Interview with an Older Adult
Interviewer: Please tell me about your childhood, family and school life.
Michael: Son, My name is Michael and I was born in New York in the year 1949. The journey from my childhood until the day today is very long, but to me it seems like a blink of an eye. I lost my father when I was around five years old, and I have mixed feeling about my childhood. As a kid, I was always fond of breaking my toys in a curiosity to know what was inside it. In my childhood, I had many friends and most of our activities were physical, unlike today’s kids who now have myriad sophisticated gadgets. I had two brothers and one sister. Since, I lost my father at an early age; my mother was both our father and mother. She was an inspiration for me and she remains my hero today, as well. I was the youngest amongst my siblings; therefore, I received affection and love from all. Since my early days at school, I was never a good student. Although I never failed in any class but I even never received good grades until I was in seventh standard. My English Literature teacher transformed my personality. I never believed in myself and had low self-esteem. I will always be thankful to her. My eldest brother, Steven died four years back. He was a mechanical engineer and had three sons. The brother younger than me is a developmental activist. He roams around East Africa in his various humanitarian assignments. He has two daughters and one son. I have a large family that consists of my wife, two daughters, and two sons, and three grandchildren.
Interviewer: Do you consider yourself old? At what ages (or stages) did you notice that you were getting older?
Michael: Ageing is more related to your mental stage. The moment you have this thought in your mind that you are old to do something, you grow older. I do consider myself older in few aspects, but until I have my full body in my control, I will not consider myself that old. I was always an excellent basketball player. When I was in school, college, and university, I always took part in all sort of events related to basketball. During my professional career, I was more focused on my work, but one day our office decided to have a sports day at a nearby ground. Since I knew that I was a good basketball player, I instantly took part in basketball as part of the competition. When I practically went to the basketball court, I started to feel something different, which I never felt before. Basketball needs sheer stamina and during the game, I seriously lacked it. At that time, I realized I am no longer a good basketball player as I am old for this game. At that time, I was 45. This was the first time, I felt that I have reached the second last decade of my life journey.
Interviewer: What is the most important historical event or period of time that you have lived through? How did it influence you personally?
Michael: I have lived more than six decades of my life, but the most memorable event in my life was 9/11. I was in a restaurant in the Lower Manhattan Area when the crashed occurred. This was the most disastrous things I saw in front my eyes and I still could not believe that it all happened in front of me. I was helpless, emotionless, and completely in another world. Not only me, but this event had a big influence on the world politics. I had many Muslims friends and the way media portrayed the entire story as a clash of civilization, I began to question about their beliefs. Soon, I realized that I was wrong. The way things are depicted in media, I believe it is not the clash of civilization, but is the clash of ignorance. There is a rift between the East and the West because we are ignorant of each other. The world can be a good place, if we realize the importance of pluralism.
Interviewer: What is the biggest change you have seen in how people conduct their everyday lives? Michael: People are now more aware of the things happening around the world. Media and Internet has shrunk the world and there are more opportunities to know the culture, practices and lifestyles of others around the world
Interviewer: What have been the best years of your life so far? What are your plans for the future? Michael: I still remember when I was in my teen years. Life at that time was completely difference from these days. Heavy involvement of technology in our life has deteriorated the bonding of relationships. When I was in my teen years, watching TV together in a room along with the entire family was the joy I will never forget. Now everybody has their own gadget in their own hands and this is causing us to be apart from each other. I am planning to do organic farming. I have bought a place in the outskirt of the city, where I long with my life will be spending rest of our lives.
Interviewer: How are young people today different from when you were their age? Michael: These days, kids are more aware than ever before. They are more focused on their careers. I would again like to reiterate that the family bond is deteriorating these days. When I was a young, I had a great association with my mother, brothers, my sister, and all my close relatives. Now, the family bonding and family trends are changing. Now days, when a child crosses his teen years, he or she feels as if he is now like a free bird. This disintegration of the institution of family is the biggest difference that I feel today when I compare the years when I was young.
Interviewer: What advice would you give young people to help them prepare for their old age? Michael: Save money, be career oriented, and try to be more active in physical activities, which is vital in maintaining your physical and mental wellbeing.
Interviewer: Have you ever experienced any negative attitudes or discrimination because of your age?
Michael: Not really! I gracefully embraced the life of being an old man even before I was too old.
According to Laura (18), there are four major assumptions of development, which includes the notion that development is multidirectional and multidimensional, lifelong, affected by multiple interacting forces and highly plastic. The aforementioned interview from Mr. Michael remains under the paradigm of the theory mentioned by Laura. The well-composed, calm, and well-informed personality of Michael was due to the fact that he learnt different aspect of life from the events during his life that had strong effect on him and the way he developed himself. It was multidimensional because when he was a kid, there was less involvement of technology around him, but he adjusted to this reality and became part of the mainstream. His life was multidirectional as well because when he identified that he is willing to do organic farming in the coming years highlights the new skill he is willing to acquire with his new stage of age. The most surprising thing to me was the thought that I had in mind before conducting the interview that the elderly man will be full of complains about the way things have changed since their childhoods. To my surprise, Michael had a balance approach towards the vicissitudes of his life.
I was able to feel the way Mr. Michael must have spent his childhood and the days until now. It was a great learning opportunity for me to get insights from someone who as seen the changing world for more than six decades. His balanced view about the things around him was the best thing that I observed. His conversation made me realize the beauty of things, which are pure and natural. I completely agree with his notion about the deteriorating family bonds and the issues related with the sheer involvement of technology in our lives.
Before conducting the interview, I was of the view that that individuals should be allowed to live a free live if they reach a certain maturity level. The way Michael presented his argument, which highlights the beauty of family and relationship bonding is inspirational. According to the theorists, who support the idea of plasticity, highlights that transformation is possible if new experiences support it (Berk 19). The interview with Michael itself is a new experience for me that support my changing thoughts about my belief that I held before. After the interview, I started to question myself and came to the conclusion about the significance of family and relationship bonding.
Berk, Laura E.. Exploring lifespan development. 2nd ed. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon, 2010, 17-19