In the five years I've been doing this blog, the amount of attention paid to elders from all media has exploded. That's because the baby boomers started turning 60 and our consumer society is ever-ready to exploit a market.
It is exhausting to sift through the email PR that arrives daily by the box load, the magazines and websites targeting elders (and who I've come to think of now as “pre-elders”) along with the as-yet unread books about aging stacked around my desk.
It's not that there is too much of it, although that's true. It that they all want me to be doing, doing, doing.
It's not too late to earn a degree, they say. Play these brain games or lose your mind. Start a home-based business. Find a husband (or wife). Join a gym. Write a book. It's time for your dream job. Organize your finances. Redecorate your home. Be a zoomer. Whew. I wasn't that busy when I was 30.
Then there are the self-improvement instructions: How not to act your age (Hint: never, ever reference anything in conversation that took place more than ten years ago.) Update your hairstyle. The best anti-aging products. Bikinis for the 40-plus woman. Sexier feet in seconds. What Botox and Resveritrol can do for you. And most popular of all, Doing IT after 60, as though I don't have half a century of practice.
Most of this stuff reads like it has been repurposed from Seventeen or Cosmopolitan magazine. It's all about the pretense of youth, remaining a midlife adult forever, denying age and its differences from earlier years. There is more than a whiff of parental supervision in the attitude of these stories – that the writers know what is best for elders (not that they would go near that word), and how we should live, which is mostly just like 35-year-olds.
I worked hard for 50 years usually at jobs that involved eight days a week. I was luckier than many people; most of my jobs were interesting, fun and gave me an opportunity to learn a lot. Keeping up my appearance for those jobs (and, I admit, for men) took a lot of time, money and energy. That was kind of fun too, then. Friends, entertaining, cooking, travel, community organizations and other personal interests filled the time I wasn't catching up on sleep and there weren't many empty days.
My needs and desires are different now and often slower. I like to linger with the hanging moment between sunset and dark. To watch the seagulls soar. To re-read favorite old books that have been patiently waiting for me since I placed them on the shelf long ago. To sit quietly listening to the music instead of merely hearing it on the fly. More often than in the past, I turn inward these days. I am more interested in being than in doing quite so much, and particularly not the things I've done before.
Those magazines and websites push activities on me that are more suited to youth and midlife and suggest that I'm not living up to someone's idea of elderhood if I don't keep repeating them. I can't be alone in wishing the marketers and magazines had a better handle on old age, can I? I would like to read some other people's thoughts on how old age is different from earlier stages of life, how our viewpoints change, what getting old is really like - or could be if we were not always being urged to conform to what younger editors think we should be.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, William Weatherstone again: Alzheimer's Part 6 – A Rude Awakening