Remembering the elderly

One of the legacies passed on to me by my parents was respect for elderly people. In today’s society where older people are often seen as irrelevant at best and useless at worst, it has become very important to me that I find a way to instill this same value into my own children.

One of my favourite childhood memories is that of going to visit the Red Cross Old Age Home with my mother.  We would pick flowers from our garden and hand them out to the residents. My mom would take biscuits or small gifts for special occasions. The delight on the recipients faces would light up the room and the experience clearly made an impact on me as this is form of philanthropy is something that is very dear to me still.

My family now visits the Chinese Home for the Aged in Joburg as often as we can. We’ve even held our Easter egg hunt in the gardens of the home. This was great fun for the kids, but even more rewarding as the residents were only too happy to be witness to the joy on the childrens faces. I hope that this has a positive and lasting effect on my sons and so will continue the small bit of kindness that we can contribute back to the elderly.

Here are some ideas for you to also help our children remember our aged with respect and in a positive way:

  • Get a birthday list from your local old age home, take a flower to the birthday ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ and make a 5 minute visit to wish them happy birthday. So many of us do ‘scrapbooking’ these days – teach your children that gratification not only comes from recognition of their own abilities but also from how they are rewarded by making a difference to others.
  • For school projects – get your children to engage with the elderly to hear their accounts of history 1st hand, it will be an enlightening and personal experience. They will learn there is much wisdom to be gleaned from their company.
  • Volunteer to raise funds and get your kids involved so that they are aware of what they are doing and the difference they are making
  • Keep the aged in your bedtime prayers – finding ways to show your children to acknowledge the dignity of the elderly
  • Encourage your children to take time to LISTEN to the elderly. They will learn that ‘old’ people aren’t to be feared, even if they had some kind of a physical or mental disability caused by old age.
  • (With the permission of the Old Age Home) Take along small animals from home and let the residents interact and play with them

Whatever and however you choose to bridge the link to the elderly with your children, keep it positive and don’t expose your very young children to the negatives which they won’t be able to comprehend at the time; illness, grief, debilitating mental conditions.

I’m so thankful for this value that my parents passed on to me and one of my hopes for my children is that they don’t ever feel this concept referred to as the “generation gap”. The disconnect that can happen between the young and the old is indeed a sad loss. As relationships continue to break down in our society due to neglect, I believe that it’s vitally important to intentionally teach our children how to build them up.

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Melanie Minnaar

Melanie Minnaar

Melanie Minnaar, mom to ‘archangels’, Michael and Gabriel, Managing Director of  Halo – a full service advertising agency.  If she wasn’t in marketing she would be an activist for meaningful change and worthy causes.

15 Responses

  1. An inspirational piece Melanie! These values were instilled by fantstic parenting. It’s up to us to teach our children the same values. Your article will inspire many!!

  2. Phenomenal article, Mel and phenomenal job you guys do at the old age home!!
    When I was in school, a group of us from church visited the local old age home on a monthly basis and the elderly really appreciated it. Now my dad is in the very same old age home as he needs more specialised care and we go there every time when we visit my parents. They love seeing the kids and it is hearbreaking to hear how many of them have no visitors.

  3. Well done, Mel!! Am so very proud of you. You are truly a source of inspiration and hope – especially in these times, wherein true values seem to have fallen by the wayside somewhat. Keep up the good work. Lots of love, Mom

  4. I must admit that I have had very little exposure to elderly folk who have been “abandoned” at old age facilities. Do you think that people in such situations could make good stand-in “grandparents” for orphaned and abandoned children? Are there any programmes promoting this concept in SA?

  5. All my grandparents have passed away. I really wish I could speak to my gran, just one last time. She was such a strong woman with such amazing stories. I miss her a lot. Thanks Mel, agree.

  6. The ability to love & respect the elderly is a privilege! We’re always quick to forget those that gave us the opportunities to experience life in the society we live in today – it is the elderly that shaped it for us yesterday!

  7. I agree with you totally .Wonderful suggestion.I learn a lot from much older people than me .They are all humble & friendly.
    You are going straight to heaven.

  8. Nicely written Mel! I have uber patience with the elderly – thought it was just me 🙂 So nice to hear other people are considerate and kind! And like Pj says – our elders have all sorts of wisdom, it needs to be treasured, as do they.

  9. nice thoughts put forward. society feeling is important. that is strong in Indian-Indian culture. I have seen some in Chinese culture as well family bonding, respect towards elders.

    Even though one doesnt agree with them, they listen to them..good feeling for both sides.

  10. Totally agree. I got my kids involved from a young age with the old age homes where we used to live when they were growing up. They even used to play guitar and sing to the oldies, help them do jigsaw puzzles and baked goodies for them.

  11. I always said that S.A. is not especially kind to the elderly but with your support & encouragement, the elderly definitely have something to hope for. Respect for the elderly is a foundation that can be built upon. You do your whole family proud with your inspiring article Mel!

  12. An absolute core value in our home is respect for the elderly . . we visit Queens Haven home as often as we can, especially as my parents both passed away before i turned 25. My little boy loves the special interaction with all the Grannies and Granpas that thrive on a simple smile, a big hug and a picture drawn just for them. . There is no greater reward than his excitement to get there and theirs when they see him. . There is definitely more that can be done for our senior citizens and i will do my best

  13. Agree 100%, Mel! I am also pleased my parents taught me to value the elderly. Once again, beautifuly written!

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