Current data shows that senior adults—those 65 years and older—outnumber the younger generation, living 20 to 30 years longer than previous generations. In Ontario, June is Seniors’ Month, a reminder to show our respect and gratitude for all the contributions senior citizens have made and continue to make, to their families, and communities as a whole.
It has always struck me as bizarre that one needed to be reminded to honour their parents, so to speak. These are the folks who saw, fought in, and survived World War I, II, the Vietnam war. These are the women who fought for the right to vote, to work, and to be paid equally for it. These are the people of colour who fought for, and saw passed, the racial discrimination act of 1944. The Torontonians with West Indian heritage that created the first Caribana festival in Toronto in 1967. These are the people who have lived through other pandemics and seen what vaccines can do—the people who have seen the technological transition from paper to typewriter to computer to laptop to tablet to smartphone (with blackberry in there somewhere).
Mehmet Murat Ildan said that “protecting the elderly, keeping them alive, is keeping our memories alive in real life; it is to keep our past literally in today’s time!.” The stories and memories our seniors carry with them are an amazing tapestry of rich wisdom, and I often wonder if we are remembering to ask and listen.
I am fortunate to still have both of my parents, who still, in their 70s, are my strongest supporters and advisors, about many things. I am fortunate to have known all of my grandparents, although my grandfathers died when I was young. I know the strength of both maternal grandmothers, who, while very different, were each fiercely protective of their family—matriarchs who led their families through war and economic depressions as thinkers and doers. I remember them fondly, but also with a tinge of regret that some of their stories, some of their lessons, were lost with them.
It seems to me sometimes, that we have lost our way as a society. We talk about respecting the elderly, but we get frustrated when it takes one a little longer to cross the street or tell a story, as if speed were more important than the richness of connection. We talk about protecting the vulnerable, but regularly fail to do so. As recent events have unfolded in LTCs across the province, this has been tragically apparent, yet again.
This June, in the midst of the chaos that is COVID-19, let’s all take a moment to thank the seniors around us, to ask about their stories, and really, truly listen to their answers. Let’s take a moment to reconnect (from a responsible social distance).
After all, we are all in this together.