Manners Around the Elderly

Grandmother and granddaughter with drinks outdoors
Older people can enrich the lives of children, teens, and younger adults. Compassionate Eye Foundation/Digital Vision/Getty Images

It's never good to be unkind to anyone, but it's especially terrible to see older people being pushed aside. After all, these folks have life experiences that we should listen to and learn from. Remember that being gracious to everyone, regardless of their age, shows your true character. Ignoring those who have been around much longer than us shows a lack of manners on our part.

Throughout many people's childhood and teen years, they hear the phrase, "Respect your elders," over and over, until it becomes indelibly etched on their brains.

You may assume that everyone hears the same thing from his or her parents and grandparents, but apparently not. 

Mentally put yourself in the position of the elderly person. How would you feel if people disrespected you just because you had gray hair, wrinkles, and a slower gait? Use the Golden Rule when you are with your elders.

People who have experienced many years of life have a different perspective from someone who is seeing things for the first time. With this experience comes lessons that can be handed down. Doesn't it make sense to show respect for someone who is teaching you something so valuable? The wisdom of the older people you know can truly enrich your life. Even if you don't agree with what they're saying, at least listen, and you may come away with an important nugget that you can use in the future.

Here are some ways you can show respect to those who are older than you:

Address Them Properly

Use the name they want to be called.

Unless they tell you otherwise, call them Mr. or Ms., followed by their last name. If they want you to call them by their first name, honor their request.

Shake Hands 

If you are meeting this person for the first time or if you haven't seen him or her in a while, shake hands. This is such a simple yet friendly gesture that lets the person know you have manners, and you're not afraid to use them.

Speak Clearly and Without Slang 

Your friends might understand mumblings filled with the latest slang, but don't expect someone much older than you to get what you are trying to say. You don't have to yell, but keep your voice as clear as possible, avoid using slang, and be willing to speak louder if it's clear that the person can't hear you.

Make Eye Contact and Smile 

When approaching or greeting your elders, always make eye contact. This shows that you acknowledge their presence. A warm smile from you can make this person's otherwise dreary day much brighter.

Offer Assistance 

When an elderly person approaches an entrance to a building, hold the door and allow him or her to go first. Offer to reach something on a high or low shelf in a store or at home. Be aware of any disability the person may have and help according to what he or she needs. Any kind or generous thing you do to make their lives easier will be appreciated.

Give Your Time and Attention 

Most people who are older than you will appreciate having your attention in blocks of time. Enjoy a conversation about a topic you have in common. Sit down with a grandparent or other elderly person and show that you care. Play a board game or watch a movie together.

Feel free to ask questions about their experience, and then listen. If something is upsetting, chances are, he or she will let you know.

Show Your Love 

If the elderly person is a grandparent, aunt, uncle, or related to you in any way, show that you love him or her. Offer a hug and say something affectionate. Ask questions about your ancestors and offer to put together a photo album or scrapbook with mementos. You'll be amazed by how enriching the experience can be, and you'll most likely learn something new about your family. Teach your children how to behave among their elders.

Show Good Manners 

Most of your elders were taught proper etiquette when they were children, and they deserve good manners from you in return. Always say, "Please," and "Thank you." They need to know that the generations following them are civil enough to carry on.