Corey’s Corner: honoring the elderly

In light of Grandparents’ Day, President Barry Corey discusses honoring elders.


| Photo courtesy of University Communications and Marketing

President Barry Corey, Writer

Courtesy | University Communications and Marketing

This weekend the campus will be teeming with a wonderful group of friends two generations removed from you, our students. The grandmothers and grandfathers are coming. Watching the way in which you interact with these dear people — some as young as their sixties and others as old as their eighties — makes me proud.

One of the virtues compromised in our American culture is the virtue of respecting those who are aging. We have much to learn from our Asian friends who default to honoring the elderly with the highest forms of respect. In fact, Japan even has a Respect for the Aged Day, celebrated in the middle of September each year. The truth is, though it’s a long way off, we are all getting there. I’m a lot older than I once was and not nearly as old as I’m going to be.

Not all of you have grandparents coming this weekend. For some of you, your grandparents have passed away or are physically unable to come. For others, maybe there have been family strains or financial challenges that prevent them from being here this weekend. Some of you are close to your grandmothers and grandfathers while others of you have a more distant relationship. We all have four biological grandparents, and some of you have people in your life who are like adopted grandparents. Regardless, we have a lot to be thankful for when it comes to those who are decades older than we are, and I think this weekend is a good time to reflect on our respect for those who are in their senior years.

Here are 20 thoughts about ways in which we can honor those who are elderly without patronizing them. Take them for what they’re worth:

  1. Stand when an elderly person walks into the room

  2. Unless you’ve been told to do otherwise, call them by “Mr.” or “Mrs.” or “Miss”

  3. Ask them about their lives and what they are most proud of and what they’d do over if they had another go of it

  4. Kindly offer to help them without making them feel that they are helpless

  5. Ask them for advice and when you’ve got a nugget, heed it

  6. Thank them for the sacrifices they’ve made and for ways they have lived faithfully

  7. Listen to their stories

  8. Give them compliments that come from the heart and are genuine

  9. Don’t make them feel like you’re in a hurry

  10. If they outlived their spouse or have children, ask them about their families

  11. Laugh at their jokes

  12. Smile while you’re with them

  13. When you enter a room, greet the elderly first and make sure at a meal they’re fed first

  14. If appropriate, ask them for their spiritual insights that would help you in your faith

  15. Write them a hand-crafted note or send them a personalized birthday car

  16. Tell them about yourself only in response to their asking you and only insofar as they seem interested

  17. Repeat back to them what you’ve learned from them or something they said that was important for you to hear

  18. Ask them about their own parents and grandparents, as most of us cannot even name any of our eight great-grandparents

  19. Pray with them and for them, holding their hand when you do

  20. Think of a small but meaningful gift you can give them, wrap it up and send it their way

This Friday is Grandparents Day at Biola, and what a time to honor those who have given so much through their hard work, their love, their military service, their optimism and their faith in God. When you see a grandparent on campus this weekend, even if it’s someone else’s, smile and tell them hello and you’re glad they’re here.

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