Older folks get enough off-handed bad press, you would almost think there is such a thing as age discrimination. So much so that the reverse is a remarkable occurrence. A reader named Melinda emailed a piece from Salon, published in May 2003, titled “News Flash: Having children won’t save you from a lonely old age.” Because Salon requires a paid subscription, I will quote liberally.
The writer, Laura Miller (our kind of young woman) was responding to one of her readers who, in wondering about children being a hedge against loneliness in old age, said:
“Sure, being old is bad…but do children make it any better?”
What I like about Ms. Miller - a lot - is that she quickly dealt with the question about children and concentrated instead on that “old is bad” statement which is a too-commonly held belief.
“What this reader, and plenty of other Americans, feels but scarcely dares to articulate,” writes Ms. Miller, “is the fear that when she is old her company will be of no value to anyone except those obligated by blood to share it.”
Ms. Miller then correctly identifies the problem: that people don’t want to face “in a forthright and unflinching way,” what it means to get old in a culture that unreasonably celebrates youth.
“…it’s almost impossible to locate any corresponding appreciation for the value in having been around for a while.”
Ms. Miller tells us that while she is not old yet, she has enough experience, so far, to have learned a lot.
“Some of it has been just stuff – facts, data – but I’ve also acquired a sense of how all that stuff fits together and how to figure out which parts of it matter and, even more important, which don’t. I believe I’ve gotten more open-minded, more tolerant…This, I think, makes me better company to others, and I know it’s made me a better companion to myself. Is there some reason why this pleasant development shouldn’t go on, well, developing?”
Oh, yes, Ms. Miller. It does go on developing and it gets better and better.
What is also terrific about her story is that Ms. Miller takes Garrison Keillor and “pompous, deluded bores” in general to task for being the only older folks who “acknowledge their own store of experience and…share what they’ve learned.”
Not anymore. It’s been 18 months since Ms. Miller published her story and since then, the list of excellent Older Bloggers over there on the left rail continues to grow, each one answering Ms. Miller’s plea: “Still, we could use a lot more expert soloists demonstrating their variations on the theme [of getting older].”
My favorite line in Ms. Miller’s story is,
“Getting older isn’t something to apologize for, for crying out loud.”
You betcha, Laura. We’re refusing to do that here every day and we appreciate your help.