It is hard to get old. You may have heard it said that growing old is better than the alternative, meaning it is better to get older than to die. Frankly, not all of my older friends subscribe to this.
People want to remain independent. They don’t want to have admit that their eye sight is worsening, their strength is waning and their hearing isn’t what it used to be. They don’t want to admit to having more aches, memory loss and fear of the unknown than they had last year or even last month.
Technology can be so confusing. Life moves at a fast pace. Things which use to be easy are no longer that way.
One example of simple technology that seems to throw a lot of the older folks is the screen saver on cell phones and digital alarm clocks. To many people, such as my mom in the last few years of her life, a black screen means the object is turned off or broken. My mom had trouble comprehending that if she did something as simple as flipping open her phone it would become active. Rather she would pick it up, look at the tiny dark square and try to figure out how to turn it on. This may sound simplistic but think about operating a television set. The tv needs to be turned on before you can actually do anything.
I first became aware of this when mom asked me to get her a new alarm clock. I went to Walmart and bought her a simple alarm clock with a digital display, installed the batteries and set it on her nightstand. I never thought about it again until she made an unusual comment. She said that she thought I had brought her a broken alarm clock but then she accidently dropped it and the display lit up. It was at that point I realized that to her the black screen meant it was broken but she didn’t want to say anything. I recently told this to a daughter of an elderly couple and reminded her that to her parents this is very new technology and the concept of “waking up” a device is unfamiliar.
Last week I took one of my older friends to the bank so that she could get clarification about her account. She has a frustrating time of it because she is nearly blind and lives alone. Bank statements, medical forms and tax bills are a nightmare for her. By needing someone to read these items to her she is giving up her privacy. It is a tough trade-off. When I took her to the bank I could hear the bank employee talking to my friend. The young woman was speaking very rapidly and softly. She was explaining concepts with which she is very familiar but my friend was totally clueless. I doubt that my friend knew anymore walking out the door than she did as she entered the bank.
My reminder to you and to me is to show some patience, take a few minutes to listen, speak slower and louder when around an elderly person. Not in a condescending way, of course but rather accrding to the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you want them to do unto you.
After all, we will BE the elderly sooner rather than later.