On the value of age

Of what use are old people? What do they offer society? How should we calculate their worth?

Do they help the health of a nation’s economy or hurt it? People of a particular political persuasion prefer to think in those terms. These same folks like to challenge progressive thinkers with the question: “Do you love America?” My own response is to wonder how the questioner defines America. To me it is its people, so yes, absolutely, I love America because I love Americans, its people.

All of us. Young and old.

Today I went to social media to ask friends to list what the older people in their lives offer the rest of us. More responses might continue to come in, but here is what several had to say:

Elders in their lives offer wisdom; sage advice about life, about making mistakes, making right decisions; knowledge — lots of it — borne of experience; tolerance; understanding; empathy; time.

Time. Elders offer us time. And patience. They teach us, show us, that giving back never ends regardless of age; they show us how love really works and what a sense of humor looks like.

Older people offer guidance, stability, a perspective earned through years of living, some of it hard. They bring a mind full of history, memories. They teach us devotion to family and friends, by example, and appreciation of books, music, theater, the creative acts of others. The urge to create. Sharing.

Others. If we have been paying attention, our elders have been showing us how to be driven by kindness and generosity, how to walk in the shoes of others, particularly strangers and those with whom we disagree.

How to love, in other words. This is what our elders offer.

What is that worth?



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