There is a community which you aren’t born into and do not choose to become a part of–yet it is a singular one. In this community, women far outnumber men, and half of those women are widows. Only one in five works, while their net worth remains close to 2. 5 times that of the average family. Approximately 34. 9 million Americans call themselves members of this community, which equals about one in every eight US inhabitants. A community is defined as a group of people with a common characteristic living together, within a larger society.
The people of this mystery community are bound together by a common circumstance. They are the elderly, the nation’s older citizens, Americans 65 or older, and they are all a part of the senior citizen community (A Profile of Older Americans). And, they are multiplying. Because projected life expectancy continues to rise with every new medical discovery, more men and women are living long enough to become senior citizens. However, there is more to this growing community than a common age bracket; they have watched the world change around them and in doing so have become dangerously isolated from society.
What epitomizes a senior citizen, what defines them as a member of the elderly community? One commonality amongst the older generation is that they are all experiencing a rite of passage, much like they did when they graduated high school. Retiring oftentimes constitutes a change in identity and a shift in focus. When asked the question: “Who are you? ,” in a survey, eight out of ten middle aged men will reply with a career (Random Senior Facts). “I’m a butcher, I’m a baker, I’m a candlestick maker. ”
When retired men were asked the same question the answers were somewhat different. I’m a golfer, I’m a grandfather, I’m a husband. ” Eight out ten older men will reply with something other than a career. (Random Senior Facts). You can also identify a senior citizen by their lack of responsibilities. As a housewife, one is responsible for the children and the running of a household. As a father or husband, a man is the family breadwinner and responsible for the financial well-being of the family. As a Senior Citizen, one is responsible for only his or her enjoyment,, or at the most the well-being of their spouse.
While a senior may care about his or her grandchildren, they are not primarily his or her responsibility. Seniors also find themselves with more time on their hands, and as a result find themselves exploring new horizons and taking new opportunities. Many take the time to go back to college, travel, or just to learn new things in general. A vast amount of experience also sets seniors apart in the world. Someone once said, “The beauty of being old is that you really have seen a more beautiful sunset, heard a greater concert, read a better book.
The loneliness that oftentimes accompanies age is something to be seen in many senior citizens, for while they made have overcome all the adversity life could throw their way, it is inevitable that some of their friends will have not made it this far. The quintessential senior is recognizable by all this and more, the shift in identity, the lack of responsibility, the loneliness, and above all, the thirst for knowledge. The grandparents and senior citizens of today were the baby boomers of yesteryears and they have watched on, not necessarily in silence, as their world changed around them. They watched on as the cities moved to the suburbs.
As their children grew up and got married in places they had never even heard of. As they saw presidents assassinated in color on their TV. When vaccines were invented for diseases that had crippled them as children, they watched on. While marriages fell apart and the divorce rate spiked up to almost 50, they were there. Their world has changed in so many ways, as it is the nature of the world to do so. With these changes, the role of a grandparent or senior citizen in the world has been rewritten. Senior Citizens no longer live just down the street, or a few towns away from their children and old friends.
Society has become more mobile over the past twenty years, and it has “become the norm for working adults to make frequent changes of employers often times resulting in residential relocation” (Senior Citizens and Loneliness). Senior Citizens no longer are an integral part of their grandchildren’s lives In a survey conducted recently, it was found that of 100 high school students surveyed, only 50 percent had spoken to their grandparents within the last month (survey). With their world changing around them, it is no surprise that one in three senior citizens today feel lonely, unneeded, and isolated (Senior Citizens and Loneliness).
Utopian societies don’t exist, so as with every community, the senior citizen one has its own distinct problems. One of the problems that senior citizens must combat is change. Change doesn’t have to be a problem. , but for many seniors it is because they have failed to keep up with the times. Fir example, computers weren’t around in their day and age, and as a result, most seniors are novices with computers (IBM User Expectations). Another problem seniors have is isolation. All too frequently, seniors are isolated from normal communities whether they live in Florida or at a retirement community with other seniors, or at home, alone.
Either way, the elderly now live further away from their families and friends than ever before and have a hard time coping with it. Lonely elderly people can easily become problem gamblers, alcoholics, and even easy prey for fraud schemes. The elderly community isn’t the only one that suffers from this isolation, both their children and grandchildren suffer as well. When young couples first began to move to the suburbs, leaving their parents behind in the cities, many child rearing books came out to replace maternal wisdom.
Since that point in time, adults have had to go through their life all too often without the benefit of parental advice. These concerns are not yet insurmountable problems, but if nothing is done the elderly will continue to become more out of touch and isolated from the outside world. Since everyone of us will someday begin to repeat ourselves, quit our jobs, become out of date, begin to repeat ourselves, and in short become members of this community, it is vital that we take an interest in it.
It is our future, and if we allow the elderly to remain isolated and out of touch with the rest of the world, we can assure ourselves, we too will suffer from the loneliness they do. Perhaps if we do nothing now, when we begin to feel the world as we know it is changing and we see in ourselves the emergence of some of those traits which classify one as old, we will take it upon ourselves to change. We must then strive to reintegrate the senior citizens, to make them a part of our daily routine. They are needed as well as vital to our growth as a society, and we must not let out most valuable natural resource go to waste.