Empathy Intervention-Ana Bernardo

I didn’t realize that I “otherize” elderly people until I had an assignment for a class called Family Psychology. In this class, we were supposed to have a casual conversation with an elderly person we don’t know. So not only were we supposed to talk to a stranger, but also someone who is “far removed” from my generation. Although I worked with elderly people when I volunteered at a senior home, I expected this conversation to be different. I think with the senior home, there was less pressure because the elderly people knew we were there to do crafts with them and have surface leveled conversations. But this assignment was prompting us to spark up a conversation in a casual setting like a coffee shop. I specifically remember getting coffee with my friend and we just so happened to sit next to an elderly couple. Knowing it was my assignment to talk to an elderly person, I suddenly got very nervous and didn’t know how to initiate a conversation. There were thoughts racing through my mind saying, “What if I can’t hold a conversation with them? Will they be responsive to what I’m saying? Would we have anything to talk about?” Looking back I realize how naive I was. When I finally got the nerve to talk to the couple, I could no longer “otherize” them. They asked me questions, opened up about their life stories, and even took a picture with me in the end! Through my eyes, I’m still at the beginning of life waiting for the “next” journey. Through their eyes, they’ve lived a fulfilling life that allows them to dwell on the past rather than the future.

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