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‘Respect your elders’ is a phrase often repeated to children and that you are likely to have heard many times yourself. But what does it mean and why is it so important for younger generations to give respect to older people?
In this piece, Lottie delves into the reasons that society should hold its seniors in high esteem, as well as advising on small things that individuals can do to respect seniors.
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Despite being a large and growing group in the UK, the elderly are often overlooked. It is common for the views of older people to be dismissed or not considered, with their age being used as reason to do so.
This is ageism - a form of discrimination in which the capabilities of people are assumed to be poor because of their age. Any form of discrimination is wrong and should be fought against.
This means respecting your elders is a vital part of ending prejudice in the UK, so that people of all backgrounds have access to the same rights and opportunities.
Polarisation has become a much used term in conversations about politics and society. Two groups often pitted against one another are the young and old.
Younger people are told their elders have backwards views, while older folks are told their juniors are naive. Recognising these as stereotypes and reaching out is the way to combat this division.
Taking time to speak with those older than you and enjoy their company can help you to see they aren’t so different from you.
Not only may older people share similar concerns about life, they are also likely to have more life experiences and wisdom to share on problems.
Older people’s advanced age means they have faced many of life’s challenges already and will have useful information to share from their experiences.
Start a meaningful conversation with an older relative or neighbour and you are likely to find they have advice on life worth listening to.
The ability of senior citizens to teach those younger than them is not limited to life problems.
Years of experience mean older people possess a vast wealth of knowledge to pass on, particularly around history and skills.
Take time to listen to the elderly and you’ll often be surprised by the unusual stories that you’ll hear about the past. It’s a vital part of remembering history and respecting the experience of older generations.
Next time your grandparents start talking about ‘back in the day’, listen in they may have some valuable life advice to share!
Research has proven the benefits of cross-generational interaction, particularly between children and the elderly.
A report from Stanford showed that younger people benefit from strong relationships with their seniors, gaining advice from a group that generally has the experience and time to nurture them.
Meanwhile, older people are nourished by the emotional connection that they form with their juniors. Taking the role of a mentor is rewarding and provides a sense of purpose.
Older people may have different capabilities to you and it is important to remember this.
Age sometimes impacts a person’s physical abilities, with joint pain or mobility issues becoming more likely as life progresses. This is not a reason to pity or patronise an elderly person but does mean that lending a helping hand is sometimes appropriate.
It may be giving up your seat on the bus or offering to carry someone’s shopping. These small gestures can be incredibly meaningful and make a big difference to their day.
Whether the person you help is in need or not, offering your service is a simple and kind way to appreciate the needs of different people.
Finally, you should show deference to your elders because they are the people who built the society you live in.
Just as society must contemplate the failings of history, it should celebrate the accomplishments of older generations. Although the world is not perfect, failing to recognise positive achievements in the past can cause people to feel hopeless about the state of the world.
Listening to and venerating the experiences of elderly relatives or friends will empower you in your own life. Be inspired by the successes of those around you.
So, how do you show respect to your elders? Simply not being rude is not enough to do this – you must be active in showing your regard for older people.
Easy ways to do this include:
Ask your elders for advice – Not only will you learn a lot, but this will also show that you value their opinion
Ask an older person to teach you a skill – You will get to learn something new, while your relative or friend will feel the reward of passing on their knowledge
Offer your seat on public transport - Not all elderly people will require this help, but making the offer is a kind gesture to show consideration
Be patient – If an older person is taking longer to do something or needs a little guidance, remember all the knowledge they have that you don’t and give them time
Tell older people that you respect them – The simplest but most often forgotten way to show your regards is to simply tell them
Although showing respect may often mean offering assistance, it is important that you avoid these actions becoming demeaning. You must not automatically assume that an older person is in need of your help and should listen to them if they say they are not.
For example, when offering your seat on a bus or train, you must ask before standing up and should only move if they have agreed they would like to sit down. Continuing to attempt to offer your seat could lead to the other person feeling badgered and even offend them.