Mark Twain, the American humorist, once said “age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” And it’s true. In your mind you never really think you’re more than 30-years-old. Yet that’s not the way the world views you in your golden years—the world sees a senior as a person who is vulnerable and in need of help and care.
It’s not just the outside world that has this perspective. Within families, adult children sometimes treat their aging parents as if they are one of their children. While this infantilizing of senior parents comes from a place of love and affection, it sends the wrong message: that seniors are people that need to be cared for because they’re not capable or competent enough to take care of themselves.
Always keep in mind that what seniors want is to be recognized for the people they’ve always been.
Younger generations need to remember that seniors are the ones who built the world they are now inheriting. It’s not to say that they owe us a debt of gratitude, but they do owe us respect as peers and equals.
Seniors aren’t in denial. We know we’re getting older and that in many cases we’re not able to enjoy all the activities with the same stamina we once did. Older adults also recognize that sometimes extra support or assistance is needed. Families are the foundation of that support and older adults trust their children to keep their interests at heart.
Getting older isn’t always a cake walk and older adults face many new challenges along the way. It’s important for family caregivers to remember that their older parent is still the same person that raised them. In any conversation you have with your older parents, especially when the topic concerns their care, involve them in the discussion and be respectful of their values and desires. Don’t assume they don’t know what they want. Be patient and be compassionate. And always keep in mind that what seniors want is to be recognized for the people they’ve always been.
Hazel McCallion joined Revera as Chief Elder Officer in 2015. Her leadership guides how Revera can improve care for our residents as she uses her position to challenge ageism and preconceptions about aging.