Getting Old Does Not Suck!

Enjoying my age!

The woman looked at me with what I can only describe as pity as she said, “Getting old sucks.” I started to counter her assumption.  I found it condescending.  Then I closed my mouth. I was already in the middle of a disagreement with her; I didn’t want to add fuel to the fire.

Getting old does not suck. What sucks is the view our society holds about getting old.

We all knew people who didn’t make it this far in life — relatives, friends, classmates, co-workers and neighbors who passed away at a younger age, perhaps even as children. People who didn’t get to fall in love, have a career, reach their full potential, buy a house, the first car, go to college, have children or see children grow or enjoy grandchildren.

No, getting old does not suck. It’s a privilege, a gift.

Yet, people still young, as well as some our age, look at aging as if it’s a disease, at the very least a time of decline, both physically and mentally. I have my share of infirmities, but most are not the result of old age. I had polio at three, which surfaces years later as post-polio syndrome. I also have occasional pain in my lower back, the result of lifting something too heavy for me when I was a mere nineteen. We all have health issues, some worsening from aging. Eventually, the parts will wear out. However, when I see a YouTube of an 89 year-old gymnast vaulting and landing on her feet, I realize the old adage of use it or lose it certainly applies.

Cognitive decline is not inevitable. Recent research and studies at most major universities around the world have shown the adult mind can continue to grow. The brain has plasticity meaning it can form new synaptic connections. We often think of children and young adults as the ones with growing minds. But adults at any age can continue to grow mentally if they exhibit the same curiosity, sense of adventure and learn new things just as they did earlier in life.  These discoveries are changing the view of aging, albeit slowly.

Ashton Applewhite, author of This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism, is at the forefront of changing the stereotypes of what it means to get old. We all age. My grandchildren are aging. With kids, we refer to them as ‘growing up’; with over 60’s, we refer to them as aging. We suddenly become seniors, the elderly, the aged, old codgers. We also begin to be talked to as if we were the children, condescending talk.  Talk as if we are incompetent.  Or worse yet, we are ignored. Since I stopped coloring my hair, letting it go to its natural gray, I’m suddenly dear, sweetie, young lady and on and on or I’m invisible altogether.

I took Applewhite’s cue and used a situation as a teaching moment for an early twenties server at a restaurant. I noticed the couple at the next table who appeared to be in their late thirties were called ‘ma’am’ and ‘sir’. I’d finally had enough of being called ‘dear’ so I told the server not to call me that. She looked at me puzzled and said, “Why?” My reply, “Because my name is Kathy, not dear. If I were your age, would you call me dear?” She didn’t know what to say. Maybe I raised her consciousness; maybe she thought I was just a crabby old lady. I don’t know. But if we are to change the way old age is viewed, the change starts with us.

Our society views aging as something to be cured or fought as in anti-aging creams and makeups, botox injections, plastic surgery and medications to combat normal body changes that come with maturity. One woman, upon seeing my graying hair, told me, “If I stopped coloring my hair, my husband would divorce me.” I have no idea if their relationship is that superficial, but in our youth obsessed culture, not dying has apparently been known to spark a divorce. Fortunately, we are seeing more and more gray haired models like Cindy Joseph, defying the idea that old is washed up, has been and not beautiful.

Getting old does not suck. Attitudes suck. Do not pity me, feel sorry for me or patronize me. I’m having a good time being old and retired.  You, too will be here someday. And, when you are, stay engaged with the world, realize that your brain still works and can grow, endeavor to try new activities, learn something. Realize you are still beautiful and vibrant. Stay physically active. Recognize ageism and use teachable moments to change attitudes. You are one of the lucky ones. Getting old is a gift. Do not squander it by believing in stereotypes.

 

 

 

Advertisements

43 comments on “Getting Old Does Not Suck!

  1. I wish I could have “liked” this multiple times! You are so right about getting older being a gift. Life is not all peaches and cream, but a positive attitude and active engagement make a huge difference. I haven’t been called “dear” yet by a server, but I imagine my response would be similar to yours.

    Like

  2. We were out taking a walk this morning and passed a young family. I said hello and heard the young boy say “That’s a Grandmother . . . and a Grandfather.” We both smiled. We love being grandparents. Thanks for your articles, we enjoy them.

    Marti

    Like

  3. Kathy, you have given me a new outlook and maturing. I too had polio at the age of three. And since then I have never stopped moving forward over the many hurdles I have had. I love your optimistic outlook on adding years to our lives. Notice I have refrained from using the word aging, old, Senior, etc.

    Barb

    Like

  4. Yes, the “dear” thing. I always respond, “No, I’m not a deer, I’m a snow leopard. I used to be a fox, and was, for a time, a cougar, but now I’m a snow leopard, thank you very much.” It isn’t the perfect response but it does give them pause for thought. Moving from that place of privilege we all enjoyed in our youth and as working adults to being the target of jokes and prejudice is sobering.

    The other day I was passing by the television where, on an action show, an older woman made a subtle suggestion to a younger man that payment for some task or other could be in a “non-financial” form. Of course, this was supposed to be too ludicrous to even consider. *sigh*

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh I like your response. At least maybe they’ll understand AND you’ll get good service. I know someone who leaves a teeny tiny tip but the server won’t know why. Yes, it is sobering indeed to find ourselves having to raise the consciousness level one last time. K

      Like

  5. I totally agree! This post should be a “Letter to the Editor” in major city newspapers around the country. We need more examples for ourselves and younger people of positive attitudes toward getting older, which, as you said, happens to everyone!

    Like

  6. Love your article. Love your blog. Love your new picture. Love you.

    I was continually called ‘honey’ by the young male MRI operator who shoves people in and out of that special giant thing all day. They were looking for the cause of whatever caused my serious TIA. Their tray wasn’t working just right, and he kept reassuring ‘honey’ about their competence. I’d blacked out, lost my left peripheral vision, wrecked my car and had gone lights and sirens to two hospitals and hadn’t showered or combed my hair in recent memory. And I was still lucid and kicking. I figured I looked like hell. “If you really mean that,” I cooed, “keep calling me honey.” I tried to give him sexy look. Otherwise my name is Claudia or if you prefer, Mrs. ——. I resisted saying “Don’t patronize me you little ******.” I instantly became m’am. 🤗

    Like

  7. Thanks so much for this kick in the pants Kathy – I’ve been feeling so old since the breast cancer treatment and losing my estrogen patch forever- my doctor told me it was just in my head, and I think she is right – I just need to change my attitude. I had taken on a view that I’m not going to live long which makes planning anything fun and/or mind-stretching hard. Ha. So now I’ve decided to live until 80 (my dad died at 53 and my mom at 61 so this seems a stretch) because it is a lot less stressful than thinking you might keel over any minute! You are right – it IS a privilege to live a long life.

    Like

  8. You set wind to my sails fire to my heart. To read as I live and believe in these words through the thickets of attitudes we tread. On we go Kathy for we hold dear our straight paths and there fore straighten others as we sail.
    Thank you so much for the pleasant wind in my sails.

    Like

  9. You are so right that these years we have right now are a privilege. And I’m trying to keep myself both physically and cognitively able to enjoy them. I might not ever be a vaulting gymnast, but I’m gonna be able to get down on the floor with the kids (as I did today to the shock of a few others of similar age to me).

    Like

  10. Very well thought out and written and so true. Thanks for sharing.
    I experience a rather different and unusual experience being the age I am (76 soon to be 77 later this year) – I cannot remember all the times my wife and I enter a restaurant, movie theater, store, or what have you only to have the clerk say “Welcome ladies, can I help you?” Most times I just pass it off but other times it is so frustrating. My wife says it is my hair because I do have a healthy head of hair for my age but………… Okay, I have rambled on enough. Again thanks for sharing your thoughts on the aging process – I agree with you whole-heartedly.

    Like

  11. So well said! I couldn’t agree more. I will be 70 on my next birthday, and this is the best time of my life (and not because the rest of my life sucked!). Yes, there are some aches and pains that I didn’t have when I was younger, but they are more than offset by the benefits and virtues of age.

    Like

  12. I love this post Kathy, it speaks to my heart and my experience. I have always hated being called dear and I have no hesitation in calling that out. Hey if we are to be considered old dears we might as well be considered grumpy old dears. I am all for speaking out whether in a restaurant or a retail store or any other situation.

    Like

  13. Thank you so much for this post. I used to fall into the crowd of viewing age as a disease, and I didn’t realize quite how much I viewed age as a disease until I suddenly found myself doing anti-ageism work. I hope this post raises awareness among others about aging and ageism, just as my work helped raise awareness within me about aging and ageism.

    Like

  14. I wanted to write a comment that was so well thought out about how much I love this post. However, I decided to write exactly what I thought as I read it.

    Hurray, someone gets it!

    Like

  15. I love this article and will be sending it on to friends. At times I get discouraged at certain body parts not working as well as they used to. But the past year I have participated in an exercise class at our local YMCA that helps older adults maintain and grow strength, flexibility and immunity. I did this because I pulled a muscle in my knee, then couldn’t exercise as much as I had been so other muscles were getting pulled and I felt like things were “falling apart”! But they weren’t. Now I am able to walk an hour at a time, my shoulder and back are stronger and more good results are happening. It was so good to see a 70 year old woman can rebuild very well with proper exercise.
    I also enjoy my wise perspectives and time to find and nurture new friendships and interests!
    Your article reminds me of the positives in aging!

    Like

  16. Thank you for this well spoken piece. I just retired and have become aware that pretty much any age past 55 is well just invisible. I wrote an author I liked yesterday to call him out on talking about his characters who were in their fifties as still “spry” and other demeaning adjectives acting as if anyone in their 50’s were truly elderly. I think I am going to be one of the ones to try and nicely yet firmly set the world right about aging!!! Enjoy your blog!!!! Julie

    Like

  17. I so agree with everything that’s been said about this topic. I can’t really add that much more, but the one thing that I have noticed over a period of time is that when having a conversation with someone or several, if I pause for a second to gather my thoughts, someone wants to jump in and interrupt or interject their own opinion before I can finish what I was saying. It is very frustrating. This is especially true when conversing with someone much younger.

    Like

    • I liked your article Eloise as it is so true. In our youth culture, which to answer your question, I believe is spawned by the skin care industry praying on our insecurities about our looks, wrinkles are somehow taboo. And, their products are not going to remove them, minimize them or anything else. In fact, the FDA has warned more than one manufacturer about their advertisements. Years ago I remember seeing an ad in a magazine for a skin cream and realized the model they were using was a 14 year old I had recently read about!!! Of course, she didn’t have wrinkles. Both absurd and ageist. K

      Liked by 1 person

  18. I am a dissenter. To me, being called “dear” or “sweetie” or “hon” isn’t offensive at all. There are entirely too many wedges being driven between people now, more than at any other time in our history. We are constantly being called upon to be Christian or Muslim, Republican or Democrat, young or old. The list goes on and on. How about we get upset at the things that could make a difference – like hate or injustice or racism? Lashing out at a server or a medical technician over what could be perceived as a term of endearment doesn’t help young people understand that we aren’t all crabby old people. Although I am not yet retired (RN, gray haired – and I’ve called people “dear”), I am nearing it. Growing old IS a privilege, I want to be a good ambassador for the cause.

    Like

    • Thank you for your comment but it looks like you are missing the point. Ageism is considered by many to be the last form of discrimination to be addressed by our culture…right up there with hate, injustice and racism. No one is lashing out at servers or medical technicians…we are trying to raise awareness of this subtle form of patronizing older members of our society. It’s a matter of respect. When my husband calls me dear, it is an endearment. When a complete stranger, who is an employee of an establishment where I am a customer, calls me dear, it is rude, unprofessional and patronizing. I made three calls this morning because the medical field can’t seem to figure out that I no longer have the insurance I had prior to my 65th birthday (despite my giving them my newly minted medicare and Plan F cards). Every last one of them called me dear…to one I was dearie…complete strangers on the other end of phone call. That is not an endearment; that is unprofessional and something I did not encounter until my retirement. It seems to be flourishing in the medical profession with the addition of my medicare card. Let me know how you feel about this after you retire and no longer have RN after your name. Also read some of the other comments including one where the writer says he was not aware of how he viewed aging as a disease until he was involved in a program at work to raise awareness about ageism. I agree that we have many wedges between us, but I also believe many of the wedges are because we live in a time of apathy toward the feelings of others, a lack of acceptance of an integrated culture and fear of change. K

      Liked by 1 person

  19. When we lose an ability we gain something else ; physical activity is not everything , who can play football at forty? Decline puts us in our place and lowers our conceited sense of self – importance , helping us to see the super- confidence of youth in a new light.

    Like

  20. Loved your blog! Yes we are lucky to have achieved our goals and I am happily retired recently and finding my way ! And I hate when people call me “honey”! We should be respected and not patronized. One thing I am realizing with retirement is we have more time to be creative and decide what and when we want to do things.

    Like

  21. Pingback: Ageism cuts both ways: Don’t Discount the Kids | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

    • Yes, as with most things, ageism is a double-edged sword. Yes, I’ve had a few conversations with kids, including my grandkids, who had differently colored hair. It was my granddaughters who told me about wash out colors. The vibrant blue gives new meaning to the saying ‘blue haired old lady’ and has created a lengthy dialogue between me and a spiky-haired young man. I remember my mother being appalled that I pierced my ears and wore very short skirts! There were people who thought the Beatles were a communist plot! As with everything else, we have more in common then not. Dialogue and education are key. Thanks for sharing. K

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s