“A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.” –Greek Proverb
Surveys taken by the U.S. Census Bureau reported in 2014 that there were about 46 million senior citizens living in the United States of America. This means that there are now more Americans aged 65 and older living in the U.S. than ever before! Why does this matter? Elderly citizens have insight, experiences and wisdom that younger generations should be taking advantage of in order to create a sense of balance and respect that can be passed on to future generations and that can aid in creating a world with more tolerance, discussion and reverence.
Why do we read old books that are considered to be classics? The answer lies in the fact that these books provide a unique point of view from a time period that we were not able to live through. We devour these books with the hopes of taking information that would have otherwise been unavailable to us. We seek to learn and understand why things were the way they were, all while being exposed to different and sometimes unfamiliar concepts. In the same regard, elderly citizens are a wealth of information for those younger than them. By using their life experiences and the lessons they have learned, we can come together to use this information to better ourselves and our posterity. As Americans, if we fail to take advantage of this vast opportunity that has been literally placed right in front of us, our society’s progress will be hindered.
My senior year of high school, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to interview a group of senior citizens at my church about their lives. We discussed everything from first loves, children, disease, difficulty, luck, loss and food to culture, language, regrets and the unbreakable bond of a family. At the end of the project, I realized that I had learned more than I could have ever expected. Some of the people I interviewed have unfortunately since passed on, but their words remain. Their thoughts, actions, passions, dedications, families and legacies continue to live on, all because someone cared enough to give them an opportunity to express their feelings.
Taking some time out of your day to ask an elderly person his or her opinion on something and then giving him or her the chance to explain why he or she feels this way will teach you one of the most imperative lessons there is to learn: sincere respect. I encourage you to not be afraid and to take the initiative to show someone you care and you want to learn from what he or she has to offer. Elderly citizens have paved the path that we walk on each and every day. Their success, their efforts and their struggles should not be forgotten as we strive to move forward in creating a better tomorrow. You will smile, you will laugh and you may cry, but one thing is for sure: when you take the time to interact with a senior citizen, you will not be disappointed.