Appreciating our elders

January 4, 2008


As I get older and realize how much I’ve lived through already — at the ripe old age of 55 — I realize and appreciate how much my elders have lived through. I think of my parents who were born in the late 1920s: they have lived through the 1930s, the 1940s, and the 1950s, in addition to what I lived through. One sees trends, fashions, the rise and fall of great and horrible people, the constantly changing language of music. One travels and sees the world observing people and their culture and everything else the world teaches us.

An elder who has kept an open mind and has continued to grow their entire life is a like walking book. They have so much to share and teach. All you have to do is ask. I think about the attitude towards elders in the 60s — don’t trust anyone over 30 — and have to admit, in hindsight, that this attitude is just silly and wrong. But I guess it takes aging to realize that.

I have been fortunate to not know too many elders who decided that everything they learned in high school was all they needed to know. Everything they needed to know was in the bible or the Torah or the Book of Mormon and so there is no need to learn anything else. I know there are millions out there, but they, like birds, flock together, and I’ve not been a member of that flock.

I am fortunate to have Paul DesMarais, my retired colleague from UCLA who turned 87 this year, as a close friend. I have learned so much from Paul and treasure that friendship.

I read somewhere about the health benefits of remembering things in your life and sharing them with others. Chat with an elder today, the benefits go both ways.

[Painting by noted Mi’kmaq artist Leonard Paul Leonard can be contacted at:]

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