For half of my high school career, I worked at a gas station, and for the other half, I worked at a coffee shop. Both of those jobs didn't have a lot in common, other than one thing: The frequent visitors were senior citizens. Seeing regular customers at both of these jobs was the highlight of my day.
Most of them had a set routine, a regular drink order and a way of making me want to talk to them all day. There was just something about each senior that made him or her special. Some were grumpy, some were sweet and some could talk for hours about their families. I was fascinated.
They all used to be my age at a completely different time in the world and had unique stories about how they got to be where they were now. Once I went to college, I realized I could make a career out of my passion.
I started studying gerontology, which is the study of aging. I began volunteering at the local senior center to help the older adults learn how to use technology, and I discovered that I had so much to learn from them that couldn't be taught in school. Here are six reasons we should all have a senior citizen friend in our lives:
1. They have years of wisdom to pass on.
Yes, I know this is an obvious statement, but it needs to be said. Senior citizens know the answers to many life questions because they have been around the block a few times. They have skills like crocheting and gardening down.
They also are probably the ones who told your mom all of the wisdom she has passed down to you, like the proper usage of vinegar and what exactly witch hazel is.
2. They have great stories.
Sure, we've all done cool stuff like binge-watching an entire season of "Parks And Recreation" in one night, but nothing can compare to stories that senior citizens tell. It might help that most have their storytelling voices perfected, but there's no scientific evidence on that theory.
There is just something enticing about hearing an older adult talk about the glory days with a hint of nostalgia in his or her eyes. It makes you want to live a more exciting life.
3. They've probably led a different life from you or your parents.
Seniors went to school without Google and passed. They survived awkward situations without having a phone to look at for distraction. They traveled while solely relying on paper maps. Enough said. They can teach you what to look forward to.
As Millennials, we are still years away from thinking about retirement, even though some of us have a retirement plan set up or pay into Social Security. But retirement has a funny way of sneaking up on you, just like that college loan payment. Some seniors did not plan financially for retirement, and they are not living the luxurious life we all think of when we think of retirement (i.e. living in Florida and hitting on our pool boys).
Then, there are the seniors who've planned and saved to live the life we all wish to have when we are older. They are able to live in the fancy retirement communities and start a trust fund for their grandkids. The seniors who inspire me the most are the ones who are happy with life's small pleasures, like the ability to wake up for one more day.
My grandpa goes to the hospital every day to eat a meal because he swears they serve the best food in town. The small pleasure of cafeteria food gives him something to look forward to each day. To each his own.
4. They can teach us how to cope.
Seniors deal with many milestones in life. Many have lost a spouse and have to cope with that heartache every day. Some cope with the fact that they feel they have become ancient. Others have to move back with their children and have to cope with the fact that they are the receivers, not the providers anymore.
Being a senior is not all about reminiscing over the glory days or doing fun things because you're retired. Seniors have to deal with life-changing moments daily, and they somehow still find the drive to wake up every day and face the world.
5. They know facts about history.
This one is especially important for all of us who struggle to pay attention in history class. Learning about history is just so much more fun when you hear it directly from the mouth of someone who actually experienced it.
6. You have things to teach them as well.
As previously stated, we have lived a completely different life than senior citizens. You know that iPhone you are probably reading this article on? They didn't have them growing up. They may have years of experience and wisdom to bestow upon us, but we have information to share with them as well.
All of our seemingly mundane knowledge about how to set up a Netflix account or how to send a text is new information that some seniors do not know. Take the time to teach your grandparents how to do something that comes easy to you.
In this very moment, we are preparing ourselves to become seniors. The knowledge we have obtained is the knowledge we'll pass down to our children. Who knows? Maybe one day, we will be sitting in futuristic rocking chairs and talking about the glory days when we learned how to make a gourmet meal out of ramen noodles.