While you may think it will be boring at first glance, a relationship with an older adult can have an incredible impact on your child.
1 Because we have time
Yes, we do. Everybody has time. It’s a question of priorities. If we are happily thinking that the older person in our life isn’t valuable enough for us to make time for, then what does that say about our value for people in general? What kind of example are we setting?
Old people are precious. They might not look it, smell it or sound it, but they are deeply valuable and adored by God, whose opinion about things we should all appreciate. Do we appreciate it?
2 Because they need you to
Being old isn’t easy. There are actually some rather terrifying statistics on the elderly. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, an estimated 10–15 per cent of our over-65 year-olds suffer from depression or anxiety.
And according to Beyond Blue, the rates of depression among those living in residential aged care are much higher, around 35 per cent. The Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that men over the age of 85 have the highest suicide rate in Australia.
Of course, there are a lot of reasons for this: the elderly experience health problems that might involve disability or pain, loneliness and isolation due to a dwindling social circle or decreased mobility, a reduced sense of purpose or loss of identity due to retirement or physical limitations, and the grief of recent bereavements.
Sadness over these losses and changes are normal, but depression is not, and it seems that many older Australians are living with that constant state of emptiness and despair that marks depression.
But there is hope for them.
One of the key ways to reduce the risk factors of depression, especially for the elderly, is to keep engaged: socially, mentally and physically. Get out into the world and spend time with people.
Beyond Blue says, “There are lots of things you can do to expand and strengthen your social networks. If you want to be closer to others in your existing relationships, you can work on improving your communication and emotional connectedness; for example learning new skills to help you talk about the important things in life with loved ones, or even just making more time for regular conversations.”
In other words, spend time with people and get talking. That’s where we—and our children—come in.
3 Because we have the answer—and so do they
That’s the thing about spending time with people who aren’t in the same “place” as us. Letting them tell their stories, and telling ours. Letting them tell stories to our kids, and vice versa. The experience changes both parties.
Both we and our kids can bring different ideas and opinions with us when we spend time with our favourite “oldies”. And in return, they can change us and remind us that we too, will one day deal with mortality like this.
4 Because of the value factor
It’s not just because they have value—as people, and as joke-telling, generous, faithful, intelligent men and women. It’s great for our kids to understand the dignity of every life, and to learn to cultivate honour and respect for the elderly.
But it’s also because they lived and had their prime in a time when society’s values were different. Society’s values shift and change. Our kids will never know what is was like to grow up in a different society to their own—unless someone tells them. And that’s good, because it changes them—changes us. It widens our perspective, gets us thinking out of the box. And that is always a good thing.
5 Because it’s easy
Tea, talking. It doesn’t take much.
There are so many options: reading to each other, sharing hobbies, scrapbooking, gardening, weather-watching, telling jokes, cooking together, discovering technology. Some cinemas even run a seniors screen event, with plenty of films perfect for encouraging and uplifting your favourite “oldie”.