Crabby Old Lady grinds her teeth every time she sees the phrase “active aging” or is exhorted by “experts” and so-called life coaches to go back to school in her dotage, study a foreign language, take up belly dancing, do-it-yourself electrical wiring or bicycle across countries that have big, ugly bugs and no modern plumbing.
Not that there is anything wrong with those activities, but Crabby resents being made to feel that she is letting down her end of the elder culture or worse, slipping into senility if every hour of her calendar isn’t filled with self-improvement activities.
Active aging is all the rage. There is even an International Council on Active Aging that holds an annual conference and sponsors Active Aging Weeks or Active Aging Days in many cities.
There are fairs and “boot camps” for active aging, and for professionals in the field of active aging (who knew it is more than a slogan) there are seminars, a journal and at least one “summit.”
Okay, okay, Crabby understands that a lot of this active aging activity is devoted to health, fitness and getting one's butt out of the LazyBoy which can’t be a bad idea. But an even larger part is an excuse to sell products, insurance, services, memberships, vacations, exercise equipment, homes and trinkets to old people. Who needs fitness advice at an active aging event when you can walk five miles among the marketing booths.
Crabby suspects a whole lot of this active aging stuff is organized by younger adults to rake in the bucks while remaking old people into facsimiles of themselves, and she is annoyed with the coercion of old people to be busy, busy, busy. Crabby Old Lady was busy every day for the 50 years she worked for a living and she is busy now trying to make time to not be busy for some small portion of every day.
Apparently, there is at least one other person as concerned as Crabby with the desire for down time. A young mother recently wrote of a cross-country driving trip without (horrors!) a DVD player to amuse the kids in the back seat. Sara BonGiorni asks in her headline, What’s Wrong with Boredom? and continues:
“We had conversations that we would not have had if Scooby Doo, Shaggy, and the rest of the Mystery Inc. Gang were with us. With the Superstition Mountains in the distance, my husband told the children the legend of the Lost Dutchman's Mine and the many failed attempts to find the gold in the mountains near Phoenix. ‘Arizona is not as boring as Texas,’ our son declared. The children used diaper wipes to fashion capes for their animals. The baby learned to feed herself French fries with her toes.
"While there is no research on the benefits of eating French fries with your toes, I feel as if we all gained something in daydreaming out the windows. Our son sometimes settled into quiet contemplation of the landscape, which more than once he described as "big and square."
"I hope the trip gave him some of the resilience that comes from learning to entertain yourself, but I also wish for something smaller.
“Lazy, unstructured time feels like a luxury to me, and I hope that the kids learned something about valuing it instead of looking for the fastest way to burn it up before the next stop at Dairy Queen.”
- - The Christian Science Monitor, 8 September 2008
Crabby Old Lady could stop grinding her teeth down to nubbins if the growing active aging contingent, so intent on filling every moment of elders’ well-earned rest time, would take a cue from Sara BonGiorni.
[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Nana Royer reflects on being The Last Tree in the Forest in her family.]