Archive for the ‘elderly’ Category

An artificial family


The extended family, tribe, or clan has been the support system of humanity for thousands of generations.  In the United States, that support system is nearly extinct.  Never before have parents been the sole, primary caregivers of their children.  The breakdown in the behavior of youth is a direct result, I believe, of children not having elders available who have time on their hands to spend with children.  This is most critical for children in the toddler stage, ages 2 to 5, when self-esteem, awareness of social history, and feelings of inclusiveness are developing.

Instead of putting children in daycare centers where a small number of young adults oversee 20, or even 30 children, I recommend that we establish daycare centers in assisted living facilities, nursing homes, and other places where there are many elders with time on their hands.  This would benefit not only the children, but the elders as well, giving them a sense of connection with the future.  Large concentrations of elders without any young people is totally unnatural, an environment where depression and despondency are to be expected.

Having high school-age young adults help with the toddlers and small children would provide the able-bodied people needed to ride herd on a group of rambunctious kids, while allowing the elders to spend time with the youngest children, listening to them, telling them stories, singing songs with them, and generally letting the children know that they are important, and are part of the group.  And we could probably save some money in the process.


What made America great


We are hearing a lot of talk about making the United States great again.  But what made America great before?  The people made America great.  People who were inventors, people who could figure out new, better ways of doing things.  People who were willing to work hard, and to share the fruits of their labors.  People working together were what made this country great,  people who shared a dream, who were willing to sacrifice some of today for a future they might never see.

Taking care of people is how we will make America great again, putting people ahead of profits, ahead of automation, ahead of shareholders, because it is people who create the wealth.  We must take care of our own, to insure that being elderly does not mean being forgotten, that being disabled does not mean being hungry.  We have created a tremendous technology, which has made levels of productivity possible that were unthinkable just a few years ago.  We all should share in the benefits of that technology, with higher wages, more benefits, more security.

When we treat people as being disposable, we all become disposable.

Are Youth and Beauty bad for us?


American culture has become focused on two fleeting and naive aspects of our existence:  Youth, and Beauty.  These two qualities have come to outweigh intelligence, wisdom, and experience in determining how important someone is.  So much emphasis has been placed on youth that the elderly are being shut out of our lives, abandoned by their families to institutions or lonely, empty houses.

The reward for years of sacrifice and self-denial was to spend the days playing with children, sharing culture and heritage with the next generation, and guiding the decisions which affected the group.  Elders were respected and influential, an important part of the community.  Their experience and wisdom was considered valuable to the well-being of the group, and their time taking care of the children was essential in allowing the people of child-bearing age to work supporting the group.

This emphasis on youth and beauty is a result of the materialism of our times, the focus on things instead of people, and on the individual instead of the group.  The continuity of the family has been lost, the circle of life has been broken, and our communities are fragmenting as a result.  Materialism drives the advertising which shapes our culture, through sponsorship of programs and campaigns in media.  Because advertisers want to target younger members of society, they have become the focus of entertainment.  Teenagers have a disproportionate amount of influence in advertising and media, because they are big spenders.

Billions of dollars are spent every year chasing Youth and Beauty, in make-up sales, tanning booths, and hair coloring.  But neither can be held on to for very long, and the more energy spent trying, the more vain is the pursuit.  Especially considering how such thinking denies the importance of the Future, crippling our investments, disrupting our planning, and delaying adaptation.  Youth and Beauty cultivate an obsession with the Past, on what was, instead of what will be.

Studs give no grip


The past few days, I have been working outside near a major thoroughfare, and I have noticed how many cars have studded tires on.  We have not had any snow, freezing rain, or even sleet for the last month and-a-half, but people are still driving around with tires that have little pieces of metal pushed into them.  These pieces of metal are supposed to improve traction on icy surfaces.  Which they do, sometimes, but most of the time, they just reduce the traction, by lifting the tire up off of the road.  Braking distances are longer, and cornering is seriously impaired.  But that is not the worst.

Studded tires tear up the roads, accelerating wear, destroying paint and decals, and creating a very fine gravel, which is bad for motorcyclists.  Driving studded tires on dry pavement also makes the studs go away really fast.  In spite of all of that, I do have studded tires.  They are permanently mounted on spare wheels, and I only put them on the car when the roads are super icy.  Most of the time, all season radial tires work quite well, as the rubber is formulated to get soft when the tire gets cold.  But I can swap out the tires in less than an hour, in my own driveway.  Actually, I hardly ever use my studded tires, and would not be upset if they were banned.  They do tear up the roads, and they do reduce traction most of the time.  But I am sure that there is an amendment which guarantees the right to run studs.  When driverless cars get popular, maybe we can get rid of the studs!

A new word for you


Back in the 1960’s, I heard the word ‘affirmative’, which I figured out means ‘yes’.  Later, I came across the word ‘affirm’, which I learned meant to ‘support’ or ‘to agree’.  Over the course of my life, I have been involved in mental health counseling, and have done quite a bit of reading on the subject.  Thus, I was rather surprised when a new word entered the lexicon of therapy.  Especially as the word referred to the process of building someone up, of giving them reassurance, of making them feel wanted, a member of the group.

The new word was ‘affirmation.’  Until the early 1990’s , the only definition for ‘affirmation’ was ‘a legal statement,’ such as a ‘sworn affirmation.’  But scientists discovered that there is a process performed by family members, members of a group, or basically anyone who demonstrates concern and compassion for someone, a process that strengthens our self-esteem, helps us to feel more valuable, and dispels anxiety.  One of the most fundamental processes in human interactions, and no one even bothered to give it a name for decades!

Affirmation is essential for developing egos, such as those in children ages 3 to 5, when belonging is a very desired state.  Humans know instinctively that their chance of survival by themselves is almost zero, that the only way to have any hope of bringing another generation into the world means being part of a group.  How much affirmation a child receives is direct feedback on whether they are being assimilated into the group or not.  But, in modern society, there are hardly any people with time on their hands to give children affirmation.  Children need for adults to listen to them, to pay attention to them, to interact with them.  Without enough affirmation, a child can conclude that they are not wanted, that they are inferior, broken, undesirable.

The world that we live in provides most young children an environment where only one or two adults are around, and they are always busy.  A child who hears, “I don’t have time for that right now” frequently, is in danger of loss of self-esteem, self-hate, anger, depression.  There is an epidemic of low self-esteem and depression in the United States today, and I blame the break up of the extended family for most of it.  Having three or more generations living under one roof is essential to the proper development of children, I believe.   Someone has said, “It takes a village to raise a child.”  How many children are raised by villages today?

Protecting Children From Their Parents


People who feel at a loss with how to raise children should look to the past, and what worked for most of human history.  Parents frequently have not been primary care providers for children, except right after birth, because parents were the able bodied adults whose work supported the group.  The elders, who no longer were capable of the firewood gathering, or water carrying, oversaw the care of the young, with the assistance of the older children.  Great-grandmothers watched the children, sang songs with them, played games with them, aunts and uncles would listen to stories, watch somebody do cartwheels over and over, and whatever it took to make the children feel good.  Only in the most recent past have parents been closely involved with the raising of the children, as the family has disintegrated.

The family has broken down, so that parents are faced with raising their children without any help.  People have children when they themselves are still immature; learning, seeking, and growing.  We can berate them for that, punish them and the children by forcing the parents to care for them, or we can combine assisted living centers with day care, sponsor placing seniors in family groups spanning several generations, and extend school hours to provide an alternative to being home alone.  Young children bond with elderly people very easily, and often are anxious to help an obviously frail individual.  Combined with a few older children, and a teen or two, an elder can manage several children.

No Families Anymore


In an era where a single person with a child is called a ‘family’, we are seeing the demise of the institution central to humanity’s evolution.  Humans have evolved to be needful of feedback from others regarding how we are fitting in to the group.  The extended family, the tribe, the clan, these are the names of the community that has been essential for human survival.  While able-bodied people of child-bearing age worked practically all the time supporting the group, the elderly took care of the children, with the assistance of the older children.  And children belonged to the tribe, or family, with the strong bonding of an aunt, grandfather, or some other person more than one generation removed providing the nurturing young children need.  And there was always someone there for the children, someone who had time on their hands, a story to tell, songs to share, or encouragement.  Affirmation was abundant.

Our sense of belonging is under attack; we are finding it harder and harder to identify with others, creating ‘us versus them’ feelings.  Our children are shunted aside to day care centers where harried young adults ride crowd control over 30 children.  Our elders are wheeled off into concentration camps, where they wait to die, alone.  Family has always been about more than just blood relations; friendships equal belonging, shared sacrifice brings inclusion.  Somehow, we need to make new families, new groups that we can belong to.  Without community, there is no future.  I will die, but my community has a chance of continuing.  If I put my energy into it, help it along, give to it.  It need not consume me, but my community should always be in my thoughts, remembered.