Specialist in Issues of Midlife & Older Adults

Monthly Archives: July 2017

Octogenarians Worrying About America

Alma and friendI am finding, as I continue my counseling work with older clients – those in their 80’s in particular – that there is a concern they express about the state of our U.S. government. These people have been raised with a sense of decorum, a respect for one’s character, integrity and good manners. My clients are a small pool so I don’t have a large study going on, however, their views make sense to me. That is, that the way our government behavior seems to be devolving into an angry, polarized, rude, dishonest style of treating each other and that this is something they have not seen to this degree in our country.

They express concern about this, yes. They worry about where the government is headed. They remember times when Democrats and Republicans disagreed heartily yet were able to work together, spend time together, even be friends despite policy differences.

The anger and polarization leads them to wonder whether our democracy can survive this. My octogenarian clients also talk about other major issues like climate change and health care and tax reform. They don’t all agree on what is to be done about these things – but they watch the behavior of America’s government and shake their heads.

They watch our president’s behavior towards leaders of other countries. Again, they were raised with the values of being courteous, polite and kind as well as strong. They are embarassed and sad that America is losing its standing in the world. Remember, this is the World War II generation – the “greatest generation” as Tom Brokaw labeled them. They have been through many years of watching American men and women fight and give their lives for these values, these truths that we hold as being “self-evident”. These are people who have studied *and lived* history. There are veterans amongst them as well.

Many of the baby boomer clients I see – in their 60’s and 70’s – are also afraid and worried. They tend, in general, to still be busy, though, with working, watching grandkids, traveling, hobbies and other distractions which take up much of their contemplative time. It is the older generation I find that is expressing the most grave and deep concern about our country.

Others may say “it was ever thus”, i.e. that older generations worry about younger generations. Although my older clients did report concern about issues during the previous administration, they are much more worried at this point.

Shouldn’t we be listening to our elders more? They remember the autocratic regimes of Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini and others. They remember the warning signs, the lead-up to widespread wars. They are heartened that Dan Rather, Carl Bernstein, many historians and people who served during the Watergate hearings are being brought out to educate and remind about those times, and to share their experiences and perspectives. Much more of that is needed.