Topics on Aging

By Juan Gallo

How Does the ‘Tyranny of the Urgent’ Affect How We Treat Seniors?

August 21, 2023

How Does the ‘Tyranny of the Urgent’ Affect How We Treat Seniors?

When I was studying for my undergraduate degree, a little pamphlet-sized book changed my perspective on time. 

In “Tyranny of the Urgent,” Charles E. Hummel argues that a lack of time isn’t our problem. The problem is our lack of prioritization. 

When we let urgent problems crowd out important priorities, we end the day feeling like we don’t have enough time to get everything done. 

It’s even more true today than when Hummel wrote his book. Everyone’s so busy, and it’s affecting how seniors age. 

Urgency seems to be crowding out the important work of caring for our seniors. 

Whenever I visit a new place, I look to see how other cultures take care of their seniors and people with disabilities. In my recent mission trip to El Salvador, I saw how seniors live with family rather than care centers. That’s a non-negotiable in most of South America.

In the States, there’s a growing push to allow seniors to stay at home for longer. However, even when seniors live at home, their families are often not around. 

Life through a senior’s eyes

Imagine, just for a moment, what it’s like to be getting older. 

Someone starts coming to your house to take care of you. They’re telling you what time you’ve got to bathe. They’re telling you what to eat and when you should eat it. 

Your family is busy, and they’re not around as much as you would like. 

Your mind is still pretty sharp, but your body isn’t responding the way it used to. Or the opposite is true. 

It’s harder to get people to pay attention to what you have to say. Even when you express yourself fully, people don’t seem to listen as closely as they used to. 

Last month, I gave a presentation to my church to explain that perspective. Empathizing with that viewpoint struck a chord. We had 15 people sign up to be Heart2Heart volunteers. 

One person came after the service and told me, “Listen, I don’t know what I’m going to do or how I’m going to make time. But I’m realizing that this is a problem. I want to help.”

A growing need

As the Baby Boomer generation ages, seniors are the fastest growing population in America. No other generation is going to retire all at once in such numbers. 

By the year 2030, there will be more seniors than children in America. 

What do we do from now till then? How do we fill the gap? What will it look like to care for that many seniors? 

I wonder if the church will step in more. I wonder if the need will get so urgent that our very culture will shift as we rethink how we care for seniors. 

If we do it right between now and 2030, my hope is we will have a better system for people who are aging. Maybe as the next generation retires, it won’t be as overwhelming because the population isn’t as large and the Baby Boomers taught us something. 

The most vulnerable

As I told my church: The enemy doesn’t have that many tools in his toolbox. His strategy is to keep people too busy to see the truth. He wants us distracted from our important roles. 

When our world gets too busy, two populations suffer the most: kids and seniors. 

Of course, there’s lots of suffering that happens in the middle to single moms, drug addicts, abused women, victims of circumstance… the list goes on. 

However, both seniors and children are dependent on others for their wellbeing by the very nature of their circumstances. You start out as a child understanding little. As you age past your prime, you regress in your abilities. 

In both situations, you’re extremely vulnerable. 

My prayer is that the tyranny of the urgent does not distract us from giving both populations the attention they need and deserve. 

What could you do to prioritize a senior in your life? How might you spend more time with a grandparent or a neighbor who lives alone? 

How could you shift your weekly schedule to make time for important visits?

If you don’t know a senior, we can connect you with seniors in care centers who love visitors. Or consider volunteering to spend time with a senior in their home

Read more about:
Juan Gallo
Juan Gallo is the CEO of Heart2Heart Outreach, where he oversees the mobilization of volunteers to provide hope, share love and restore purpose to the lives of the aging population across South Florida.

He also serves as a local pastor and as an adjunct professor at Trinity International University, where he is teaching a course on diversity and aging. Juan has a master’s degree in counseling and psychology and is a licensed mental health counselor intern.

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Juan Gallo

This blog is a frank conversation about what it means to age in our society.

I want us to consider what a wider range of diverse experiences when we talk about aging. I want to reflect on how we, as a community, want our neighbors and our mothers and fathers and our grandparents to live out their latter decades of life. I want us to consider each one of their voices as we strive to meet their needs.

Join me for weekly discussions about what it means to be a senior in South Florida and how we can and should respond to the growing needs of the aging population.

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