Editorial: ELM – Elderly Lives Matter, too

Column By Walt Mares

Walt Mares

BLM -Black Lives Matter? Indeed they do. Add to that ELM -Elderly Lives Matter as well.

It has been almost a month now that thousands of protesters have taken to the streets across America after former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd

Black Lives Matter. No argument there. Then, there are some who have responded that all lives matter. However, at this moment, I would like to see an emphasis on one group, in particular, the oldest among us

There is such a disproportionate number of deaths in nursing homes due to the novel coronavirus COVID-19  pandemic, and yet we sometimes hear, “Oh, well – they were old anyway.”

An elderly white activist from Buffalo, New York, was knocked down in the street and apparently left for dead by four young, fit, police officers. Does his life matter?

This hits home for me because I am climbing up there in age. I will turn 67 in July. Whoopee! When I turned 55 and became eligible for some senior citizen benefits, I cringed. I did not ask if I was eligible for those discounts at restaurants or other businesses. Asked if I wanted a senior discount on something, I just shook my head in the negative. Ah, that ego! How stupid that was.

Elderly Lives Matter.

I think of all the “old folks” who have influenced my life and continue to do so. I start with my maternal grandfather, Pedro Monico Casias, born in northern New Mexico in 1873, and some of his pals. All were older than he.

My earliest memories are from when I was about 5 years old. I learned a great deal from them that has stayed with me all these years. Some of that is family history and what life was like for them in their youth and later on in life.

That is probably why I have always taken a shine to those of the older crowd. I find them interesting and foremost I always show them respect. I may encounter someone, be it a man or a woman, and I tip my hat to them and say hello. At times, such an encounter may lead to a very interesting conversation. I always learn something. 

I have found that some of the elderly are lonely and they appreciate having someone take an interest in them, even if it is only a quick greeting. Many like to speak about their families. Many are alone. Perhaps they are having to self-isolate, a spouse has died, or their children live a long distance away and there is not much contact with them.

I have learned that someone whom I meet and greet may be a Korean War veteran who appreciates after all these years being recognized and thanked for his service. So many grandmothers in their 70s and 80s have plenty of spunk in them and have a strong sense of humor.

It can be amazing how much a simple “hello” can mean to them. 

What is the harm and recognizing another human being from whom there may be very interesting things to learn?  It can be the most important lesson in humility and humanity.

There is a song by the late John Prine, another coronavirus victim, titled “Hello in There.” 

“You know that old trees just grow stronger

And wild rivers grow wider every day

But old people just grow lonesome

Waiting for someone to say, ‘Hello in there, hello.’

So if you’re walking down the street some time

And spot some hollow, empty eyes

Please don’t just pass them by and stare

As if you didn’t care,

Say ‘Hello in there, hello.’

Remember folks, ELM – Elderly Lives Matter, too. There are a great many of us who are so occupied with our own lives. We forget or do not acknowledge those who have come before us and built what we enjoy today. Many aspects of our lives are trivial. We become self-important. The world, perhaps even the universe, revolves around us, or so we think.

Let us never forget the elderly, to whom we owe so much. Say “hello” in there.

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