What happened to ‘Respect your Elders?’

  • Thursday, April 4, 2013

It has been my privilege to have been involved with senior citizens for over 25 years. My desire in working with this inspirational generation began when caring for my grandmother during an illness up until death. I was captivated when she shared memories of her life. My time with her gave me a better understanding of her generation and I developed a deeper respect for our elders.
After my grandmother’s death I began initiating community projects assisting the elderly in her honor and volunteering at the nursing home where she spent the last month of her life. I have also had the pleasure of working with this remarkable generation at a senior center for four years. Although I no longer work there, I continue to visit seniors I have met at the center.
The joy and satisfaction I receive from my experiences with seniors is overshadowed by the sadness and anger I feel that family, community and younger generations regard their patriarchs and matriarchs with such insensitivity. I know of seniors who have had to choose between purchasing medications or groceries. This generation is proud and independent and it can be hard to ask for help, but families should be more involved in ensuring their senior family members have what they need. Even if families do not have an ideal relationship with their elders, weren’t we been taught to respect our elders, that family comes first and family will always come first and family will always be there for you? Elders are held in high esteem in other countries and their advice and knowledge sought out and respected. Our country should be embarrassed that it does not do a better job supporting and appreciating its elders.
It should not be possible in this country that so many seniors are being mistreated and neglected by people who are charged with their care, including their own family members. It should not be possible in this country that seniors are going without food, heat and medications, particularly if they have family close. It should not be possible in this country that our elders are left alone day after day.
Why aren’t younger generations being taught to respect their elders? Our elders are a vital connection to our past. They have lived during the most difficult of times and have inspiring stories to share with families and younger generations, if only we’d realize the importance of this resource. I am amazed at the incredible accomplishments seniors have achieved while coping with difficult conditions. Their strength and courage inspire me. Their remarkable spirit and persistence should be an inspiration to their families, their communities and younger generations. They deserve our attention and respect.
Wake up America. Respect our elders! Be inspired by them and appreciate this incredible resource and connection to our past. It is important to recognize the value of past generations, as it will then inspire and prepare younger generations to carry us into a promising future.
By Debbi Covell, a resident of Summerville.

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