The Forgotten Generation: The Ederly

Imagine the work that would go along with keeping a garden the size of a quarter of an acre every year-a garden that would have numerous crops, such as tomatoes, corn, green onions, strawberries, green peas, lettuce, pumpkins, and squash. Do you think such a garden would require a lot of work and a lot of your time to maintain? Imagine now that the person keeping such a garden every year was a man that was almost 90 years old. If you can begin to imagine such a thing, you are imagining someone like my wife’s stepfather, a part of the forgotten generation: the elderly. He is a man who has only recently scaled back on his activities because of health limitations, after he turned 90.

How many of you know an elderly neighbor or have elderly people in your lives? I think we all have contact with at least one person that is age 70 or above. This is an age where things begin to slow down for those people, and they live on the memories of the years gone by.

These memories are an untapped resource for the youth of America. History is taught in the schools, but to actually know someone that has lived in a different era than we do is an unexpected blessing. We can always learn from the past and the mistakes of others. It is a shame that some in the senior generation have so much to offer to us in terms of wisdom, and we are just letting that knowledge slip right through our hands.

My wife, Cheryl, has a stepfather that is a part of the forgotten generation, the elderly that countless young people could learn from. They could have learned the importance of hard work by watching his example as he maintained his garden every year. They could learn by asking him about hard work, as he could tell stories about driving 50 miles one way every day to work as a carpenter to provide for his family. Willing to do whatever it took, to maintain his house and provide for his first wife, who later died, he also was a farmer. Cheryl inspired and partially wrote this article.

Because he is a part of the forgotten generation, an elderly man who lived through the Great Depression and learned one never knows what tomorrow brings; young people could learn from my wife’s stepfather the importance of valuing what they already have, because tomorrow they could lose it. A very organized man, he stores string, rubber bands, and plastic bags for years, even if he has to wash the bags out, because he never knows when he might need such items. He is not poor at all.

One could learn from this member of the forgotten generation the value of cherishing something you care about and the importance of organization. This elderly man keeps records of bills he has paid for years, because who knows when you might need such a thing? He keeps collections of clocks, bells, and glass baskets and has each one numbered and dated as to when he received it. In addition, he has a record of who gave him each part of his collection. He will never forget who gave him each item, and those who gave to his collection appreciate (I am one) that.

My wife has several people in her life that are above 70, and the one just described that recently turned 90. What a fun time it is to talk with them and hear about all of the different things that happened to them. My wife believes Americans are always in such a hurry and can’t seem to take the time to enjoy the lives of others. The person that is over 90, the elderly man, part of the forgotten generation in the life of my wife and I, has so much to offer in the way of wisdom and skills that I just feel it is a crime that these talents and juicy tidbits of knowledge are going to die in the near future and be lost forever.

That is the problem with America. Some people feel that a person’s usefulness is over after the age of 65. How sad! Sometimes at that point people are forgotten about and ignored, seldom visited-even if they are able to maintain their own home, as my wife’s stepfather. Worse yet, they are sometimes put in a nursing home to live out the rest of their days alone.

You are missing so much if you do not take the time to listen to and learn from the person that is over 70.

We are all creating history every single day. In order to help others, we all have to be willing to take the time to listen.

Let’s all take some time to enrich our lives by investing time in someone who is slowing down in life and maybe not able to give us too much more than the memories of a year that has gone by.

In other countries, like Japan, the citizens value their elderly. Sometimes generations of a family all live together in the same house.

Let us consider the example of some older people who made great accomplishments to society: at 69 Ronald Reagan was elected to his first of two terms as President of the United States and led his country through a term of economic expansion and the end of the Cold War with the Soviet Union; Billy Graham who has shared his faith with people worldwide, even into his 80’s; and Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt when he was past 80-to name just a few.

The next time you look upon a member of the forgotten generation, whether the person is a relative, a neighbor, a co-worker, or an elderly resident of a nursing home, remember to take the time to stop and listen to what the person has to say. You may learn a lot.

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