By Jeanette M. Roe, Executive Director
While considering a topic for this monthly note I came across a recent article, by Debby Mayne, about Manners around the Elderly. I have often wondered what this world is coming to when individuals lack of the ability to be civil to each other. The following information given by Debby in her article explains easy steps to improve the conversation.
It’s never good to be unkind to anyone, but it’s especially terrible to see older people being pushed aside. After all, these folks have life experiences that we should listen to and learn from. Remember that being gracious to everyone, regardless of their age, shows your true character. Ignoring those who have been around much longer than us shows a lack of manners on our part.
Throughout many people’s childhood & teen years, they hear the phrase, “Respect your elders,” over and over, until it becomes indelibly etched on their brains. You may assume that everyone hears the same thing from his or her parents and grandparents, but apparently not.
Mentally put yourself in the position of the elderly person. How would you feel if people disrespected you just because you had gray hair, wrinkles, and a slower gait? Or perhaps the person is widowed and needs someone to talk to. Use the Golden Rule when you are with your elders. People who have experienced many years of life have a different perspective from someone who is seeing things for the first time. With this experience comes lessons that can be handed down. Doesn’t it make sense to show respect for someone who is teaching you something so valuable? The wisdom of the older people you know can truly enrich your life. Even if you don’t agree with what they’re saying, at least listen, and you may come away with an important nugget that you can use in the future.
Here are some ways you can show respect to those who are older than you:
Address Them Properly
Use the name they want to be called. Unless they tell you otherwise, call them Mr. or Ms., followed by their last name. If they want you to call them by their first name, honor their request.
If you are meeting this person for the first time or if you haven’t seen him or her in a while, shake hands. This is such a simple yet friendly gesture that lets the person know you have manners, and you’re not afraid to use them.
Speak Clearly & Without Slang
Your friends might understand mumblings filled with the latest slang, but don’t expect someone much older than you to get what you are trying to say. You don’t have to yell, but keep your voice as clear as possible, avoid using slang, and be willing to speak louder if it’s clear that the person can’t hear you .
Make Eye Contact and Smile
When approaching or greeting your elders, always make eye contact. This shows that you acknowledge their presence. A warm smile from you can make this person’s otherwise dreary day much brighter.
When an elderly person approaches an entrance to a building, hold the door and allow him or her to go first. Offer to reach something on a high or low shelf in a store or at home. Be aware of any disability the person may have and help according to what he or she needs. Any kind or generous thing you do to make their lives easier will be appreciated.
Give Your Time & Attention
Most people who are older than you will appreciate having your attention in blocks of time. Enjoy a conversation about a topic you have in common. Sit down with a grandparent or other elderly person and show that you care. Play a board game or watch a movie together. Feel free to ask questions about their experience, and then listen. If something is upsetting, chances are, he or she will let you know.
Show Your Love
If the elderly person is a grandparent, aunt, uncle, or related to you in any way, show that you love him or her. Offer a hug and say something affectionate. Ask questions about your ancestors and offer to put together a photo album or scrapbook with mementos. You’ll be amazed by how enriching the experience can be, and you’ll most likely learn something new about your family. Teach your children how to behave among their elders.
Show Good Manners
Most of your elders were taught proper etiquette when they were children, and they deserve good manners from you in return. Always say, “Please,” and “Thank you.” They need to know that the generations following them are civil enough to carry on.
As the Director of the Senior Center I have seen many different individuals who want to share their opinions, politics, or beliefs with others whether or not the other individuals were interested in the information. What we need to understand is that each of us has our own unique opinions or beliefs and sometimes we just need to learn to disagree in a respectful and polite manner without inflicting harm or harboring anger against others for what they believe in.
Civility is the act of showing regard for others by being polite, like the civility you showed in speaking kindly to someone who has hurt your feelings.
Civility comes from the Latin word civilis, meaning “relating to public life, befitting a citizen,” in other words, being friendly and nice to everyone. When you show civility, you use kindness and good manners. You are respectful, even if you do not like that person very much. Civility can also mean formal politeness, like your behavior at a fancy dinner.