Robert Olson column photo

Senior Life columnist Robert Olson.

Some days I wake up feeling refreshed and invigorated. However, more and more in the advancing years of my twilight, I wake up feeling like Rip Van Winkle — as if I have been asleep for the past 20, 40, 50 years, and I’m living in a totally different time, space and environment than what I remember from my childhood.

Often, it is a stunning realization. Attitudes, values, ethics, standards worked pretty well, and, when the changes took place, the “baby was thrown out with the bath.”

I believe it is no wonder that many elderly and middle-aged people, and even young adults, struggle with understanding the world we live in. It’s overwhelming in its challenges and fear-causing in its prospects.

The incredible changes in technology and basic human relationships appear to be measured by different standards.

As I remember my growing-up years, it seems the values and standards of the 1950s to the 1970s — relationships, environmental differences and political ideology — beg for understanding and the freedom from the fear that is created by wondering what the future holds for ourselves and our progeny.

Just the fact that our political leadership stands divided and often paralyzed is the indication that even they have no viable answers.

It is no wonder that many are fearful about receiving mail or a cellphone call from an unknown person who will take advantage of them.

This kind of thing is especially true for older Americans. Examples abound that involve the victimization of elderly people.

Think of all the calls that you may have received where you wonder how they got your name and telephone number, or the times that you have been duped into buying a product you had not bargained for and could not return.

I personally have had younger women try to scam me; they read my bio on Facebook, consider that I was a professional person, middle-class and elderly. They think I might have money and be interested in younger women.

Thus, they would “hit” on me by sharing a dramatic story and expecting me to rescue them with money that would solve their current dilemma. Many of these situations were downright comical and so transparent you could see through the ruse that was being perpetrated. I would often enjoy asking the question, “Why would a 22-year-old woman be interested in an 82-year-old man?” An answer was not forthcoming, and the caller would hang up the phone.

Disconnect, conflict among generations

So what are we to do to resolve the massive disconnect among generations, and the ensuing conflicts that result? Obviously this is a profound question and demands a multifaceted answer.

I also believe it will take the community of wisdom, and a redemptive process to heal the divisions that have been created by mistrust and an unwillingness to let go of sacred icons born of one’s bias from the past.

I am currently writing a book on how difficult it is for Americans to survive and thrive in old age. In the course of discussing those difficulties, I have arrived at some “hints” of directions we need to follow if we are to ever overcome the disastrous effects of the historical decisions the leadership of our country has enacted over the last half-century.

The issues raised by these questions have created an alarm in our country, whereby we are struggling with an age-old question of whether or not we wish to be ruled by “the rule of law,” or “the rule of a king.” From what I understand, this was the primary issue over which our Revolutionary War with England was fought, and it may be the primary issue in our 2020 presidential election.

Pray for leaders

As a Christian pastor and a relational psychologist, I have felt committed to respond to God’s call to minister to seniors in the Susquehanna Valley of Pennsylvania through the articles I write.

I feel blessed to write for such a historical and prestigious paper as LNP, and serve as a volunteer without contract or pay, hoping to make a difference in the lives of elders.

I am constantly being emailed by readers who appreciate my work. I strongly believe that the elders of our region are some of the best and the brightest in the nation.

Therefore, I leave you with this admonition: No matter what your circumstance in November, no matter who you cast your vote toward, please pray for our nation, its political leadership and its adherence to governance under the rule of law.

Go vote your conscience, and reaffirm your commitment as an American that it is “In God You Trust!”

Robert Olson is a pastoral psychologist and family therapist who specializes in geriatric issues. He invites comments and speaking invitations at robertolsonbdma@gmail.com.