I was very pleased this past weekend that my son and his wife invited my husband and me along to look at an apartment they’re considering as their family grows – oh, and did I mention that we learned just this past weekend that we are expecting our first grandchild?
But this is not about that.
As we were wrapping up our tour of the rowhouse apartment, two Viet Nam era gentlemen (their hats told that story) were stepping out of the adjacent front door and greeted us. Well, it wasn’t so much a greeting as the beginning of a “getting to know you” conversation. They both pointed out where they lived on the block and the on-street parking challenges and how long they had lived there. They shared their inside jokes, and I am fairly certain they had each heard one another’s material before. They discussed their military service, and one of them stepped back inside his home to bring out his purple heart to help tell that story. All in all a very pleasant introduction to their neighborhood, and it also was a perfect summation about what researchers who study aging have told us for years.
The two most important elements for older individuals are respect and inclusion. These gentlemen’s quick responses to the potentially new neighbors and their subsequent conversation certainly underscored the inclusion part of the equation. They further engaged us with stories of their pasts as well as the history of the neighborhood. They included us and we reciprocated which made for a fulfilling few moments for them as well as for my son and his wife – success. The respect certainly was already present, but the gentleman who ducked back into his home to retrieve his purple heart elicited both respect and awe. No matter one’s opinions of the Viet Nam involvement, this man had earned respect from the four of us and more.
The Sunday lessons also encourage more proactivity, I think.
Inclusion. As we all approach life in the “new normal” and begin to get out and about again, are we also including our older loved ones? You may not invite your older loved one to climb a mountain with you, but you can share a stroll and even the pictures you bring back from the mountain.
Respect. We all work hard to achieve the goals we set for ourselves when young, but older adults crave respect even more. As much as I don’t view myself as an “elder” in the classic sense, I do know my son wasn’t just bringing me along for the ride to his potential new residence. He was showing me he valued my opinion…respect.
It’s not too late for New Year’s Resolutions, is it? Be it resolved that you show one more example of respect and one of inclusion with your older loved ones each week.
Charlotte Bishop is a Caregiver Coach, an Aging Life Care Advisor, a Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Care Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago. She also is the co-author of How Do I Know You? A Caregiver’s Lifesaver for Dealing with Dementia.