Seniors – Their Place and Contribution
Our Western Societies of Change
by Michael Brine
“Seniors, are much happier and healthy if they have some volunteer commitment.”
The above was a sentence communicated to me in the request sent to myself when I ‘volunteered' to write on this issue for the “Health Action Network Society” [HANS] - in Vancouver .
The fact that this question has arisen implies to me that maybe we need to look at how our culture deals with “Seniors” in the first place.
So, let us start by asking what comes up for you when we use this word – “Seniors”?
Hhhhmmm – lets see – I guess generally nice people – right? Separate now from us who are living and working in ‘Main Stream'- And then there's that word “retirement” that comes up – which by implication gives the impression ‘retired from life' - a word I would never allow to be applied to myself for that very reason. It inserts a subtle mindset of separation - being ‘On the shelf' – It's over – ‘just fill our lives as best we can now until ------------- yes ? – until ? – well, until we move on.' Am I right? Maybe some variations on this theme but that pretty well sums it up – Yes?
I am a ‘Senior'. I am nearly 75 [21.6.35] and – sorry - but I avoid “Senior's Centres”, and if someone asks me if I'm “retired”? I simply say ‘that word is not in my vocabulary!' I will not give my power to this concept! I never will. The psychological implication is not healthy – It suggests we are separated from life as we knew it – and – yes – society and our younger family members will look after us and love us but psychologically we have been put on the shelf and told to just remain there - and yes – a subtle message that says ‘We'll look after you but don't bother us.”'- that is saddening, but more than that – it is subtly psychologically damaging.
That was never the intention but that is the result – at least, as I feel it.
Some of you reading this may not agree with much or some of this above but think about it. As a designated ‘Senior” I know what I feel when I see this word and especially when it is applied to me.
Now, let us look at another culture and how they have dealt with the older members of their society. Indigenous peoples.
Ever heard of “Elders”? Now, what does that designation conjure up in you? Hhhhmmmm – a very different feeling, doesn't it? If I may suggest – One of respect – of wisdom – and, indeed, of a very present member of the family – the individual family – but more – a member of the greater family into which he or she was born into. In this there is no separation. This is so much more healthy in my opinion than what we tend to do in our Western culture. We tend to separate our older family members no matter how well intentioned we think we are being. The psychological effect is subtle but subtly negative. I suggest we need to look at this.
The other element is that this individual who has lived for more years that the younger members of the society has very likely got some very useful insights on how to deal with problems or issues that come up and needing to be addressed. In this I am reminded of the Indigenous peoples around the world in which there is the vision of everyone in the community sitting in a circle which invokes a sense of equality, and the use of the “Talking Stick”, or its equivalent, being passed to the person who wishes to address the issue under discussion. Indeed, I have often imagined what a positive difference it would make if we introduced this concept into our Parliament! Again, when, as we do in our Parliament, sit opposite each other, this almost automatically creates an element of confrontation – them and us – and, as we've all too often witnessed, the childish behaviour this invokes – frankly, a disgraceful display of bad manners frequently witnessed, sadly, all too often, by the younger members of our society. I would suggest that the concept of the Circle injects dignity, respect and harmony – what a difference!
So, this is how I see this whole issue of “Seniors volunteering” in an effort to make them happier. That very statement says it all. So, I respectively suggest, that we consider taking a healthy look at the differing results in these two societies and the end results they ultimately produce. Please – I am not so naïve that I haven't seen how corrupted many Indigenous cultures have become due to the overpowering influence of ours, but there is a vision here that despite this, we can invoke and use as a template to broaden our understanding on this issue, and effect inspiring improvements coupled with compassion.
So, now, having said my piece I have been wondering what other word could we now use to represent the older members of our Western society instead of “Seniors” because of what it currently conjures up at present. How about “Olders” ? Hhhhmmm – I'll leave that to you! Go for it!
Be well – Michael.
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If interested other articles by this writer can be accessed at the following Australian web site:- www.missionignition.net/btb
::. Go To Beyond the Box #031 ::.