Generic Drugs
Elders and Inflation

Hopeful, Open, in Love with Life – and Old

category_bug_ageism.gif Somewhere in my wanderings around the web, I found this short profile on a 60-plus blogger's home page:

“In my heart, I’m still young – hopeful, open and in love with life.”

Counteracting common statements such as this is one of the reasons I started Time Goes By. They abound in all corners of our culture perpetuating the belief that to be old is to be without joy, enthusiasm and wonder. Some variations you’ve heard all your life:

  • She’s 70 years young
  • You’re only as old as you feel.
  • You don’t look 60.
  • The secret to staying young is (just about anything).

My particular pet peeve is “I don’t feel (50, 60, 70, etc.)” Well, of course you do. Whatever you feel is what that age feels like.

What people usually mean when they repeat these commonplaces is that the person so described is not (yet) decrepit. The problem is that they reinforce the ingrained belief that youth is the gold standard of life. They support negative attitudes toward aging and are so frequently spoken that most people saying them, writing them or hearing them are unaware of their ageist effects, one of which is self-hatred.

Frequency and repetition lead to acceptance of the “truth” of a statement, as every advertiser knows. A good example is the plethora of hair color commercials and print ads that use as their primary selling point the promise to cover gray hair. The internalized message in viewers of all ages is that gray and, therefore, age is bad.

It is particularly disturbing when these statements are used by elders against themselves and other old people. That blogger quoted above can so little imagine there is joy and enthusiasm in old age that he or she must publicly claim a facsimile of youth to feel worthy.

It is not entirely the blogger’s fault. From the cradle, we are bombarded with insidiously negative attitudes – subtle and overt - toward the old, repeated until they feel as irrefutable as gravity. A step toward changing the cultural bad attitude toward age is for elders to stop doing it to ourselves.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, the winner of the Excellence in Storytelling Award for June 2008.]


Comments

Y'know, I'm sure I say those things all the time myself. I KNOW better, but they're so ingrained. I really like it when you bring these things up. We DO see them everywhere and get so darned used to them that we don't even notice. We don't even realize what we're saying. You just keep pointing them out and one fine day... :)

In times past, and not too far past, the older members of the community were revered as sages and bearers of the community's collective memory. They were treasured for their age. This was the attitude instilled into me by my parents.

It would be interesting to research when the shift happened, when the old began to be shuttled off the stage as active, viable members of the community into some sort of half-life existence of the not-young. Ronni, you may have come across this in your reading.

At any rate, it has been proven over and over that you believe what you say. And if you say, wittingly or unwittingly, that you must take on the attributes of the young to be a valid member of society, you will come to believe it.

I often wonder how long the young-is-good, old-is-bad attitude will last with the movement of millions of baby boomers into retirement over the next couple of decades? What will be the attitude toward the old in 2020?

I remember when Gloria Steinem turned 50 and a reporter told her she didn't look 50. She replied, "This is what 50 looks like on me." I thought it a pretty good comeback and have swiped it many times -- inserting my age of course. I like myself better at 61 than I ever have in my decades on this planet so I don't mind being old -- it beats the alternative.

YES!!
This is something I, too, have been banging on about for years. (See for example this
article
I wrote in one of my newsletters). It is at the very heart of the ageism that pervades our culture.

I think the basic problem is that when we are young we cannot imagine what it would feel like to be old. So when we see people getting older on the outside we imagine that there must be corresponding changes happening on the inside. We assume that as we age, our own inner sense of 'me-ness' will radically change.

It's an erroneous assumumption, of course, but we don't know any better. So when we discover that our sense of 'me-ness' stays very much the same throughout our life span, then instead of realising that the whole premise was false we tell ourselves and others that despite our outer changes we have 'stayed young' on the inside. Which is just plain daft.

I think there is often a certain, subtle boastfulness/one-upmanship element to it as well. An unspoken message that says "I'm different, I'm special, I've remained young at heart - unlike all you other poor sods who got old and decrepit."

I think we should all make a point of challenging this stuff whenever and wherever we encounter it.

Ronni, the incidiousness of stereotypical thinking in contemporary thought processes is amazing.

Madison Avenue has driven this country to believe in some silly and outright crazy concepts.

Age discrimination is but one symptom of a wacky set of priorities.

I wonder if we'll see it change in our lifetimes.

Rich

I think this sums it up:
"From the cradle, we are bombarded with insidiously negative attitudes – subtle and overt - toward the old, repeated until they feel as irrefutable as gravity."
And, unfortunately, the positive aspects such as wisdom and experience seem to fade into the background nowadays.
I remember my daughter asking my mum what it felt like to be 'old' and she replied, "In my head I feel just the same now as I did when I was in my twenties. It's just the little aches and pains that remind me I'm getting older."
Now I know exactly what she meant!

It's something I don't understand either when this all turned as it has. I honestly don't remember it when I had grandmothers still alive but maybe it was and I was simply on the other side of it. They didn't talk about wanting to be young again (nor did my mother or mother-in-law and they all fully looked their ages, but it was okay to be their age. I don't think there was so much emphasis on doing everything possible to look younger until more recently. If there was, I didn't hear it or pay attention to it.

My personal goal has never been to look younger once I got old enough that it would be possible to worry about that. I just wanted to look good for where I was (some days that's enough of a struggle). To me youth is not automatically beautiful, nor is old age automatically not beautiful. Some is the spirit of the person, not to deny who they are or where they are, but that they still have dreams, goals, work for things, and love life. That isn't an age thing as even youths don't necessarily have all or any of those qualities.

We took photos this week-end with our whole family posing for a camera set with 10 second delay at a place that we have done it now three times starting in 1999. Boy can I see the changes in me and my husband but also my grown kids and their little kids. Life goes on and aging is a factor in it-- fight it or accept it and make the most of it. Some would like to think everything stays the same but it doesn't, not on anything in life. That's its beauty and yes sometimes its tragedy.

I will be back later to comment. I am just trying to see if by clicking "refresh" the comment section works.

Voila

I'll just keep on having fun . . .

We just spent a day in the company of my cousins, ages 70 and 74, and they have more energy than some 40 year-olds I know. Me too. It's all in your attitude, I think.

I don't mind being old. What I can't stand is being invisible. Perhaps that is why some elders "wear purple"

I remember my grandmother telling me how pretty she was when she was young. She seemed melancholy as she described her younger self. Now that my granddaughter asks me why the skin on my hands are wrinkled, I think, how can I stop this cycle of thinking? I want to stop this kind of thinking. I too sometimes feel invisible, but I want to continue to be heard and seen. And I will be...

So I was gardening for this senior woman in my neighborhood & when she went to pay me, I opened my wallet and she spied my senior bus tickets. She was shocked when I told her I get these tickets cheap. She said "well how come? You aren't a senior." I said "yes I am. I just turned 65."

Her mouth formed a complete O.

I said without hesitation. "I never lie about my age. How old are you, by the way?" She hemmed and hawed, shuffled her feet and said "I'm 71."

I thought, how come so many women are afraid to say how old they are?

Hiding it just makes us seem ashamed to be alive, still.

Go out there and blast off your age. Say it loud and clear, and if anyone doesn't like it, give them the finger.

You worked for your age, now bask in it.

I was thinking just yesterday that I am tired of euphemisms, be it elder, senior, oldster, young at heart, senior citizen or any other.

I am 60. I am old. Once I was young. Now I am not. Someday -- if I am lucky -- I will be older than I am now. Being older will not diminish how old I am now. It may give me a different perspective on it.

What is so doggone bad about saying, "I am old." It's a concise word with a nice ring that sums it up in three letters.

Yes, it's me you were writing about and I certainly don't try to hide my age--I was merely expressing myself with a figure of speech (sorta like the brouhaha about the Obama cartoon) to convey a certain state of mind that old, crotchety folks might not be in touch with. Hint, hint...My father lived until he was 95 and he although he was old, he had a youthful spirit--what's wrong with that?!

Right on! Loved this post..."a facsimile of youth." Wow.

OLD = ONLY LIFE DOUBLED....therefore when you are sixty you are really one hundred and twenty...remember we are given-if lucky-three score years and ten...so make each one a blessing now and thereafter and keep on blogging, Ronni and folks..L'CHAIM

I am 48. I come from Korea, where old is still revered, but is slowly being destroyed by western thinking.

I love reading (all) your perspectives because I agree with so many of them. I am SO glad that I don't feel in my head like I felt in my 20's. The best part of growing old is that your thinking is so much better! I do sigh mournfully about the smooth skin of my 20's. That's because I wasted so much time worrying about what others thought of me, or how my breasts were perfect or some such nonsense. If I appreciated myself as a woman like I should have, instead of the garbage from pop culture, then I don't think I would mourn my younger self.

I was at my 30 yr HS reunion. We had ALL gotten older, so we were on an even playing field. But, I was happy, more secure and mature and had a GREAT TIME. Why? Because I was older!!

http://blackbeltoma.blogspot.com/2008/07/ive-been-keeping-something-from-you.html

Sheesh - I meant "breasts WEREN'T perfect."

I think I would prefer not to be "young at heart". I remember the emotional turmoil of my youth and am grateful to have left that behind. I have compassion for the young at heart, I remember what that was like.

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