The memories I have of my grandma when I was younger are always fond ones. When I got sick, I would get to go to Grandma’s house. That day would consist of comforts. She would make me a perfect grilled cheese sandwich on the skillet, with an ice-cold Sprite served in a Looney Tunes juice glass. I would fall asleep watching Hercules on her couch, while she sat and watched with me. We would finish out the day playing UNO, and, possibly because she wanted to make me feel better, I always won. My mom would pick me up and, always after a day at Grandma’s, I would feel better. Our grandparents have been there to comfort and guide us. Why does our society find it so difficult to return the favor?
I try my hardest to do what I can. On holidays and special occasions, I visit my grandma in the nursing home. When I go there, I am happy to see that she is doing well and remembers my name, but I often think about the others who reside there. As I walk down the hall with its beige walls hung with framed amateur paintings, I see how one might be reluctant to volunteer or visit this place. I wave and greet those who slowly make their way back to their rooms and am mostly greeted with smiles and an occasional, “Hello, sweetheart!”
I have gone to a nursing home two other times, not including when I visited my grandma. Once when I was in second grade, my Girl Scout troop went to sing Christmas carols. Even though I was only eight at the time, I can still remember feeling uncomfortable. The other time was my senior year of high school with my choir, again to sing holiday songs. I had gotten rid of my fear of being around the elderly and to see their smiling and grateful faces was a testament to the actual good I was doing. The seniors loved the company, and constant compliments were presented to us. I couldn’t believe how relieved and happy I felt after doing this. Why are we ever even scared to visit the elderly in the first place? Why does that fear drive us to neglect some of those who should be our most respected citizens?
Perhaps it is our fear of aging or facing the same fate. This argument doesn’t make sense to me, though. The elderly have so much knowledge and experience from life. Their stories are full of advice, history, and humor. Why don’t we listen? We need to understand that these people are just as much human beings as people in the prime of their life.
Our culture and government view the elderly as a burden that should be dealt with rather than people who need to be cared for, and not just medically. Think about how children need care and attention, along with food and shelter, the basic necessities of life. When we finally realize that the elderly are not vegetables in a coma, we will start to honor and respect those who came before us.
Come on, people. We will all be there one day, so let’s practice what we learned in kindergarten, the Golden Rule, and take the time to connect with those who have knowledge about life and could teach us a thing or two. I hope after reading this, you too will decide to volunteer at a local nursing home or truly get to know one of your older relatives. They have been there for us, so let’s show them the respect they deserve.