Tuesday, June 7, 2011

My Mother Said to Respect My Elders

Elders from TurkeyImage via WikipediaWhen I was little, one of the rules children learned about how to behave in society concerned treatment of older people.  "Older" meant anybody older than me, but I took that with a grain of salt when I didn't see white hair or false teeth.  I addressed the parents of my friends as Mr. or Mrs., but my understanding of "older" included a different level of existence. 

Now that I am "older" I find that older is a lot younger than it used to be.  My Uncle Jimmie use to define older as "fifteen years older than you."  That's pretty good.  To a 10 year-old 25 is old.  To a forty-year-old fifty five is over the hill.  To a 70 year-old 85 is the top. 

Now that I have reached some of those more exalted years, I find I still have the same joy I had as a child.  I am as happy to see Christmas.  I still enjoy and praise.  What is it that growing up or growing old is supposed to change?  The requirement to act your age is entirely too vague.  According to some of the developmental psychology theorists, many people never reach the higher stages.  Maturity is hard work.  The people who reach 75 are viewed as being wise.  They are expected to find contentment and live in a state of integrity. 

For people who do not achieve this high level of maturity and functioning, bitterness and despair may be the result.  At least this is the dichotomy Erik Erikson describes. Some people who get to be an advanced age do not measure up to the Erikson's stage development, but I still regard them with respect.  It is not for me to make judgments about their stage development. Old people should be respected, especially if they are older than I am.  My mother said so.

2 comments:

Hannah said...

My Dad always says he still feels like he's fourteen in his mind. Now that I'm hitting the 30's, I realize he's right. Every now and then I forget I'm an adult and start to panic, thinking, "Why is their mother okay with ME watching them? I'm not old enough to be responsible yet!?" Then I remember, "Oh, yeah, I am their mother." Hmmm...strange.

Gayle Haynes said...

Hannah you understand my point. Thanks for coming around