Why we should be letting the older people lead…

Let’s talk about older people.

Now I’m not referring to the edge cases here, but for the most part, it’s obvious, that they’ve got the magic. They have the secrets that only a long life of experience can provide. They understand life, from an aerial view, a vantage point that comes only with age (usually).

When I think about older people that I’ve had close relationships with recently, I think about Ammachi. I think about how much I have learned from listening to her talk about life. I think about how much we could all learn if we paid attention to the older people and what they have to say and how they act.

Who’s Ammachi?

Ammachi is my grandmother in law and this week she turned 90. I’ve had countless conversations with her over the years and so many opportunities to observe her and how she relates to the world and people- and also how she relates to herself. I can honestly say that the breadth of knowledge that she has as a human that has been on this planet for 90 years is astounding.

As I’ve been reflecting on her life over the last week it has become apparent to me that we should be letting the older people lead. At this moment as a society, we seem to be grappling with a lot. We are struggling with our relationships with ourselves, with others, and how to communicate. There’s plenty of turmoil and we seem to be looking in the wrong places to solve it.

So then where should we be looking?

I’m not saying our elderly have all the answers, but I am saying, we need to start showing up and listening to the knowledge they do have. Maybe it is through visiting our seniors at their living facilities or going into the community where they gather? Or maybe we (as technology oriented as we are) we give them a platform to share their voice? It is a profound gift to be in the presence of someone who has lived long and we can learn so much.We should be open to this.

Why? At this point if you’re in your 90’s you have been through multiple wars, genocide, The Great Depression, Martin Luther King, the internet and the list goes on. There are so many things we can learn from a person who is older and has lived and interacted with other humans through these times.

I spoke about Ammachi earlier, and when I think of her so many things come to mind as someone who lived through these many different periods throughout history.

One of those things is audacity. As a minority woman, she became a nurse and moved from India to Bahrain to pursue her career. She had to send her children to boarding school so that she could sacrifice and work hard enough to gain entrance into the USA. A minority woman that got herself a job in a time when women stayed at home so that she could afford her family the opportunity of freedom and a dream someday? That is a tremendous amount of audacity to have had at that time.

Next, I think about faith in something greater than yourself, or the divine, or whatever you want to call it. For her, it’s God. With that said, based on what I see from her at 90 I understand, you do not make it through the journey of life without relying on something at one point or another that you can’t explain. Ammachi is a devout Christian and prays daily with discipline. Maybe prayer is not your thing but I’m pretty sure if we let the elderly lead they would show us how to practice faith and believe in miracles. After all, picture living through a world war without believing in what seemed to be impossible at the time. I wonder if there is a single elderly person that can honestly say they did not hope for a miracle at that time? Wouldn’t you?

Last, how to communicate- senior people have the secret. When I see Ammachi interact with people she reaches out and takes their hand to connect with them and looks at them right in the eye (even though she can barely see). There is a magic about the way she has a conversation and gives it all her attention. Frankly, I do not see anyone other than older people that communicate this way anymore. There may be a few unicorns out there, but for the most part communication for us does not look like it once did human to human.

This is why our seniors should be our leaders- they represent human intelligence and the human part is the differentiator here.There is no substitute for the human experience of life no matter how many machines we build or technology we create. The older humans have got this.

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Kate Mathews

Kate Mathews

Kate Mathews is focused on relationship building & tech. She loves travel, fun, laughter, food, and exercise. She resides in Brooklyn with her husband and son.