By Kevin Brown | Bio
Many of you are experiencing firsthand what it means to be living with someone older than you. Perhaps you are a teen or young adult living with your parents, or perhaps you are an adult who has a parent or older relative living with you. Experience reveals that at some point in our lives we will be sharing an intergenerational relationship while under one roof. Most of us have the experience of living with our parents while we grow up. But the experience of taking on a caring role is very different.
I myself had this experience while my mother lived with my wife and I until her untimely death, followed a short while thereafter with my mother-in-law living with us for a period of time. All of a sudden, I found myself in a situation where I needed to not only accommodate our son, but now also integrate an aging parent. While there were definite adjustments that needed to be made by all parties, our life was indeed richer for the experience.
I bring this subject forward as a result of a recent newspaper article titled ‘Age anxiety higher at home than work’. The article reported that living with a senior heightens younger people’s anxiety and prejudice about old age, but that working with an elderly person reduces their anxiety and prejudice concerning old age. It seems that younger people, when exposed to senior family members who needed assistance for day-to-day activities and hygiene, become more anxious and concerned themselves about aging. They also commented about older people complaining more and of concern for the evidence of caregiver exhaustion. On the other hand, working with an older generation that outwardly appeared healthy, fit, and mentally engaged created no discomfort and left a more favorable impression. Not surprisingly, the researchers noted that young people who had more knowledge about aging were less anxious about getting older themselves.
While this study focused on younger adults, I would not be surprised if the results were similar for teens and for adults in mid-life. For me, the most important aspect of the study was the reference to the importance of ‘knowledge about aging’ and the impact this has upon society. It would appear that one of the most important experiences we can offer our children is time spent with aging relatives and friends. We have a responsibility to discuss with our children the inevitable impact of aging on family and friends. To be sure, there will be added responsibilities for caregivers in times when friends and family are unable to fully care for themselves. The possibility does exist, however, for there to be numerous opportunities for aging seniors to experience Eldering, when they share their wisdom, experience and grace with younger generations.
Eldering provides the opportunities for our children to witness and experience for themselves the tremendous impact that aging relatives can have on the communities in which they live, learn, work and play. Eldering is a stage in our lives when we have the opportunity and the responsibility to make a profound impact on our world. Elders have reached a point where their life experience is vast, their wisdom is honed, and their ability to create new possibilities for themselves and for their community has never been greater. Imagine how, with a new definition for Eldering, others might view the opportunities that come with growing older instead of merely the challenges many now associate with aging. Imagine the possibilities that exist when generations come together to really listen to one another, to let go of prejudices, and then to collaborate in facing the challenges we face.