The topic of the elderly in society immediately draws my mind to a place of positive memories of my grandparents, great-grandparents and even my great-great grandmother. I was extremely fortunate to have experienced these individuals in my life. They were and are sources of inspiration that defines the texture of the fabric of society. The elderly among us are vast resources of knowledge, experiences and insights that should be cherished by all of us. After all, we are all potentially members of the silver-haired gentry that will hopefully contribute more pleasant memories of our generation to future posterity. The role of the elderly in our modern society is usually misconstrued as one that is antiquated as well as unrelated to modern experiences. As is the case, most of our elderly are considered to be rusting relics of times gone bye. This critical lack of understanding and appreciation for our senior brothers and sisters really provides a denial point of our own humanity as well as our own mortality.

We as a society need to revere and comprehend the elderly in society, not as persons that are no longer viable in mind and body; but as a national resource that is to be actively engaged for their expertise and opinions. After all whatever activity in which we are involved today they have done. These ladies and gentlemen are the senior sages on which the foundations of our modern life and industry are built. The elderly in our society have persevered through two world wars, the rise and fall of communism, the construction and destruction of the Berlin Wall as well as the arrival and demise of the Beatles. Our elderly ran the spectrum of all age groups as they fought in global conflicts, experimented with the Hula-hoop, protested the Vietnam War in the sixties and endured the leisure suit. Not only have they persisted and endured but survived social, economic and political upheaval but surprisingly lived to tell the tale.

During their lifetimes in addition to dealing with a chaotic and changing world they had time to raise families, provide college educations for their children and continue civilized life for all of us to appreciate and understand. Their counsel should not be taken lightly. Their experiences are the equivalent of platinum ingots to those of us still striving to senior stage of our lives. We forget they were there when Kennedy was shot, man landed on the moon and Woodstock retreated into a muddy, distant memory.

The elderly in our society taught us how to laugh, live, work, worship and love throughout all types of experiences and occupations, from the blue-collar worker to the Wall Street wizard. They quite simply were younger versions of ourselves with the same hopes, dreams and aspirations for themselves and their families. Both fortunately and unfortunately time continued on and now we have the question of the elderly in society as if we had invented the wheel.

When I think of the collective experiences that my grandparents encountered it overloads my mind. They worked hard, provided for their families and gave all of us the future we now call the present. The issue is how we can help these now gentle mavericks of society enjoy full inclusion in our modern society. The elderly are pillars of society. We should do all that is possible to enhance their lives and preserve their experiences. Simple things will accomplish this goal. Sit with a World War II era senior. Ask them about life during that time; get them to explain their lives and experiences during this chaotic period of history. Have them identify individuals in old photos, recount their life experiences, record them, photograph them and write it down. You are dealing with living history. When they are gone, the photographs will remain nameless faces of times and events gone by.

Foster your children and grandchildren to get to know someone that is now elderly. Ask them to teach your children about their lives, as well as have your children teach Grand mom and Grand pop how an iPod works, and how to burn a CD. Believe me the elderly can tell everyone about that vinyl disk we used to call an LP.

Educate a child that growing old is the natural progression of being human. We will all get to be the silver-haired fox hopefully with the right mentors as our guides. And finally in our society we need to show appreciation for the elderly in our society in some small manner. It could be opening a door, helping out with a heavy package or not using profanities when following a senior on the highway. Check on seniors that live alone, and invite them to share a meal with your family. We will all be in their places at some point in our lives. When we come to appreciate their lives and experiences our own appreciation of what is important will focus our views through their eyes and their experiences. Remember the elderly in our society have not only travelled the road on which we drive…they built it.

Hugh McNichol is a Catholic author and journalist that writes on Catholic topics and issues. Hugh studied both philosophy and theology at Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia. He writes daily at: & & He writes about Irish Catholic experiences  at Nothing Left Unsaid!” is his daily column @ Comments are always welcome @

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