Do a good deed for a senior today.

My good deed for seniors today is to stop writing this article.