I like older folks, I always have. I grew up learning from them, appreciating their experiences, spending time and listening to the stories they had to share. I respect their lives and was taught to show them respect. I’m not talking about my grandparents, although that’s where the roots started.
I mean people generally older than myself. A few years or many years, there are a lot of lessons to be learned.
I spent this past week listening and talking with quite a few people older than myself, seniors, asking what is on their minds, how COVID has affected them this year and where they see the world.
I was surprised by two re-occurring themes, exasperation and hope.
What I heard clearly was people are exasperated with the general ugliness, disrespect and disregard people have for one another and for our older populations.
There was a day when you didn’t swear around your elders, you held the door open for them in a store, you carried their groceries, cut the lawn or helped them out when they needed help. People checked on them to see if they were lonely or sick or needed anything from the store. Where has that gone?
I heard some stories this week that made me cringe. Stories of seniors being yelled at sometimes in local stores for taking too long, for wearing a mask, for asking questions at the desk when there was a line up. Where is our decency and tolerance? Aren’t we all going to be old one day, and is this how you want to be treated?
Our older folks have had a long, confusing and often scary year along with the rest of us, and maybe more so. They have lost friends and family. They can’t visit or have visitors oftentimes because they are vulnerable to getting sick. They have lost many of their support systems like the Seniors Centres that run all the programs that keep them active and social.
So, what they have had is the television and for a few of them social media. What they have found there is ugliness, disregard for laws whether on a large scale or small ones and disrespect, and people that in general, act like fools.
What I heard was they were fed up. They wanted me to tell you how they feel, because some are afraid, as they live on their own, and aren’t keen to give their names, because they fear retribution in a small town.
They are tired of people holding “freedom rallies” every Saturday, walking down Main Street with no masks, putting them (seniors and others) at risk, and no RCMP to be found.
You won’t find the seniors protesting by and large, as they are following what we have all been asked to follow, wearing masks, staying home, social distancing, doing their part, so they won’t get sick or make anyone else sick, even though they are our most vulnerable population.
And in the midst of it all they also find hope. Hope because they have seen all of this before, polio before vaccines, other viruses too. They know we will get through it. They have been through wars, some of them, and things most of us have never had to face.
And yet they have hope. Hope we are entering a phase, where respect in how we communicate with each other will calm down. Hopeful they and everyone else can find a better new normal in the months and weeks to come, as things like their senior centres start to open their programs back up.
Vaccines are here and that gives them hope to.
Let’s try to help, to keep helping. Pick up groceries, have some tolerance and patience. Help them shovel driveways and carry things to their homes. Drop a note. Pick up the phone and call to check on them.
Let’s try to show them the good side of our community and ourselves, not the worst.