Friday, February 20, 2015

The Invisible Generation.


In honor of the International Day of Compassion, I'm taking part in a group posting for the "1000 Voices Speak For Compassion." There are over 1000 writers from around the world participating in this project today in an effort to spread compassion across the globe. I chose a topic that is close to my heart and one that needs to be addressed as a reminder to be kind to the people who deserve our utmost respect and gratitude.


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Late one night in mid December, I stood in the check-out line at a Target store to purchase several children's toys for a holiday fundraiser. The line was moving slowly, and the people ahead of me were grumbling about the cashier's inability to move things along faster. I understood their frustration---my feet ached from being on them all day and I desperately wanted to be home in my cozy bed.

When it was finally my turn to check out, I was startled to see an elderly woman hunched over the cash register. Her expression was one of weariness and defeat after listening the harsh criticisms from the shoppers in front of me. As she carefully scanned the toys I'd selected, I couldn't help but wonder what circumstances in life had made it necessary for this woman to work through the night in a busy department store. I knew her feet had to hurt far worse than mine, and that she deserved to be home resting rather than putting up with the verbal abuse from rude customers.

After ringing up my purchase, the elderly woman said that she hoped the children I'd bought the gifts for would love their new toys, and with a tired smile, wished me a Merry Christmas. Walking out to my car that evening, I felt like a heavy rock was lodged deep in my belly.

 I thought about the woman for days afterwards. Would she need to put in extra hours at work through the holiday season just to make ends meet? How many more times would she be forced to endure the lack of common courtesy from impatient customers?

Whatever happened to compassion and respect for the elderly?

Although we live in a youth-oriented society, there's a quiet generation of people who are being blatantly shunned and abused. They are the "invisible" generation; the elderly among us who are often regarded as feeble-minded and lacking in the ability to contribute to society in a meaningful way. This ageist attitude has robbed senior citizens of their self-worth, leaving them the victims of prejudice and disrespect. Compassion, courtesy and respect have gone by the wayside.


 Until we walk in their shoes, it's hard to imagine the quality of life that our elderly face. Their financial situations are often compromised by the death of a spouse, rising medical bills, and a Social Security allotment that's too small to cover the cost of living.  Societal ideologies have contributed to the belief that the elderly are unable to function efficiently, and consequently, they're excluded from the very thing they need most---intergenerational socialization.

I'm ashamed to admit that when I was in my early twenties, I was completely self-absorbed and had absolutely no interest in my elders. For several months, my grandmother lived with us when she was incapable of living by herself. My mother was solely responsible for feeding her, dressing her and changing her adult diapers. I was too busy having fun with my friends to bother asking if my mother needed help. On the few occasions that she did ask me to watch my grandmother so that she could run  errands, I balked at the idea of caring for a woman in diapers.

I cringe now when I think back on those days. I watched my mother fight tears of frustration every time she had to lift my grandmother out of bed, or continually remind her where she was once senility crept in.

And I did nothing to ease her burden.

I look at my mother now, a widow in her mid-eighties, and I marvel at her bravery and strength. But this doesn't stop me from worrying about her every time she steps out of her home. Is she invisible to others? Do impatient drivers cut her off on the highway and yell at her as they speed by? Do people ignore her when they see her struggling to lift heavy bags from the grocery store into her car? Is she taken advantage of by scam artists who view her as a vulnerable, elderly woman? My mother is intelligent and fiercely independent, but it hurts my heart to think of someone ignoring her or mistreating her in any way.

Age should never define a person or diminish our respect for them. When I see elderly people, I'm reminded that this is a generation that was raised during the Depression era. They fought wars for our freedom and faced unthinkable trials and tribulations so that we could have the liberties that we enjoy today. They deserve to be honored, loved and have their dignity preserved.

I still see my mother as the graceful, vibrant woman she was when she was raising me. She taught me compassion and love through the sacrifices she made for our family. I can only hope to be half the woman that she is once I reach my eighties. She is, and always will be, my hero.

I don't see an "invisible" generation when I look upon the elderly. I see people of strength, wisdom and integrity, and the backbone of generations to come.






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55 comments:

  1. Marcia, I too, was definitely more then a bit selfish in my youth even where my own grandmother was concerned as she was aging and more and more forgetful. I am so not proud of it either and if I could go back to that time would change so much about it. That said, like you now I try see things about those older then me differently and with more compassion and feeling for sure. Thank you for sharing and the reminder here today, too.

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    1. Thank you, Janine. I too, wish I could go back and talk to my grandmother. I know she could have taught me a thing or two!!

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  2. Marcia I have to say that this post brought me to tears and I guess you know why. I'm sure your mother is very proud of the woman you have become and I bet that when the time comes that she needs more you will be the first one in line to offer that aid. I wonder if my daughter will see the same things when she grows up, she's in her twenty's now. Thank you for this, it is beautiful!

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    1. Thank you for the kind words, Rena. I knew you could relate to this. I also hope to make my children proud of me and I hope they see things the same way.

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  3. Wow, Marcia, this is so very well said, and a topic that needs to be addressed. Thank you for doing it so beautifully and eloquently. It brought me to tears too. I'm ashamed too when I think of the times I lost my patience or dismissed the elderly, or when I failed to offer help to my own mother who was dealing with her elderly mother, aunt and my stepfather's Alzheimers. I fear that our youth oriented society is only becoming more so. This is a conversation that needs to be had.

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    1. We see it every day in our youth-obsessed culture. It's time for a change, and it starts in our own homes. Thank you for stopping by to read and comment, my friend. XO

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  4. I miss my GeeGee every day and wish I had spent more time with her. In youth we all think there is plenty of time. Thanks for reminding us that our time here is short, and living a compassionate life is a life well lived.

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    1. Amen to that--so well said, Kim. Thank you <3

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  5. When driving with my kids I always used top comment at some jerk honking the horn or tailgating, "If that idiot does that to your grandmother, it could upset her and cause an accident. You never know who is behind the wheel." I think it paid off in how they drive today.

    I hope you said something nice to the elderly cashier.

    Excellent post.

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    1. Thank you, Joeh! I smiled at the woman and wished her a merry Christmas. It really broke my heart to see a woman who had to be 70+ working a cash register after 9pm. I like what you said to your kids about driving----that's great way of looking at it!

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  6. Oh gosh Marcia, this is just so powerful!! It is heartbreaking to think of all the beautiful people who have lived a long life of grace and giving, only to be rejected and dismissed by the younger generations. Our senior citizens deserve utmost respect and are worthy of our greatest compassion and honor! Thank you for this. Oh just wait 'til Lizzi gets her eyes on this one. I know she is PASSIONATE about this issue. As we ALL should be.

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    1. I'm really enjoying reading everyone's #1000 Speak posts today! I live in So. Florida, which is a mecca to retirees. I hate the way people dismiss the elderly and abuse them in nursing homes. It's heart breaking. I already told my mother that no matter what happens, I will ALWAYS take care of her!

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  7. Wow. I too see older and older people in the workforce these days. It is sad that they worked so hard their whole lives and can't afford to retire. I LOVE my grandma. To. Pieces. I am so thankful to spend time with her. She has been my biggest supporter when it comes to my writing. Every day she is signing into Facebook just to read my page posts and leave hysterical comments. And she has read every single blog post I have ever written. Our elders deserve some pampering.

    Great piece! #1000Speak

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    1. Ohhhhhhh wow….this made me eyes water. I'm so happy for you---how blessed you are to have such a wonderful woman love you and support you like that!

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  8. Your post reminded me that I am not so patient with the elderly at times, especially on the road.

    I was in desperate need of a bathroom recently when I ended up behind an old man driving 5 miles under the speed limit. It infuriated me...and it shouldn't have. What I should have done is calmed down and realized it was not his fault I had to go so bad. There was no reason to scream obscenities in the privacy of my own car.

    Thank you for the reminder that we all need to be more mindful and considerate of those older than us. We'll be there ourselves one day and well, Karma can be a real bitch.

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    1. I always think the same way. When I see the elderly struggle with everyday tasks, I know that one day I'll be in the same situation, and I pray that my children will help me, along with the kindness of strangers.

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  9. This is so beautiful. You've brought tears to my eyes.

    Thank you - for sharing and SEEING that cashier. And for sharing words about your mom, as well. They hit me in the heart, big time. My mom is recently widowed in her late 60s and I worry, too. It's so hard. But we feel and have the heart, let's hope others do, as well. ((hugs))

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    1. Thank you so much for your kind words. Cherish your Mum and be there for her always---I think that is the best way to honor and show your compassion & love. <3

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  10. Long ago in a former life I was the Director of Social Service at a long term care facility. All of my patients were elderly or chronically ill. I learned there how very much the elderly have to teach us if we will just take the time to listen. Every one of those people had done something fun or interesting or remarkable. Every one had beaten back adversity in one way or another. I'm so grateful for having taken the time to know them all.
    I worry about our generation as we continue to age. We've survived multiple years of a really tough economy and many of us, I fear, will have our funds run out before our lives. Will these people be met with compassion? I hope so.

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    1. I worry about the same things, Karen. And I pray that when we are the elder generation, that people will show compassion.

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  11. I see them too. And it makes my heart happy that we're not the only ones. :)

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  12. Lovely post. You're not the only one who looks back on their youth and cringes remembering selfish behavior. And I still have to snap out of my self absorption at times. Thank you for the reminder to show compassion and respect to our elders.

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    1. It's easy to get caught up in our own lives and our own problems, but when I see someone like the older woman at Target, it puts everything into perspective.

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  13. Beautifully said. Poignant and eloquent.

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    1. Thank you! I can't wait to show it to my Mum!

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  14. Oh Marcia! This beyond excellent post brought tears to my eyes. It's a subject so much on my heart! My parents passed away just a little over a year ago. Mom was in her 80s. Dad in his 90s. They were good, kind, compassion people of compassion. They set wonderful examples of being such - not just to their children, but to the world around them. Yet, when they reached a point in their lives when they themselves need it returned, there was very little of it returned to them. No respect. No patience. No understanding. They stayed sweet (and together in a nursing home) until the very end (though I don't know how). They passed away within 3 months of each other. My sisters and I visited them as often as possible while they were there, but I'm so glad they each other ... because otherwise there wasn't much sweetness to be found in that world they had to live in. This situation is so wrong! So very wrong! Thank you SOOO much for sharing your beautiful "voice" today for #1000Speak - and using it to address this terrible problem. If even one person reads your post and then treats an elderly person with more dignity because of it - that's improvement. And that's much needed!!! Thank you!

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    1. I'm so sorry to hear that you lost both of your parents----especially so close together like that. Thank you for your encouragement here---I really do hope that the post makes people think twice before they lose their patience with the elderly, and remember that they will be in their shoes sooner than they think!

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  15. I loved this post--I definitely feel like we have a youth-obsessed culture these days, and it makes me so sad for the aging population. I love working with and talking to the elderly whenever I get the chance to--they always have such great stories, and a wealth of information to learn from!

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    1. I agree! They have fantastic stories to tell of days gone by and there is always a lesson to be leared from their experiences.

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  16. I'm lucky. My Mom is growing older, she's in her 70s, but my numbskull brothers are living with her. I don't think I could live 5,000 miles away from her without that reassurance. Even so, I still worry and I wonder. Thank you for introducing this topic to the conversation.

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    1. I cannot fathom my life without my mum. She is everything to me.

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  17. Absolutely beautiful my friend!

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  18. I was selfish, arrogant, generally spoiled but have learned to understand the person I was. I couldn't even visit people in the hospital yet I ended up going to grad school to learn about the elderly, did my field placement at a nursing home and stayed.
    We're all too hard on ourselves. This was a very beautiful post.

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  19. Oh, Marcia, we were ALL selfish and arrogant in our twenties. I look back at myself in those times and wish I could do so many things over--but the incredibly important point is that we learned from those times and are better people now. This post was so beautiful. You described the woman so perfectly that I got tears in my eyes. I'm so glad I stopped by today--and I'm glad I can finally leave comments so you can see how much I love your work. I'm not sure it was captcha's fault...my old laptop was so slow and behind that it finally crashed and I'm totally updated. So many things are easier now! :)

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    1. Thank you! And I am VERY excited to have you back commenting---you always make me smile, Shay!

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  20. Marcia... I remember when I was much younger and had only thoughts for myself... in my late 20's I was given the opportunity to help my grandmother who was more and more unable to look after herself. I am grateful that I had that time that was given to me, I took her laundry and washed it and did her shopping too... at that time I didn't think of it as a burden as I remembered everything she had done for me... I felt it was so miniscule when I was reminded that she had done so much for me and gone through so many trials. The thing I wish I had done more of though was listen to her stories from when she was growing up ... I should have written them down for her... I tell the ones I remember and I have written them down but many are lost... I think that is one of the reasons I write... This was a really great reminder of having compassion for people, especially the elderly xox

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    1. You have such a kind heart, Launna. You did right by your grandmother. And now you are creating memories for your own daughters to share.

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  21. My mum is 75 and I am amazed how active she is, she is always on the go, wakes earlier then me and goes to bed later then me she is amazing. My daughters always say nanna isn't old like some people are old she is so young and yes she is but you know I think many older people are invisible to the young which is sad and wrong

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    1. So true---but I can see that you are young at heart, and I think that makes all the difference in the world as to how people may treat you.

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  22. Such a beautiful post Marcia - and it made me cry. While taking care of my mother-in-law for the last three years of her life, I developed an even greater respect for the elderly, and I hope that my boys did too. Lovely post about compassion!

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    1. Thank you, Lana. You are such a sweet soul to have cared for you MIL in her final years.

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  23. Aw Marcia, so so beautiful and true. I remember my mom caring for my grandfather after he'd had Alzheimers set in and was so cruel to her but she only saw the man he was for 80 years before that as did all of us. It's such an important topic and I love love love that you chose to address it for #1000Speak. Thank you and I feel honored to have read this tonight.

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    1. Awwww…thank you so much Kristi! Your mom sounds a lot like my mom. I know it hurt her when her own mother didn't recognize her, but that never stopped her from loving her and taking care of her.

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  24. This is a nice post. You made me feel bad for the cashier, and the holiday's long over. :) I hate to see people being rude to anyone... but especially children or elderly people. Makes me grit my teeth. ;)

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    1. Unfortunately where I live in south Florida, we have a LOT of the elderly and people are VERY rude to them. It's so sad…..

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  25. I've heard this from another blogger I follow. Good job! Bless you on your advocacy.

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    1. Thank you! I really feel it was important to get the message out there.

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  26. Did you previously post this blog somewhere else? It's beautiful, but I feel that I read it before.

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    1. Nope---brand new. But the picture of my mother and I was used before :)

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  27. I just looked at the date. For some reason, my email gave me the notification today. I probably read THIS entry from something you posted on Facebook. Sorry. It's still beautiful though ;)

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    1. Glad you like it----thank you! I have written another post that has "generation" in the title…maybe that's what you were thinking of?

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  28. I don't think I ever saw my Grandparents or even Great-Grandparents as anything but awesome. Somehow, they were never "old" to me. Wow, do I miss them! But I often wonder about people like this woman you describe. Why are they there? Is it by choice? By necessity? Because they love it? Because they are lonely? I do know that as a society in general we have lost our respect for the elderly - and it's a shame. They have so much to teach.

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