WHY THIS TOPIC
To answer the question, I have never acted my age AND I am proud of being 75, still learning and growing. Yes, I creak a bit more and I take more pills than many to stay alive. The fact is every age has its challenges and strengths. Staying emotionally fit involves being alert to both.
But first a picture. Many of us a bit as we first age suffer mirror shock. We look like the aging woman, but think we still look like the younger one or at least a young version of ourselves. It takes a few years, but in time you do adjust or at least I did. I’m happy with the me I am now.
What follows is a guest blog from one of the gurus, I follow. He has wit and wisdom. He is a motivational speaker, an author, and frankly I often turn a bit green or cranky when I read is material. I aspire to write as he does. A goal worth striving for. This post of his goes along with a recent post on my Parents Are People Too blog about stigma.
The following post is a mild re-write of something I published a few years ago. For most of you, it will be ‘new’. As I often do, today I found myself immersed in an interesting discussion which prompted me to dig this up, dust it off and tweak it a little. Enjoy.
A while back I read an article about an ‘exceptional’ woman who had just completed her first university degree at the ripe old age (there’s a term for discussion) of seventy-seven. While the story was interesting and the woman is indeed an inspiration, I wondered why a person doing some study and passing a few exams would be reported in the newspaper. Was it newsworthy because of her age? If so, why? Are seventy-seven year-olds stupid? Do they not have a capacity to learn, grow, improve, adapt and develop new skills?
Don’t get me wrong, I think she should be congratulated on her achievement but I also think it’s a pity that, as a community, we have such low expectations of our seventy-seven year-olds that when one of them does something which millions of other people do every year, we’re surprised. Could it be that she’s not in fact exceptional but rather a normal, capable, intelligent student who happens to be older than her classmates?
There’s a thought.
The Age Rules
Perhaps her choices, behaviours and outcomes were exceptional when compared with others in her age group but why do we make age an issue? If an eighteen year-old can successfully attend college, then why can’t our senior citizens? I’ll tell you why (and thanks for asking), because you and I live in a world where we are judged, pigeon-holed and, to an extent, ruled by age. And, no, these are not always written rules but they are rules nonetheless.
Growing up, many of us were taught that age should dictate certain choices and behaviours. Old people bowl. Young people surf. Old people stay at home. Young people attend college. Old people let their brains turn into mush. Young people learn.
Such self-limiting crap.
The Value of Being Inappropriate
We have age-based rules about when we should retire. And work. Who we should date. Or not date. When we should study. When we should stop playing sport. What type of car we should drive. What music we should listen to. What we should do with our money. When we should get married. How we should exercise. And dress. And socialise. In fact, we have a range of rules about age-appropriate behaviours. And if there’s one thing I love, it’s being inappropriate. Some people are age-appropriate all the way to misery, boredom and under-achievement. How unnecessary.
Of course, I’m not so naïve and impractical as to suggest that age should never influence thinking, behaviour or decisions but as a professional people watcher, it’s been my observation that too many of us allow ourselves to be determined, as opposed to influenced, by our chronological age.
A Dirty Little Secret
Sadly, in our culture age is much more than a number. Much more than a tally of accumulated years on the planet. It’s a statement. A label. An anchor. An expectation. A limitation. A barrier. A determinant. A dirty little secret. Something to be lied about. In fact, it’s the thing people lie about the most.
What does that tell you?
Notice how when the media describes someone, they will invariably mention the person’s age (“the forty-one year-old lawyer crashed his car into…”), even when age has absolutely nothing to do with the story, the event or the situation. Why don’t they say “the blue-eyed lawyer”? Or, “the kind-of-short lawyer”? Or perhaps, “the somewhat-smelly lawyer”? Or maybe even, “the egotistical and insecure lawyer”?
All of those labels are just as relevant as age and definitely more amusing!
Old Young People
Over my journey, I have met young eighty year-olds and old forty year-olds. So have you. In real terms, age – as we experience it – is more about decisions, attitudes, beliefs and behaviours than it is numbers on a calendar. For the most part, age means whatever we decide it means.
Yes, of course we all age physiologically and with that comes certain consequences, challenges and realities. However, many people (perhaps the majority) seem to arrive at a certain figure (fifty, sixty, seventy… forty) and then overnight they become old. I’ve seen it and so have you. They somehow step into old-age like a farmer steps into cow shit. They act old because that’s the rule, the belief or the expectation and not long after, they are old.
What a waste.
Imagine living in a world where there was no record of birthdays. A world where nobody knew how old anyone was. Ever. What would we all do? How would we act? How would we know what to wear? Or drive? Or listen to? How would we know what was appropriate? How would we evaluate people without knowing their age?
Maybe the world would fall apart and mankind would perish?
The Bottom Line:
Age has a little to do with physiology and a lot to do with psychology.
EMOTIONAL FITNESS TIPS
Nothing much to add to what Craig said. I will remind you that the more people who speak out personally and in various public venue, the greater the possibility stigma will be put in its place. One gift that has come to me as I have aged, is caring less and less what others think. I can still get my feelings hurt, but I am no longer driven to conform. Life is too short to bow to other people’s opinions.
Life is a struggle, full of pain and suffering, and the aging process levels us all. Life is also full of wonder, sweetness, joy and goodness. Life is kindest to us when we share and care. If you liked Craig’s post let him know, comment or share it with others.