The older you get, the less most folks know about you. Two reasons: There are fewer people around you who have known you for awhile. And you probably don’t go around bragging about your history—work, family, adventures, accomplishments, roles, extraordinary knowledge or skills. For those reasons, nothing special about you sticks out in most folks’ minds—and so you are stuck inside only one dull/gray adjective: being old!
The result? Those who know you only as a homogenized older person can’t have much appreciation for the fullness of your years. They may underestimate you much of the time. Even worse, well-meaning caregivers may substitute paternalism for respect and admiration. YOU still know who you were (and are) in the fullest possible terms, but you could easily be tempted to think less of yourself, simply because the people around you now don’t know you fully. Sad, hmmm?
If you’re a family member, new friend or caregiver for an older person, how do you correct this matter? Crank up your natural curiosity and apply it to every encounter you have with any seemingly anonymous elderly person. Craft your questions carefully, so that the older person’s answers tumble out in stories—tales full of admirable traits, amazing experiences and remarkable histories that show the elder’s leadership, high regard and godly living. The better your questions, the more you can increase your knowledge about the depth and breadth of wisdom inside every older adult you encounter.
Don’t let the seeming nonchalance or humility of older adults about their past lives deter you from finding how they are uniquely shaped creations of God, still powerful and worthy of admiration. You can remain an intergenerational bridge, one who builds up older people.
Which leads me here: How can non-homogenized elders come to know you, hmmm…?
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