Educate Younger Generations about Aging
I was recently struck by a conversation I had with a colleague in our digital marketing “department.” She is a lovely, talented young woman; I don’t know her age ~ because I don’t care, but my guess is she is around 30 years old.
We have been working together closely for five months now, and the other day we had a spontaneous conversation about the various topics we post on our website and social media ~ things like dementia, caregiving, and ageism. She told me how much she has learned from me and from the reading and research she has done to help support our practice and our message.
After we ended our call, it hit me how incredibly important her learning is, particularly at her young age. She has learned about the aging process and in new ways. She has learned what ageist language is and what NOT to say. She has watched me on countless videos highlighting great true stories about our clients or my older friends. She listens to me light up when I tell her how someone with dementia did something remarkable and how I celebrated it.
I have been thinking a lot about this conversation and realize how I inadvertently changed this wonderful woman’s perceptions and how she is different now. What I have done (again, inadvertently) is plant seeds in a younger person’s heart and mind so that she will go forward for the rest of her life, seeing aging as not a disability or something to fear. She will never look at an older person the same way after learning what she has learned. She now understands how confusing it can be for someone with dementia to order from a complex dinner menu and how burned out most family caregivers are. She will not only cut these individuals some slack, but she will honor and have patience with them when they show up in her life ~ and I promise they will.
And what’s even better is that she will lead by example and inform others about everything she has learned.
The critical question here is how else would she know all this if I didn’t educate her? We must expose younger generations to older adults and the aging process. We fear what we don’t know. We need to teach them. We need to show them.
A micro-torched has been passed to my colleague. She “heard” everything I taught her, but what’s more, she felt it. And when you feel something as profound as this, it changes you ~ forever.
Here’s to you, Anna, for taking the torch and paying all this knowledge forward; I know you will.