Mind Your Elders
I’m getting some pushback about the term Olderhood. “Why not Elderhood” “Why or Seniorhood” I am asked. “I don’t want to be old.” they tell me.
I called it Olderhood because everyone is older than someone. First graders hold sway over kindergarden kids. High school kids disdain the junior high group. Seniors are the elders to the Freshman class.
As we move through life we are getting older, and this column is not directed solely at the 80+ crowd. There are things of interest hopefully for the 50 year olds, just relaxing into the idea they aren’t 30 anymore. The whole point is to move past the pejorative inherent in the word old. So many great things are older:
Dutch Master paintings
Gold Pocket Watches
Cast Iron Pans
But the problem is that some people give up, or they never cared. They slop around in elastic waistbands, eat gallons of ice cream in front of the TV and wonder why aging has a bad rep. Those folks that still exercise, get regular haircuts, cut their toenails and stay involved are perceived as younger and more energetic and largely they are those qualities because they stay relevant, involved, concerned.
Relevancy gives you purpose and meaning. Relevancy connects you, binds you to good things, keeps you appropriate to the times. Demands a contribution.
I don’t love that my vessel is getting a little frayed and my visage is not as dewy, but I love my life and the wisdom and temperament I have gained. Can you find joy in being more focused? Peace in letting go of some ‘shoulds’? Are your happier knowing more about who you are? All that happens on the continuum of getting older.
Be proud of it. Flaunt your wisdom. Hold your gray head high. Let your eyes sparkle.
In the words of Nora Ephron who I adore:
“In fact, looking back, it seems to me that I was clueless until I was about fifty years old.”
I saw your column in the Good Times alt newsweekly. As a geriatric social worker, I appreciate how you are pro-actively seeking to foment community support for neighborhood elderly – Olderly? – in the Santa Cruz area. I would encourage you to partner with and query other olderhood advocates, how each of us – even those working in “awful nursing homes” – are instrumental in creating the best olderhood possible for people in our communities, statewide, even nationwide. As for “olderhood” being problematic for people, well, it’s a reminder if our finitite existence and mortality. That’s pretty disturbing! If you get a chance, I recommend Googling Terror Management Theory, and/or reading Ernest Becker’s “Denial of Death”. Best wishes to you in all your endeavors.