May 15, 2014 — May is Older American Awareness Month. Each year the Administration for Community Living designates a theme for this National Commemorative month and this year’s theme is Fall Prevention. By taking control of their safety, the group believes that older Americans can live longer, healthier lives.
No doubt. Safety is something we should be mindful of at every age. At Disney, we were taught to think about Safety first, so that other’s don’t have to. As such, people of all ages, can live longer, healthier, more enjoyable lives. . .(at their theme parks especially.)
I would like to suggest that, this year, we take the commemoration of Older American’s Awareness Month, one step further. While continuing to be mindful of the areas to promote safety, let us find additional ways to help Older American’s live longer, healthier lives. Now before you go out and grab your closest Older American and take them to the Magic Kingdom, consider three easy, free and low impact ways you can accomplish this objective:
1. Time – In the world of texts, hashtags, likes and plus ones it seems we are trying to pare down communication to as few characters as possible in a virtual time sharing space. Express as much as possible with the least amount of effort as quickly as possible. For many older Americans, who preceded this technology and mindset, their TIME is precious but your TIME with them is worth far more. It’s not about the “characters” on the message. It’s about the “character” of the time you spend – the nature of the time you spend. It’s validating. It’s enriching. It’s fulfilling. It’s healing just to be heard. To perceive that someone values you and your time. Sharing your time makes people happy. So carve out some real time. Put down the phone and the tablet. Engage and invest some time. If you knew it could help someone live longer, and healthier. . would you do it?
2. Love – What looks and feels like love to one, is different for another and the dance to communicate it is like watching two people who speak different languages try to connect on words and phrases like “bathroom” or “cold beer” or “where is my luggage?.” We all know that feeling of struggling to make the expression that translates correctly. We try different words. We experiment with gestures and body language. We draw pictures on napkins. It’s imperative when trying to communicate something you value. We continue trying until we know they other person understands. But somehow, when it comes to expressing love, we have learned that we have the right to give up on our efforts to translate our own behavior and words into something that another person recognizes as love. It’s like we say, well “You just have to accept that this word, this gesture, this act is what love means for ME and learn to associate what you NEED to feel and see every time I do it.” Hmmmmm. That approach would NEVER work for the traveler in a foreign country. He would never find his luggage and chances are, he would alienate a lot of people who were genuinely trying to help him. Alienation is an opposite of Love. So explore the landscape of a foreign country (aka someone else’s love terrain). An Older American’s terrain. Keep trying to communicate the love with as much diligence and intensity as a traveler in a foreign land. If you knew it could help someone live longer, and healthier. . would you make the effort?
3. Tenderness – Handle all hearts with care. Just because some hearts are older, and sometimes hardened and scarred with experience doesn’t mean they are less fragile. Remember, we are all 7 year olds running around in adult bodies. It’s a big masquerade ball and some costumes are a bit more aged than others. But inside, it’s one big party room full of innocence, joy and laughter aching for release. Extend the same compassion and tenderness to your favorite Older American, that you would a child. Extend permission to be a kid and have a child like heart. And here is where Safety is also important — foster the feeling of safety in the expression of all of these feelings. Sometimes, Older American’s aren’t just older and wiser, but they have lived longer with suppressed joy and bliss. Our permission to let them experience the world with childlike bliss and joy, to regard them with tenderness and compassion when they do, makes a world of difference in the quality of life. If you knew handling someone’s heart with care could help them live a happier, healthier life. . . would you?
This is by no means an exhaustive list of what you can to do celebrate your favorite Older American during this commemorative month. No doubt, just being remembered and celebrated will have lasting impact. Just try it. Try something. Try Time, Love and Tenderness. No disrespect to Michael Bolton here. In fact, if you don’t know what I am referring to you definitely must go out and find yourself an Older American to practice these points with. They KNOW the tune and their just waiting for someone to sing with. I promise, you wont regret it. But more important. . they wont forget it, and it may just help someone live a longer, healthier life. And that life. . . in just a few years, may even be your own.