Watching my favorite holiday movie, “Home Alone,” brings about three things for me. The importance of not forgetting laughter and the price of leaving behind the ones you loved. “Old Man Marley” is a character in the movie who is first seen as scary. However, once we hear his story our minds run rampant with many questions. How could his family do this? Does he enjoy being by himself? However, the most important question is, “How often do we spend time with our elderly loved ones?”
Each year people go out of the way to spend the two biggest holidays, Christmas and Thanksgiving, with all of their relatives. Sometimes these holidays feel like a burden; from your eyes hurting from camera flashes to yelling at your younger cousin for not giving your phone back. But what if the roles were reversed? What if this was your only time to see the people you watched grow up? What if this was the only time you were engulfed by nothing but love and happiness? What if this was the only time of year your family felt “obligated” to see you? Our elderly loved ones are those who always keep the best image of us in mind. They make sure we are loved when we see them. Partly because they don’t know when they will see us next. Let’s see why “leaving the elderly behind” is a continuing phenomenon that no one talks about.
Many of our elders face social isolation. Social isolation is when you have little to no contact with others. Not spending enough time with the elderly isn’t anything new and a lot more common than a lot of people assume. Here are a few reasons why.
Throughout the years our openness to expressing mental health issues has become increased. In some cases, these problems can stem from damaging childhood events. Each year more and more people walk away from their family members because of a lack of acceptance or respect. This causes people to sometimes lose touch with those who have nothing to do with it. Most of the time these are our elders.
Less than 20 years ago if you wanted to see your family members you had to hop in a car. Now, they are just a phone call away. Technology has made our lives in most cases much easier and accessible. However, most of our elderly don’t understand technology. For example, in article written in Pew research center it states that less than 60% of elderly understand technology.
Being a Zoom link away is an easy tool to stay in touch with younger generations. but can sometimes leave older people out simply because they don’t know how to use it properly.
Extended family is a weird phrase. Once you have children of your own. Your parents are now considered your extended family even though at one point they were your immediate family. Ever since I could recall, Thanksgiving has always been held at my grandmother’s house. My grandmother loves company and catering to others. Each year I either see someone new or someone I haven’t seen in a long time. Whether it’s just stopping by to grab a plate and to say “Thank you” or to stay for a few hours to watch the Egg Bow. Each year it’s filled with laughter and staying up until at least 2:00 a.m. However, this Thanksgiving didn’t feel like Thanksgiving. Everyone who was there were people I had seen before, people that came every year and no one stayed to watch “The Biggest Mississippi Rivalry.” I asked my mother why she thought this happened. She said, “Everyone has their own family now.” Growing up and starting your own family sometimes equates to forgetting the family that allowed you to grow up. More and more we see families and their traditions get cut and become smaller. The people that they typically cut are the elderly.
How this makes them feel:
We as humans are social creatures who thrive off of interactions with other people. When not given this attention and affection an array of problems can arise. For example, social isolation can cause depression, anxiety, high blood pressure and sometimes even death. Just like the holidays, there is something you can always do to make it better. Here are a few things you can do to make sure you don’t leave anyone out any time of the year.
However, technology is in some part the reason why we leave the elderly behind. It can also help us bring them forward. Scheduling weekly Zoom calls with your older loved one reassures them that you’re thinking of them.
Keeping them in the loop:
As someone who does have some parts of their family far away, getting pictures every day helps me feel like I’m right there. Showing your elderly mother or father a picture of your child’s soccer game, awards and more keeps them involved.
Scheduling one more visit:
Most importantly, don’t just go visit them for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Add in another fall, summer or even spring vacation. Your loved ones should never feel like it’s the winter Olympics each time you come. Making sure to visit them on more than just holidays is a great way not to forget them.
Visiting anyone in your family may sometimes feel like a hassle. However, feeling like it’s a hassle to get your grandkids to visit is the worst. Making an effort to see your elderly loved ones is important because seeing them twice a year is never enough.