If we consider the many, many different age groups of the people we live with, we can select a few of those groupings to classify the way we are separated. For
example, we clearly have “children,” those individuals under the age of eighteen. Then there is the group labeled “young adults,” followed logically by “middle-aged
adults,” and finally “seniors.” I realize there could be more specific groupings, but in general, these could be the way we label our society. With those groupings in mind, we then could quite easily attribute characteristics specific to each group, which would take pages of notes to complete. Rather than going in that direction, let’s look at the one factor that runs through all groups: self-esteem.
In any psychology text I have read, self-esteem was listed as the basis of human psychology. Without a solid level of self-esteem an individual might suffer from any number of ailments, both psychologically and physically based. When you were raising your children, it was evident that in order for your child to develop into a “normal” adult, you needed to ensure that your child’s self-esteem was intact. For example, when your son struck-out in a Little League baseball game, instead of yelling at him in front of all his friends and their parents, you went over to him, put your arm around him, gave him a hug, and told him “good effort,” “nice try,” “great swings,” anything to let him know that you were proud of him despite the fact that he struck out. Your job as a parent was to build a strong individual capable of handling the issues that would confront him or her in their adult world. And, self-esteem was one of those building blocks necessary for their development.
The fact that we all need love and a sense of purpose in life is not simply wasted on our youth. Our elderly also need to feel that people care about them, that they have meaning to their lives, and that others understand what they are going through. Consider the facts that as we age: we loose our abilities to see as well as we once did, that we can no longer play golf as if we were 30 years old, that in order to even get out of bed takes 10 minutes of agonizing pain, and that we have few social commitments and even fewer work obligations. In short, our elderly have little purpose in their lives. This will lead to low self-esteem, which in turn can quickly lead to depression and a series of physical ailments.
To combat this negative cycle of depression-to-low-self-esteem-to-depression that affects many of our elderly, it is important that we step in and become empathetic to our parent’s (or our care recipient’s) need for love and attention. We need to try to understand what our elderly population must have in order to maintain their selfesteem, which in turn will help to keep them happy and healthy. First, all people need to feel important. With our elderly, they have lost their jobs, and many have lost friends and family over the years. We can start to help these folks feel important again by listening when they tell us their memories. These memories are their views of what they have lived through. In other words, they are telling us their life stories.
Even if you have heard those same stories over and over again, listen one more time. Ask questions about what it was like living in their day. And show genuine
interest in their history – if it weren’t for them, you might not be here.
Promote more social gatherings. Have family meet more often than the once-a-year
holiday gathering. Use our new technologies to aid in this process. For example, get a web-cam to let your mother speak with her granddaughter. What a kick that would be . . .
And, make sure you show your emotional support for them. Just as you supported your children when they struggled with life, support your parents as they struggle through their lives. Nothing says love better than a hug . . . It’s not easy getting older. It is up to us to make the transitions in life easier for both kids and our parents. Think about the many, many ways you can make your parents’ lives better, and then actually do something about making those ideas come to life. Not only will your parents reap the rewards of your efforts, you also will feel better about yourself.