Common Threads — engaging with seniors

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I went to the local grocery store the other morning. Normally, in my small town, I can get a parking spot in front of the store or, at the very least, in the adjacent parking lot two or three stalls from the door. Today, I had to park in the lot near the back of the store. It was just strange for a rainy, gray day in Podunk.

Inside, both registers were humming, with more people at the courtesy desk. And it struck me … most, if not all of the patrons were silver haired. And I remembered it was the first of the month.

That explained the senior power. Monthly Social Security checks came and these seniors made a quick trip to fill up on the basics despite the weather.

But it was also disturbing to see these same fixed-income seniors lining up to buy lottery tickets. They wait all month for their checks, only to fork over some of it on a dollar and a dream. One woman purchased an instant ticket from the machine, cashed in a $10 winner and returned the cash to the machine … this time coming up empty.

Now, I’m a senior too, so I notice seniors more. I’m one of them although I don’t feel like I am.

What bothered me with the scene this morning was the demeanor of the seniors. No one was smiling. No one was talking. They were just there.

I was struck by how lonely these seniors appeared to be. Maybe they aren’t lonely, but they sure seemed like it. They were going through the motions of the day, but not enjoying life. Some lugged oxygen tanks with them; others needed a cane or walker; some fingers were noticeably disfigured, so I could understand their discomfort.

That led me to think about how we treat our seniors. We tend to forget about them … and I’m just as guilty. Now, I did go visit my Dad when he was in the nursing home almost every day, but there were an awful lot of other residents who were just forgotten.

Senior citizens and the elderly people of any community are such a great resource to those they share their life experiences with. We should treasure these relationships and learn from those who are older than us. All we have to do is ask and engage them.

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