Aging Parents: Do We Do Right By Them? Culture, Values, Attitudes and Pope Francis I

Is our value system responsible for older people, seniors, those over 55 or 65, feeling they are of diminished importance in today’s world 

Are we self-centered and youth obsessed, living in a fast forward culture?
Do we give our elders the respect due them?
How often do they resign themselves to having to fend for themselves when they, indeed, need some help–or simply more attention?

And is older people’s reluctance to impose along with their acceptance of having to fend for themselves, the main reason they decide to leave their homes of many decades in exchange for independent or assisted living or a retirement community–so they “won’t be a burden” to their children? Lastly does moving tend to isolate them–geographically and emotionally–from family and friends?

Focus: two TV programs (King’s Point [HBO] and Love it or List it Too [HGTV]) Monday night plus today’s Papal election, highlight the contrast in cultures, values and attitudes towards aging.

King’s Point follows–over a period of 10 years–a group of probably middle-class, New Yorkers who left the cold winters in NY to retire to Florida’s attractive KIng’s Point retirement community.

Decades ago, as retirees, they were undoubtedly healthy, active and eager to enjoy golf, stimulating comradery, and the appealing amenities at King’s Point.  Now (about 30 years later) they are widows, widowers, with health issues, and life issues, making the best of their situation–far from family and friends with no options for returning to NY. They are lonesome. These seniors are making the best of it, with far-away adult children whom they don’t want to burden. Bottom line. It’s sad  (granted, this may depend on the TV viewer’s age). Sad for them and a sad commentary about our culture, its values and its options for older people.
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An aging relative generated the need to remodel and expand a family’s home or move to a new one on Love it or List it Too, where family relationships ran very deep. The family, from India, now had the husband’s uncle or great-uncle living with them (reason unknown).

The uncle was given the master bedroom; the husband and wife moved to a smaller bedroom. The three children had reduced space which created problems; thus thoughts of buying a larger home and listing their home for remodel and perhaps sale were in progress.

When questioned, there were gentle references to their culture. The husband said, in essence, he was proud to be able to give his aging uncle the master bedroom. Honoring elders no doubt.
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Lastly, a new Pope was elected today and he is 76-years-old.  After the announcement, while awaiting the appearance of newly-named Pope Francis I this afternoon, TV news anchor, Brian Williams, mentioned NBC provided him many briefs of the possible candidates, which included the new Pope–Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio from Argentina–with a notation that he was probably too old (my take on the exact words–though I think I’m very close).

Obviously age was not a major factor in the culture and value system of the 115 members of the College of Cardinals who selected 76-year-old Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio to the esteemed and important position of heading the Catholic Church and its 1.2 billion members.

Honoring Elders. Culture. Values. Attitudes.

Generations living together was common in our country in the old days; clearly not now, with our busy lives. While we who care deeply about aging parents and family members do the best we can, would we give up our master bedroom? ….And even if we did, would an aging parent accept?

Pope Francis I has an obvious big job ahead; but I’m thinking there’s another big job that’s not so obvious: by example, reshaping attitudes to the extent that our youth-oriented culture understands older people still “can do.” Being given the respect they have earned–and so deserve–older people in our society would no longer feel like Dad’s brilliant 90-something-year-old friend who said years ago–“I feel like the flotsam and the jetsam.”