Key Issues for Elders, and Future Elders

When I was in my early twenties, I was in a car accident. In the emergency room the doctor said aloud in my presence that he didn’t think I would make it.1 I was unconscious for three days in the intensive care unit, and I nearly died. When I regained consciousness, I realized that I’d heard what the doctor said and I made a decision that I was not going to die. I got the chance to make a decision to live—and I took it.

Many of my bones were broken, including in my back, but I recovered. Later on I was told that since my back was broken, I would eventually be in chronic pain and would be bedridden in my sixties. I am seventy-one now, and I’m in great shape.2

I found Co-Counseling at age twenty-nine, and I knew immediately how valuable it was. Later on, out of necessity, I started to work on feelings about pain. I spent many years discharging on the accident and recovered many memories. And over the years I was getting better, not worse. I was also learning how to counsel others on physical distresses.

Below are what I now consider the key issues for elders.

Health: I worked in health care all of my working life. My last job was to help patients find good information about their own medical conditions. Over time I realized that along with needing good health information, we need to discharge the feelings attached to physical conditions. Eventually I began leading RC workshops on health and well-being and started editing Well-Being, the RC journal for exchange of information and ideas about health.

Elder oppression:3 U.S society, along with many others, devalues and ignores people as they get older. As the years tick by4 and we go through our twenties, thirties, forties, and fifties, we continually get the message that elders are less valuable. By the time we are sixty we have internalized the message.

We need to figure out elegant ways of contradicting the oppression. If we can’t stand up for ourselves, how can we expect others to do it? Also, we want to end all oppressions, so this one needs to be included. In my elders’ workshops I have people come up with5 elegant ways of interrupting elder oppression.

Enlisting allies: Interrupting the oppression is much easier for those who are outside of it. Also, by interrupting it, allies are preparing for their own future. Along with young people’s opppression, elder oppression is the only oppression that all people will experience (if they live long enough). So if you are not an elder yet, become an ally to elders. You will also be becoming an ally to your own future self.

I began supporting elders without planning to or realizing it. I simply liked them, and we were good Co-Counselors for each other. In my thirties and forties I counseled regularly with the only two elders in my Community. During that period it was difficult for elders to get sessions, but I enjoyed counseling with both of them. Our Co-Counseling relationships continued for at least twenty years, until I moved out of state.

The following is an example of how attitude (a direction against distress) can not only cut through internalized oppression but also lead to physical improvement:

In 1981 a group of elders in their seventies were invited to be in an experiment. When they arrived at the study—some shuffling in, some bent over, some with canes—they walked into a house that was decorated completely in the style of 1959 in the United States. The artwork on the walls was from that time and the furnishings were all from that era. Songs by Perry Como were playing on the radio, and the Ed Sullivan Show was on, on a black-and-white TV. They were instructed to act as if it was actually 1959.

After a week, they showed marked improvement in physical strength, manual dexterity, cognition, and more. The conclusion of the study was, ”Age can be a mindset.” Imagine what it would’ve been like if discharge had been added to the mix!

A direction to try: I will disregard the negative images, beliefs, and impressions I have acquired about ageing and live my life the way it was intended to be: happy, healthy, and productive, now and forever.

Pam Geyer

International Liberation Reference Person for Elders

Bellaire, Texas, USA

1 "Make it" means survive
2 "Shape" means condition.
3 "Elder oppression" is a more accurate term than "ageism"
4 "Tick by" means go by.
5 "Come up with" means think of, create.

Last modified: 2017-10-09 15:38:36-07