Value of Senior Citizens

Written by
on November 22, 2013

My Dad’s been a senior for over half my life. Being a senior himself, that’s likely why he took his four daughters to sing at nursing homes from a very early age — for as long as I can remember. Either way, he taught us to value seniors when we were young. Apart from my selfish teen years, I’ve always had a soft heart for the elderly. Surviving life for 55+ years is a feat. Seniors have learned valuable lessons through loss and pain, success and failure. The wisdom they can share is invaluable.

Here is my Dad (far right) and his siblings and their spouses. This was the last time all four siblings were all together, due to his Alzheimer’s and all of them not being able to travel.

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What else do seniors bring to the table?

1) Recipes

It’s a shallow example, but good food can’t be forgotten. I’ll never forget “Granny Toast.” As simple as it is, it’s still the most delicious toast one could ever have. When you have a big fam and want everyone to eat at once, you can’t stand by a toaster for long. What do you do? Butter a bunch of bread up, place them on cookie sheets and throw it in the oven. After waiting until it’s perfect, and you’ll know when that is, you all have your perfect Granny Toast. Recipes are the best from our elderly family and friends. Sausage gravy cooked in bacon grease. The real-deal Thanksgiving meal. Meatloaf with that added splash of what-have-you. (You didn’t really think I’d give away all these recipes, did you?) Food is one of the keys to a healthy heart and home.

Seniors give us much more than just the recipes. They give us the memories associated with them.

Sitting around at Thanksgiving, sharing our hearts. Learning how to bake and decorate the sugar cookies at Christmas. Then carrying on foodie traditions long after they’re gone. My Dad has late stages Alzheimer’s and I’ll always think of him when I eat a t-bone steak, medium rare, seasoned with only salt & pepper. Thank you for the memories, Mom and Dad, and all my senior relatives and friends.

2) History

When I was little, I was fascinated with the history of the Titanic — the boat, the heroes, and the victims. I was fascinated with the stories from those who were old enough to remember it well. Over the years, I’ve learned that history is very easily forgotten. I interviewed my Dad while he could still talk, and before he lost his memory. I heard so many stories about him, his family, his teen and college years. Stories I’d never heard before. I talk to his siblings now and learn even more. Every single time I talk to one of his old college buddies, I learn something new. History is easily forgotten. Who records the simple stuff…

Seniors bring it to life again, with every conversation. It’s beautiful. Talk to them. Record it. I urge you to start journaling (publicly or privately). It’s a way to honor them, by remembering all the little (and big) memories you shared. Teach your children to journal now, so you can all reflect later. It’ll be worth it!

3) Respect

As mentioned earlier, when we were little, Dad taught my three sisters and I to sing four-part aca pella harmony to the “oldies but goodies.” These were REALLY old. Like from the 30’s and 40’s. Like, “Jada Jada Jing Jing Jing.” (I’ll bet you’ve never heard that one.) When we were super young, we had no idea we were “missing out” on current pop culture like Michael Jackson, Tina Turner and Bon Jovi. We were proud of the McGuire Sisters, Lennon Sisters and other big names none of our friends knew. I remember realizing in about 8th grade that I wasn’t as cool as I thought. I didn’t know all the songs everyone else knew. I was busy singing “Goodnight Sweetheart” and “You Are My Sunshine.”

Because we sang either aca pella or with Dad’s ukelele accompaniment, we were able to easily travel all over our little area in Texas and sing for nursing homes, at malls and even the Texas Opry Jamboree. When I think back on the times we went to nursing homes, I remember the great joy on the faces of the elderly, who were then confined to a 12 x 12′ bedroom and a community living room. No real kitchen. They loved seeing young people. Some never had family visit at all. They seemed lonely and angry. I learned a smile and a yessir/yes ma’am softened hearts.
I learned to respect their lives, hearts, their knowledge and experience.  I learned to look them in the eye. To not be afraid. To speak to them. To speak up when they seem frustrated that they couldn’t hear me. To think of them. Not myself. When I was in my 20’s, I thought the decade would never end. I was the most selfish and disrespectful in that decade. I’m grateful for my 30’s. This past decade included living with my Dad for four years as he began the Alzheimer’s battle, living with Mom as she served him. Getting to know their siblings as an adult. I’ve learned to respect their lives more, even as they fade.

The value of seniors can be found in history and in learning respect, and even in food/recipes.

But learning to LOVE ALL PEOPLE (especially the oft-forgotten elderly) is likely the biggest ‘value’ I learned from my Dad and Mom, my two favorite senior citizens.

I would absolutely be THRILLED to hear what you value in senior citizens. Share in the comments below if you’d like!

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