In 1976, President Gerald Ford proclaimed May as Older Americans Month. The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys also recognizes and celebrates May as National Elder Law month. I am an elder law attorney, and it is my great pleasure and honor to get to work with older Americans.
I don’t know that this month has been more important than this year. While COVID-19 has greatly impacted our community, our lives, and our economy, no group of people have been more impacted than older Americans. The death rate of older Americans due to COVID-19 has been nothing short of staggering. The number of elderly and chronically ill in nursing homes that have been affected by COVID-19 takes my breath away. Not only have older Americans died at a higher rate than any other population group, they, more than any group, are more isolated. Much of that is because of the dictates of the law, regulations, and executive orders. Much of it is by “necessity.” Many older Americans are sheltering in place, fearing infection even if they just go to the store to buy food. Many feel abandoned, even forgotten. Adult children are afraid to visit their parents and grandparents, fearing the possibility of infecting them.
My middle son, Ben, works at a COVID-19 ICU outside of California. He told me of his heartbreaking experiences of being the go-between between elderly couples who had never been separated until isolation in an ICU unit, while one of their lives slipped away.
It’s something that Ben thought he would never have to experience.
Our older Americans are our most treasured assets. Many represent what is good about our country and our society. They’ve worked and toiled to make us what we are today. They possess unfathomable reserves of knowledge of right and wrong, of goodness, and of how to love.
My own life was immensely impacted by my parents and my grandparents. They showed me what is good in the world: work hard; treat people as you want to be treated; love God with all your heart; love your children and grandchildren as if it’s your last day to be with them; help those that need it, and one day when you are in need, it will be returned.
They taught me about how to enjoy life’s simple things: sitting on the porch; holding hands; spending time around the dinner table, just visiting; playing dominos as another opportunity and excuse just to be together; traveling distances to share holidays and celebrations; and being there when someone passes away.
My life would be incredibly shallow, empty, and rudderless without the influence of those older Americans – yes, those elders.
Help me celebrate Older Americans Month and Elder Law Month. Reach out to honor, or just even visit, with those older Americans and those elders in your life, in your neighborhood, and in your community. To all the elders in my life, from the past to the present, I thank you for all you’ve done for me and for others.