Elders more than deserve our support

Elders more than deserve our support

OPINION
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We need to remember the contribution they've made to our society, and that their years of hard work mean something.

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HELPING HAND: I've been reminded to appreciate those older than me and value their worth. Picture: Shutterstock

HELPING HAND: I've been reminded to appreciate those older than me and value their worth. Picture: Shutterstock

You know you are getting older when you no longer "fall over," the fall happens to you. It's all semantics, but semantics matter because they impact how you feel about yourself. Let me explain.

So this morning, I turned my car on and the warning lights lit up like a Christmas tree. According to my dash, EVERYTHING was wrong and needed emergency attention. Noting that it was overdue for a service, I called my mechanic and I took it straight down to them.

Then, I tripped over the gate ridge and did a slow motion (no doubt hilarious to the observer) quick step trying to save myself. To no avail. And I fully measured my length in reckless abandon across the road. I even made an "ompf" noise as I belly flopped on the bitumen. I remember thinking to myself, as my body absorbed the aftershock reverberations, that I had no idea that people actually made that sound in real life.

It was quite possibly the least graceful moment of my life.

Of course, the street wasn't empty at the time. A lovely lady I have known for years just happened to be walking up the street at the time and stopped to help. Another lady crossed the road to help, a car stopped to see if I was OK and my mum was there to pick me up ... it was simultaneously a moment of complete embarrassment and restoration in the faith of humanity.

However - and this is a big however - in addition to bleeding elbows and hands and bruised ribs and ego, this experience single-handedly aged me.

When mum called dad to explain that she was going to be a bit late home and why, she didn't say "Zoë's fallen over." She said, "Zoë's had a fall."

No longer was I the active participant, the klutz, the person who did the falling. When my kids stack it, they don't "have a fall" they just fall over. When I was in my 20s, I was also the active participant in the falling. It seems, that when you get to a certain age, falls just happen to you.

As I sit here, feeling monumentally sorry for myself and trying to ignore the fact that it now hurts to even breathe, I am finding myself contemplating the correlation of feeling like you are losing control and aging.

Ageism in recruitment processes is a classic example of feeling like we have no control over our lives.

We can't help aging - it isn't a daily choice like saying no to a slice of cake or deciding to exercise every day. It happens to us no matter what we do.

And many of us find that once we hit a certain age, finding employment can be challenging due to stereotyped ideas of mature-age people.

We need to start changing the way we engage with our mature community members and remember the contribution that they've made to our society.

Medical decisions are also made based on our age and the older we get, many of us find that we don't even get a say in whether we have a do-not-resuscitate order or not, whether we go to hospital or not, whether we stay in a nursing home or not.

There are thousands of mature-age Australians at the moment who are feeling both trapped and unsupported with the freeze on the aged pension and exclusion from the ongoing coronavirus supplement support.

With decreasing financial control - and feeling beholden to a country they've paid taxes into for a lifetime without the recognition of their labour and contribution through being constantly made out to be a burden and "expendable" in this global pandemic - there's little doubt that our personal control over our lives, our sense of agency, seems to diminish as we age.

An American study has concluded that older people feel younger when they feel in control of their lives, which leads to better mental and physical health and, ultimately, longevity.

We need to start changing the way we engage with our mature community members and remember the contribution that they've made to our society, and that their years of hard work and service mean something - not just nostalgically, but in the workplace, in the family and in society.

While I am not yet old enough to claim such a contribution, I'm taking this experience as a reminder to appreciate those older than me and value their worth.

And perhaps next time, I'll look where I'm bloody going.

Zoë Wundenberg is a careers consultant and un/employment advocateat impressability.com.au

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