What To Do When: Etiquette Suggestions for Seniors

Jan 23rd, 2009 | By | Category: Senior Moments Blog

Many senior citizens know that one of the contributors to Emily Post’s success came when more and more people wanted to know how to behave in social situations. Letters of inquiry launched a career, still a part of Americana. Her answers became legend and law and revisions have been made as necessary throughout the decades.

There are new questions today, necessitated by a changed and an ever changing social environment. These questions arise as legitimately as they did when persons wanted to know which fork to use.

But today’s questions have more to do with sensitivity to social crises than to table manners. They are questions that come from every generation. No age group is immune. Seniors, whose experience may be sharpened through years of experience, are nonetheless often caught in situations new to them and are frequently in need of advice.

Here are some of the surprises and dynamics that may confront us all:

Q: A friend sends an invitation to a wedding of one of their children. The bride is pregnant and marrying someone of another ethnic background; how do you handle it?

A: You handle it as you would any invitation. If you are available and wish to attend, you reply accordingly. You purchase a gift which you have sent or take to the occasion. You exercise 100% genuine courtesy, thoughtfulness and participate as a friend who cares and is delighted to have been invited.

Q: Someone special in your circle, friend or family, is going through an experience of terminal illness with someone in their family; how can you be present to them during their uncertainty and pain?

A: Exercising compassion and presence is an absolute top of the list must. Authentic presence, in body or not, is the best extension of caring there is. There is a web site called www.CaringBridge.org where many persons going through this experience are available to receive messages of caring. Direct contact, without overdoing it, is always welcomed. Telephone calls, timed appropriately, are very intimate and personal. Greeting cards, offers for assistance, dropping by with a platter of cookies are expressions of affection. Listening is the most precious gift of all. Offering a shoulder follows that.

Q. Someone in your acquaintance has lost a significant portion of their retirement nest egg. They aren’t sure what lies ahead, how can you be helpful?

A. While you may not be in a position to rescue them from their financial catastrophe, you can be in a position to assist strategizing with them a means for coping and moving forward. It will be painful. It may offer some dead ends, but their having someone to assist them to hold up the ceiling, when it feels as if it is crashing in upon them, will be a gift beyond measure.

It is the age old story for senior citizens. Etiquette is another way of showing respect, offering generosity and grace, especially when it takes into account the deepest respect for and needs of others.

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