As we grow old, we may start feeling less important, less valued and start feeling as if we are not good enough anymore to cut it in the world and with younger people. As a result, many older adults start questioning themselves. They may start to think that they are not good enough, that they are less valuable than others.
Whilst the above may be tough to read, it is true and it is harsh. The way older adults perceive and answer the question of ‘do we matter now that we are old’ is very indicative of societal norms pertaining to old age. One may ask and question – what does it mean when we say the word ‘matter’? Flett & Heisel (2021) discuss that the phenomenon of ‘mattering’ is the perception of feeling important to other individuals,
feeling valued and feeling that other people care.
The Need to Matter
The need to matter is relevant and important to all people of all ages, across all backgrounds. How nice is it to feel valued by your loved ones, to feel appreciated by those that you know care about you? Now take a look at it from another lens. Imagine someone who has been appreciated and valued for all of their life. However, upon retirement age and/or when they start to be considered as an ‘older adult’, they become neglected.
How difficult is that to deal with?
Building on the above, older adults are no different to people of other ages. They retain the basic need and necessity to feel connected to loved ones and to others in their circles, rather than being seen as someone unimportant. If this is the case, then they may easily feel unwanted and unloved, possibly leading to other issues such as withdrawal from social circles, which may lead to further complications, such as significant mental health issues like depression and anxiety.
The Effects of COVID-19
During this reading, we cannot continue without mentioning the elephant in the room – the global pandemic that is COVID. Without a doubt, many world governments have
produced policies and safety measures to help prioritise the safety of older adults. These have indeed worked, to the benefit of the health of older adults. However, they may also have been counterproductive in that all the policies characterised all of the older adults as the same (Flett & Heisel, 2021). This potentially resulted in policies that failed to reflect the differences amongst older adults and the various abilities that they may have possessed. As a result of the above and social distancing measures, many older adults continued to question whether they were good enough and whether they mattered to society.
My message to you is, indeed, you do matter. You matter a whole lot, and whilst it may seem like people do not care, the world cares, and you are more than good enough to continue contributing to society.
If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach here
Mr Yaser Teebi works as a Clinical Psychology Practitioner at Willingness, and works with patients with complex issues, including depression, anxiety, trauma, chronic pain, grief and cognitive impairment. Mr Teebi has graduated from the following degrees with Merit: Bachelor of Psychology (Hons), a Master of Gerontology and Geriatrics , and a Master of Psychology in Clinical Psychology, all at the University of Malta. He is currently reading for a PhD in Clinical Psychology and Geriatrics at the University of Birmingham.
Flett, G. L., & Heisel, M. J. (2021). Aging and Feeling Valued Versus Expendable During the COVID-19 Pandemic and Beyond: a Review and Commentary of Why Mattering Is Fundamental to the Health and Well-Being of Older Adults. International journal of mental health and addiction, 19(6), 2443–2469. https://