Interview Old Person Essay

Older Adult Interview Essay

968 WordsNov 18th, 20124 Pages

I had the privilege of interviewing a 60 year old gentlemen who I will identify as Mr. E to protect his privacy for this assignment. The goal of my interview was to gain insight on aging from an older adult. I interviewed Mr. E in his home on a weekday evening. He expressed appreciation and was surprised that he was the focus of an interview in which his life story and thoughts would be recorded.
Mr. E was born in a ranch in Guadalajara, Mexico. He is the youngest son of nine children. His father passed away when he was 1 - year old. He was privileged to attend elementary school from the 1st grade to the 4th grade. Mr. E had the responsibility of helping support the family as there were only two male children in the family and the…show more content…

As if you walked a path and see what you could of done but didn’t. How could you have lived and not lived. You see your errors. Like when you are on a cliff looking down or on the clouds and looking down.
When asked about challenges to getting older (2012) Mr. E felt that accepting the challenges and just living the best you can is all you can do. Try to live in peace and love what is on earth. When you think of death you have to accept it. Why fight it you are going in that direction. You have to make a decision.
He told me a story of a friend he had who had cancer and she made the choice to stop the chemotherapy. Her arms had scabs and she decided enough was enough. She knew she wasn’t going to get better. She talked about death as if she were going to a party. He described how she appeared to be at peace because she lived a fulfilling life. Mr. E felt that she encouraged and motivated him more than he to her.Mr. E felt that the greatest joys of getting older were family and seeing it grow. He also felt that being loved and having others think highly of you were great achievements.Looking back on his life Mr. E felt that the only thing he could have done differently was to be more patient, smarter, more humane and not make as many mistakes. “You look back and think that you were not able to see things that are obvious” (E. Privacy, personal communication, October 10, 2012).
When asked about fears of getting older Mr. E stated that

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I'm proposing a new holiday. Or rather, a new use for an old holiday. I believe that we should make Thanksgiving the day when we celebrate elder wisdom by asking older people to tell us their advice for living. Here's why.

Occasionally, the question runs through younger people's minds (whether they admit it or not): What are old people good for? Our society's unremitting ageism portrays older persons as sick, frail, unproductive, and even the culprits for busting the federal budget.

Earlier retirement and increased residential separation of older people has broken age-old contacts between the generations. Indeed, our society has become extraordinarily segregated by age, such that young people's contact with elders is almost exclusively within the family (and even that is limited). Combined with the persistently negative images in the media, this question - What good are old people? - lurks in the background.

But the answer is amazingly simple. For as long as humans have been humans, older people have played critically important roles as advice-givers. Indeed, anthropological research shows that survival in pre-literate societies was dependent on the knowledge of the oldest members. It's easy to forget that it is only in the past 100 years or so that people have turned to anyone other than the oldest person they knew to solve life's problems.

Now here's the important point: Old people are still a unique source of advice for living for younger people. And we need to tap this source much more vigorously than we are currently doing -- both for young people's sake and that of our elders. That's why I'm proposing that we make learning elder wisdom a part of our families' Thanksgiving holiday.

We often do ask our elders to tell their life stories. But that activity is very different from asking their advice. You don't just want their reminiscences; what's truly valuable are the lessons they learned from their experience and that they wish to pass on to younger generations.

Now for the holiday. Thanksgiving is something most Americans celebrate, regardless of religious persuasion. And it's the one time in the year when families are most likely to gather -- and include their older relatives. What if we all take a half hour (okay, it can be before or after the football game) to consult our elders about their lessons for living?

Your children are the best ones to start this conversation and they can ask questions that are highly relevant to them. Is Sammy concerned about bullying? Some elders (especially immigrants) were ferociously bullied as children. Is Pat concerned about finding the right partner? You have elders who have long experience in relationships, but who are rarely asked for their advice about them. Are your college kids worried about the job market? If so, how about advice from people who went through the Great Depression?

Remember that this is different from asking Grandpa "What did you do in World War II?" or Grandma "What was life like in the Depression?" The goal is to genuinely and interestedly ask for advice: "What lessons for living did you learn from those experiences?" Taking this approach elevates the role of elders to what they have been through most of the human experience: counselors and advisers to the less-experienced young.

Give it a try on Thanksgiving (and let me know how it went!). Here are some questions to get you started; it can help to send these in advance to your elders so they can ponder them a bit. We've used these questions in interviews with hundreds of elders in the Legacy Project, and they work very well). More information is available in the book 30 Lessons for Living.

So let's declare Thanksgiving (or a part of it) Elder Advice-Giving Day. Our elders won't be here forever, so this year is a good time to start!

Questions for the elders:

  • What are some of the most important lessons you feel you have learned over the course of your life?

  • Some people say that they have had difficult or stressful experiences but they have learned important lessons from them. Is that true for you? Can you give examples of what you learned?

  • As you look back over your life, do you see any "turning points"; that is, a key event or experience that changed over the course of your life or set you on a different track?

  • What's the secret to a happy marriage?

  • What are some of the important choices or decisions you made that you have learned from?

  • What would you say you know now about living a happy and successful life that you didn't know when you were twenty?

  • What would you say are the major values or principles that you live by?
  • Add your own!

    Earlier on Huff/Post50:


    10 Things You Don't Know About Older People

    Follow Karl A. Pillemer, Ph.D. on Twitter:

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