I think I’m figuring it out… why older people are more impatient. I’m pretty sure that this is a thing that we all recognize. Just check out the grocery stores, oil change places, drugstores, etc. I think we’ve all witnessed events where an elderly person is a bit (?) impatient or gruff with a salesperson or another customer. I have always just sort of half-smiled, shook my head and felt sorry for whoever it was that was dealing with it. I think it’s just accepted that older people are going to be that way someday and assume it just happens as part of aging.
Well, now that I’m starting to be a bit more impatient myself, I feel a little differently about it. I like to believe that I was mostly tolerant of this behavior when I encountered it, but now I think I’m a little more understanding as well. When you’re younger, you have all the time in the world… to go to school, hang out with friends, and maybe get a job. You get a little older, head off to college to have more fun (and prepare for a career) or join the workforce and learn how to combine your work life with the rest of your life. Sometime after that, you may have a family of your own or have different social groups, other family, etc., that keep you busy. We’re all still pretty tolerant here, just getting along taking care of whatever it is we need to take care of. For about the next 20-30 years, we work hard at everything we do, manage work, family, personal lives, finances, and health issues. We do the best that we can and just know that, eventually, all of our hard work will pay off and we’ll be happy, retire, and enjoy the rest of our lives.
Fast forward to that point in time when you realize that retirement, whether wanted or forced, is almost upon you. Now I know that there is a lucky group of people wealthy enough to not even notice a change in lifestyle and carry on as usual. They can retire when they want to, not worried about the financial or health impacts that a lack of money causes. That’s great. They can enjoy their days, go out to lunch, play golf, and enjoy activities with friends. Now they might get crabby, too, because everybody has stuff to deal with, but not in the same way. The other group, though, the ones that DO have financial worries, they are not so fun. I can say that most of the people that I grew up with are not millionaires and many of us lost a lot of money (if we had any) back in the day with the problems in the economy. We’re holding our breath daily to try to get by and weigh how many years we need money versus how many years of money we think we have. I’m not even talking here about those of us forced into retirement due to either work or health issues. That just adds extra years of financial worries. Additionally, health insurance is either unavailable to us or prohibitively expensive; so many elderly people do without, essentially trading in critical healthcare and medicine for food or housing. These health issues, in addition to the problems of aging itself, make life more difficult every day, sometimes to the extent that it’s disabling. Living every day in pain and worry, not being able to do the things that you need to, takes a toll on you… and on your mood. No matter how optimistic you are, it’s going to affect you. The fact that older people may not have anybody else to rely on, to help them either emotionally or physically, is unthinkable. Sadly, a lot of elderly people live with this reality; their adult children are busy with their own lives and simply don’t make the time or effort to help. Our government programs are simply disgraceful and inadequate, forcing people into making decisions that nobody should have to make and living lives that are grounded in fear and helplessness.
I know that this article took a dark turn here, but it doesn’t even come close to the reality that a lot of our older generation experiences on a daily basis. Most of us don’t give a second thought to other peoples’ problems until we experience it ourselves. We should, of course, be more tolerant of everybody and try to consider other peoples’ circumstances that we know nothing about, but maybe this will help when you encounter someone arguing with the pharmacist about the cost of their medicine or worried about that 25-cent coupon. Please take a moment and try to understand why. It’s not fun for them either and we don’t need to do anything to make their day (or life) worse. Being patient and kind is the least that we can do.