Vail Daily column: Have compassion and empathy for aging community members | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily column: Have compassion and empathy for aging community members

Judson Haims
Special to the Daily

Compassion is a strange thing. By definition, compassion invokes sympathy, pity and perhaps even sadness for other’s misfortunes or sufferings. Compassion often drives people with a sense of desire to assist and alleviate duress from others. Many would believe that compassion is a good thing, even admirable.

Many dictionaries use the word sympathy when providing a definition for compassion. However, herein lays a dilemma. With what amount of conviction does sympathy alone motivate people to help others? Sympathy is an emotion often held for someone else. While it is powerful in its driving force and ability to motivate people to help others, in my opinion, it falls short of empathy.

Empathy, on the other hand conveys more of the ability to understand and share another’s feelings — it precedes compassion. Empathy is more of a personal understanding and/or personal “relating” to another’s situation or emotions gained from personal experience — idiomatically, having walked the walk.

Ask elders what they desire

“Novelist C.S. Lewis once expressed, ‘I’m afraid as we grow older, life consists more and more in either giving up things or waiting for them to be taken from us.’”

Our fast-paced, high-energy, youth-oriented culture doesn’t leave much room for the aging.

Isn’t it nice and rewarding when our children and youth share with us their goals, personal visions for success and aspirations? It’s not uncommon to ask our children or our young what their aspirations are for when they get older. Think about this, though, have you asked a stranger, your parents or any elder what their desires, goals or aspirations are for their golden years?

When we are young, often what sets us apart from our aging loved ones is a deep and growing sense that their quest for meaning is coming to an end and that the parade of life may be coming to a close.

Novelist C.S. Lewis once expressed, “I’m afraid as we grow older, life consists more and more in either giving up things or waiting for them to be taken from us.”

I’d comfortably say that Eagle County is a community made up of many compassionate and giving people. As a community, we very often come to the aid and assistance of others. However, we fall short in our awareness and focus on assisting our elder population. It’s changing, though.

Do you ever feel compassion for elders?

When you see an elderly person at the market or around town navigating their way with a cane, walker or wheel chair, do you ever feel compassion for them? Have you ever asked yourself what they are thinking or feeling? Ever wonder what they feel as they deal with the loss of a spouse, friends or family who have passed and left them with one fewer loved one?

As many of us enter the sandwich generation and become aware of care needs of our parents and elder loved ones, we may encounter an understanding that differs from sympathy and lends to empathy. We, ourselves, may have reached a point in life where our friends have passed away or we have experienced an event that has illuminated the reality of our own mortality.

If you want to get a little perspective on the daily life needs and desires some of our community’s elder have, then call Castle Peak, 970-989-2500, or Golden Eagle Senior Center, 970-328-8896, in Eagle or Eagle Valley Senior Life in Avon, 970-977-0188, and ask to volunteer for a day. Not all of our community’s elder population has family nearby to help them.

Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. Contact him at 970-328-5526 or visit http://www.visitingangels.com/comtns.