The Importance of Elder Engagement with Current Events

An elderly man with gray hair sips coffee from a white mug while reading a newspaper. He is wearing a blue shirt and appears focused on current events. The background is plain and gray.

By Sydney Clevenger

With their many years of acquired wisdom, elders can teach younger generations a lot. But they can’t share if they are not informed.

“Many baby boomers are news junkies,” said Mitch Goldstein, a Life Enrichment Coordinator at Cedar Sinai Park‘s Rose Schnitzer Manor Active Assisted Living. “I learn so much about the world from them. They are such an untapped resource.

“But if an elder is isolated, they can’t share what they know. It’s important to engage them in conversations about current happenings.”

Goldstein coordinates a monthly round-up of events, mixing together recent news headlines with humor, trivia, notable birthdays, and questions to make participants remember, think, and share.

“Recently, it was the anniversary of Jimmy Durante’s birthday, and I had pictures of Jimmy on the screen, and everyone knew who he was and was reminiscing about his songs and television show,” said Goldstein. “It was a great way to trigger memories, and get everyone talking, and then thinking about today’s actors and comedians and singers.”

To keep up with current happenings, Goldstein recommends that elders join or start a group on current events, read national newspapers, go to the library, or have conversations with loved ones about what they’re reading and thinking.

“News Hour on Oregon Public Broadcasting has a good balance of information, covering all sides of current topics,” he said.

Coming together to discuss current events is not only educational, but social.

“About eight of us sat and kept talking in different groups after our last session, including my wife and I,” said Goldstein. “Elders are looking for opportunities to challenge their minds, in a setting where they can be informed, and are allowed to express themselves, and laugh about information they think is funny.”

One caveat about news sharing?

“The news seems so bad all the time,” said Goldstein. As much as it’s important to stay mentally connected, “it’s important for elders to take breaks from the news. Be sensitive to your own mental health needs, and care for yourself.”

Diane, for example, said she likes to stay up on what’s happening, but she limits her news consumption to radio only so she does not have to see visuals that could be upsetting. She prays for a better world, and says she is glad her children are strong people, as the news has not gotten better from the time she was a girl. She also loves Goldstein’s news sessions which she describes as “amazing.”

“We curate a lot to be sensitive, and try to strike a balance,” said Goldstein. “We have kibbitz questions that are taken from the headlines, and then people get to weigh in, and sometimes we split into groups and argue different sides. There are a lot of really smart people who offer their opinions.

“It’s a learning opportunity, but so fun. I love having conversations with everyone.”