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Honoring Voices through Open-Mindedness

As a child, I never once thought I’d be working for older adults as a teenager.

Honoring Voices through Open-Mindedness

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I didn’t necessarily have a discriminatory view of older adults or seniors — it was something that never crossed my mind. You hear about “nursing homes,” but you don’t exactly hear about working at nursing homes as a child, possibly because children are “too young” to even think about the complete opposite ends of their lives. But regardless, I didn’t see it as an option, as a real field of work, when I was a child.

When I got this job, I didn’t know what to expect doing work for older adults, but I was open-minded, ready and willing to learn. Through my experience at Signal Hill, I recognize that working for older adults is a field vital to the future of our nation. As Signal Hill’s social media assistant, I curate content for one of our clients, Lifespace Communities, a continuing care retirement community. Part of my job is sifting through innumerable news articles about aging and wellness, then picking the best ones and posting and sharing them on Lifespace’s social media accounts. As a result of this, I’ve gained quite a bit of knowledge on senior living, aging and wellness.

While many other people hold ageist views and believe that it’s useless working for older adults, it’s something I find rewarding. Learning about an integral part of our society that’s often mislabeled and stereotyped, provides a new perspective. When you leave yourself open to honoring voices, a lot of opportunities and knowledge can come your way. That’s my experience so far, and I am so thankful for it.

Recently, I had a strong brush with anxiety and depression and a wave of dark thoughts washed over me one night. In that moment, I felt like I couldn’t really confide in anyone except my friend, so I texted her asking for help. My friend didn’t really feel like she was the best person for me to confide in, so she urged me to talk to a professional. Too tired to talk on the phone, I looked up if there was possibly a crisis hotline but over text. And sure enough, there was. My counselor’s name was Allison and she was able to walk me through my situation to a better place. I left my experience thankful for Allison’s guidance but didn’t dwell on it. I prefer to leave panic attack episodes in the past.

But later on that week I stumbled across an article that profiled older adults and seniors who volunteered for the Crisis Text Line, the very same line I used when I was feeling horrible. Even though my counselor may not have been an older adult, it was an eye-opening moment for me. It was simply interesting to think about the fact that life works in mysterious ways and that an older adult may have helped me out in a crisis.

My previously neutral viewpoint on older adults as a child had completely flipped in that moment. As a society, we may not think that older adults are apt to be the texter behind a phone screen, but they are. Again, I don’t really know if that was an older adult helping me on that night I needed help, but I’ve come to realize that’s part of the beauty of it. It was simply interesting to me that an older adult may have helped me because American society perpetuates an image of a frail, disabled, non-tech-savvy older population.

We should just accept everyone for who they are and the merits they offer, regardless of any label that provokes preconceived notions. I know that it will be hard to reach this view as a society, but we’ll get there eventually. Hopefully, it won’t take too many of our own crises before we realize this.