Compassion sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others. It  motivates people to go out of their way to help the physical, mental or emotional pains of another and themselves.

You see compassion every time someone goes out of their way to help another person. But how much compassion do people have for the elderly?

In a video created by New Zealand Police, an elderly woman is seen walking around, looking very lost and worried.

She’s wearing only a nightgown and socks, clutching a soft toy – clearly not meant to be out for the day –  and she’s confused, but many people ignore her and walk right past.

This social experiment shows an evident lack of compassion, until a kind woman approaches the lost woman and simply asks “are you alright, sweetheart?”  

The elderly woman explains that she got lost, and the kind passerby then says “ok, I’ll help you. Come with me” and she warmly puts her arm around her and leads her away.

The elderly woman is an actor, not really a lost resident, but the woman who helps her does not know that.

All the people who walked right passed her were also unaware of the cameras and the ruse. It’s devastating seeing the woman looking so helpless as people walk right past her.

Though the video was initially created to demonstrate characteristics of an officer, it really raises the question “would you have helped this lost elderly woman?”

Compassion is often forgotten when it comes to the elderly – regardless of if they are strangers or our own loved ones – but why has that happened?

Is it because we’ve all become too focused on our own lives and daily activities? Or is it because society sees the elderly as a burden that they have little to offer?

This can often lead to social isolation, which is incredibly detrimental to a person’s physical and mental well-being. It’s even been suggested that social isolation speed up the rate of age related conditions such as dementia.

What to do if you come across a lost and confused older person?

Mental Health First Aid International have created a guide that helps people with how to behave is they come across a confused older person, especially if they are exhibiting signs of dementia.

You should;

  • Gently introduce yourself to the person and offer help.
  • Adopt a caring attitude and an approach that communicates warmth and respect, show that you have the person’s best interests at heart.
  • Try to understand the person’s perspective about why they are wandering, because this may assist you to respond in an appropriate way.
  • Ask the person if you can contact a family member or friend.
  • See if the person has any needs that you could help them meet, e.g. they may be thirsty, hungry or need to go to the toilet.
  • Check whether the person is injured because they may be unable to communicate that information effectively.
  • Try any approach that may help you connect with the person and gain their trust.

They warn that “if you encounter a person who is lost, be aware that they may have impaired judgement regarding their own safety and that they may have health problems affecting their movement and orientation”. 

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