Jay Rifenbary

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Appreciating Our Seasoned Citizens

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As the proper seasoning of food always enhances the flavor of a wonderful meal, the proper seasoning of a person always enhances the experience of a wonderful life. This particular blog is an appreciation for all those who have come full circle in life. Whose bodies and minds are struggling with a sense of youthfulness, and are attempting to maintain meaning to the many marvelous memories of the past; and how those memories apply and are valued in the present. Aging is an opportunity to reminisce on the joyful moments and loving people one has experienced in their life. As Mark Twain stated, “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”

It is the cycle of experience that teaches the lessons of life. With knowledge comes understanding, and with understanding comes wisdom. It is experience that validates the accuracy of knowledge, and the bridge that connects those three facets of learning. Wisdom in life is gained by becoming seasoned. The wisdom of our seniors should never be taken for granted, but rather acknowledged and respected. It is an appreciation for that seasoning that maintains a respectful society, and a deep-rooted sense of family and community. I witness time after time a failure by many to learn from, and respect those who have experienced longevity.

Technology has always moved a society forward, yet it also tends to leave a generation lagging behind. Our youth often discredit the elderly for being naïve to new technology, or making a decision not to participate with the advancements. Living a full life is more than just being proficient with an iPad. It is the collection of a life of experiences that culminates into a wholeness of what it means to have lived. To discard the lessons of experience for the possible immediate gratification of wealth, fame and power is a recipe for social decay. How many social and economic decisions have been, and continue to be made without considering the lessons of yesterday, and the wisdom of those who have come before us? As the Spanish philosopher George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. “ It certainly appears there are many in power who fail to heed that advice, and make decisions based on what is in the best interest of the one, rather than the many.

What many of our elderly have witnessed, struggled with, and experienced can provide a textbook of knowledge as important as any in the classroom. Life lessons from our seniors would make a meaningful piece of academic curriculum. Learning history with differing real life perspectives might just add to a greater level of empathy, civility and compassion toward those around us. At your first opportunity take a moment with a seasoned citizen in your life and ask a pertinent question that may reflect a difficulty in your own life. You may be surprised at the level of wisdom you receive with their response. It is also disheartening to see the reaction by many toward our seniors because of their inability to walk as fast, hear or see as well, think as sharply, or comprehend the pace of change before them. I hope all of us take the time to be more thoughtful before we judge, or become impatient with those in their golden years. Most of us will be there some day and I am sure you would not want someone to demean or undermine who you are, what you are, and what your life has been.

Capitalize on an opportunity to display respect to those who are seasoned. The opening of a door, the expression of a smile, the acknowledgement of an opinion, taking a moment to listen, or a thank you for their contribution are all examples of what might bring a warm sense of feeling valued to an elder. It is more important to be empathetic then sympathetic to our elders. Empathy is more respectful, for it is a conscious effort to understand and learn from another rather than only sharing their feelings. It demonstrates a willingness to participate vicariously in their life experience that will be appreciated and respected. As John Barrymore said, “A man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams.” Remember that life is not what you are given, but how you react to it.



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