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Elder Liberation

Elders are people who have lived many decades. The age at which one is perceived to be an elder varies depending on class, culture, and other factors, but currently it usually begins between fifty and sixty years of age.

WHAT IS TRUE ABOUT ELDERS?

Living a very long life is a great gift. Only oppression could cause us to think otherwise. Humanity has worked hard through the generations to enable humans to live long lives. Though far too many people still do not get to become elders due to hardship and exploitation, elders are the fastest growing age group globally. We elders are the result of a dream hard fought for!

Elders are creative, strong, energetic, loving, intelligent, cooperative, and fun-loving. We have spent decades working on behalf of our loved ones, humanity as a whole, and all life. We are committed to building a world in which all life flourishes. We have amassed a tremendous amount of much needed knowledge, experience, and perspective.

Any view of elders contrary to this is mistaken. As is true for all people, when we elders do not show or act on our full humanness, it is because we have been hurt. With good counseling we can heal from the hurts and join with others to work for the world we dream of.

HOW ELDER OPPRESSION IS LEARNED, INTERNALIZED, AND PERPETUATED

There is a massive misunderstanding of what it means to be an elder. The distresses that underlie that misunderstanding and elder oppression are thoroughly embedded in all human societies—even ones that revere elders. Distress about aging probably began early in human history, as older people wore out and died due to harsh living conditions. The distresses have been passed down through the generations and are largely unnoticed because they are considered natural. People are unable to see each elder as an individual, or to have high expectations of elders. As a result, most people do not want to be an elder.

When we are younger, the misinformation and distress lead us to participate in elder oppression. Having accepted misinformation as truth and acted in oppressive ways toward elders when we were younger makes it hard for us elders to stand up for ourselves and other elders now.

ELDER LIBERATION

Our age is the excuse for our oppression, not the reason for it. We elders are as precious and essential to human society as all other humans. Elder workers care, create, and work hard. We are farmers, artists, caregivers for children and other family members, scientists, community leaders, midwives, teachers, construction workers, health care workers, factory workers, and much more. Society would be lost without us!

Capitalism is the reason for our oppression. Capitalism values people only for their ability to create or maintain wealth for the owning class. It determines elders to be expendable when we are not needed to create or control wealth for the owning class or when we do not have sufficient wealth to be desirable consumers.

Being treated as expendable is the key and most damaging part of elder oppression.

Working-class and poor elders are especially targeted as expendable. Due to low-paid or unpaid work and inadequate social protections, many elder workers are forced to work until they can no longer go on. Many lose their jobs and cannot find new ones due to vicious discrimination against older workers. As a result, many elders are thrown into poverty.

The recent pandemic has further exposed the degree to which elders are considered expendable. Many elder essential workers have been forced to continue to work despite their greater vulnerability to death from the virus. Many elders have been denied health care because their lives were not considered valuable.

The liberation of elders therefore demands the ending of classism.

Elder oppression tells us that elders are nearing death. We are viewed as uninteresting, unattractive, inflexible, conservative, and not knowledgeable about current affairs. We are ignored, dismissed, pitied, and treated as one would treat a young child. We are considered to be a burden to our families and society. Our generation is blamed for current world problems. If we can afford it, we are expected to be pleased to retire, leave important matters to younger people, and cheerfully spend our time and resources on small lives of comfort. Increasingly elders are segregated from families and communities, resulting in isolation, vulnerability to exploitation, desperate loneliness, and lack of lifesaving help.

These and other aspects of elder oppression hurt, separate, confuse, and dishearten us as elders so that we cannot fight for ourselves or each other.

Elder oppression intensifies as we grow older.

Since the oppression of elders is a problem with society and not with elders, ending it requires a worldwide Elders Liberation Movement. United across class, race, sex, religion, and so on, and with our allies, we have the power to end our oppression.

THE INTERSECTION OF ELDER OPPRESSION AND OTHER OPPRESSIONS

By the time we become elders, we have already been deeply hurt by classism, racism, genocide, anti-Semitism, sexism, disability oppression, and many other oppressions. Adding yet another oppression can make it hard for us to keep going and have hope for the future. We need to look at the intersection of elder oppression with other oppressions.

What is it like for an African-heritage female to become an elder? What is it like for a man with a disability to have elder oppression added to his life? What strengths do our other identities give us to work for our liberation as an elder? What are the unique struggles? What do we need to discharge? How do we be allies to one another?

DECLINING HEALTH, DISABILITY, DYING, AND DEATH

Our fears about illness, dementia, disability, dying, and death become attached to being an elder. Such fears can occupy large amounts of attention for people of all ages. These fears will yield to discharge, leaving us with a better picture of reality, more resilience to face difficulties, and more hope for the future.

The ending of disability oppression is key for elders. We are fortunate to have a strong RC liberation movement for people with disabilities that we can join forces with. As we age, we will face new physical challenges. Being disabled challenges us to live our lives in new ways, whether it’s getting used to new limitations for our bodies, using an assistive device, or having someone help us with daily chores. With discharge and supportive allies, elders can find new and creative ways to continue to live big, wonderful, and proud lives.

With discharge and close connection with others, we can think well about our health; successfully respond to changes in our abilities; and, when needed, thoughtfully prepare for death. We can enjoy today and look forward to tomorrow.

COUNSELING TOWARD ELDER LIBERATION

The following are some ways to counsel toward elder liberation:

  • Proudly claim being your age. What do you love about yourself as an elder? What do you love about other elders? What do you do to try to appear “young” or “not that old”? What price do you pay for that attempt to avoid elder oppression? Discharge about giving it up.
  • Work on your earliest memories related to aging or elders.
  • Decide to live a vibrant life forever. Though it may be unrealistic, making the decision will enable the discharge of old discouragement, grief, and fear. It will greatly improve your life and prolong your time of vibrant health. Use sessions to help set up your life to get enough sleep, nutrition, exercise, closeness, meaningful activity, discharge, and fun.
  • Bring your body to your Co-Counseling sessions. Remember that your body is wonderful just as it is. Counsel about your health and changes in your body. Discharge on resignation, and do not assume that health problems are permanent. While we may not always be able to discharge away a physical difficulty, discharge can help us manage it and live better lives. Insist on the best health care available. Enlist the help of others. Discharge on early memories of “need” and “help.” Develop a trusting relationship with at least one Co-Counselor with whom you can share all your health concerns.
  • Decide to always live a big, full life of your own choosing. Notice how significant you are now. Set goals and take action toward the life you have always dreamed of. Work on the earliest times you were forced to settle for anything less than absolutely everything.
  • Decide to have more fun than ever. Live a fun life now, despite the feelings. With contradiction [to distress] and discharge, the enjoyable feelings will catch up [become present].
  • Discharge all discouragement.
  • Discharge thoroughly on all deaths and losses in your life.
  • Discharge on and think about your financial situation. You are not at fault for difficulties.
  • Reach for ever closer relationships with people of all ages, starting with your own age group.

In addition, for our allies: Make a mutually respectful friendship with an elder and with intention do the following: Encourage them to talk about what they know. Ask for their advice and perspective and help with your difficulties. Really use them as a resource and guide for your life and appreciate them for it. It is pretty [quite} exceptional and wonderful to have a true friend who is much older than you are.

UNITING ACROSS GENERATIONS

Elder oppression is harmful to people of all ages. There are complex relationship and oppression dynamics between people of various ages. For example, all adults, by virtue of age, are in the oppressor role to young people and young adults. Many people younger than we are, are in oppressor roles in relation to us as elders. However, it is their role in the class system, not their age, that gives them the power to oppress elders. We must be clear about this in order to chart a path toward liberation.

The oppressive system pits one generation against another. It installs patterns of disrespect for each other and of blaming each other for our oppressions and for the world’s problems. The only winner is the oppressive system. Current non-elders are our most natural allies. While we insist that they change oppressive attitudes and behaviors, we must pull them in close.

Because of oppression, the accumulated experience and wisdom of elders fail to be passed on to the next generation. And elders, when segregated from younger people, lose access to fresh ideas, information about current issues, and new perspectives. Only by working together across the generations can we solve the problems facing humanity.

THIS IS OUR TIME!

There is now a cadre of us elders who have used RC well enough to have greater access to our full human abilities than any prior generation. We are finding that our intelligence, flexibility, vitality, joy, and courage continue to grow. And our relationships grow in number, diversity, and depth. Living a very long life looks very exciting! What shall we do with the rest of our lives?

We live in a pivotal time in human history. Capitalism is crumbling. Many big problems—the climate emergency, pandemics, racial injustice, violent conflict, and economic inequality—require immediate, creative solutions. We elders have the experience and perspective to join with others to become a powerful force in restoring the health of our planet and leading all people to a rational, peaceful society.

Proud to be growing older with you!

Jerry Ann Yoder
International Liberation
Reference Person for Elders

Yarmouth, Maine, USA

 


Last modified: 2021-10-07 22:35:42+00