Last week a friend asked, “How old are you?” I’m not at that stage in my life when I can start bragging about my age, but I told her anyway, “I’m 72”. “Wow, you don’t look 72” was her response.
I knew she intended that to be a compliment, and I usually I take it that way. But after thinking more about what she said, I thought “But this IS what 72 looks like!” - and wondered what was her mental picture of 72?
You may have experienced these well-intentioned but veiled ageist remarks based on what our youth focused society thinks old age should look like. Should I have a wrinkled face? Should I see a walker as a sign of decline instead of a means to stay independent? Should I be disinterested in community events? Should I be technologically illiterate?
Even though we know different, we can still internalize these negative perceptions of all older adults which can affect our own health: avoiding water aerobics because we don’t want to be seen in a swimming suit; or no longer walking because we feel embarrassed using a walker.
You may have heard other well intentioned comments based on the false concept that young is better than old; or that demean and devalue a person assuming somehow they are less than who they really are. Here are a few more from the AARP website “Disrupt Aging”. What do you think?
“Grandma is so adorable.” Is grandma a puppy or a baby? “Adorable” can be demeaning when applied to an older adult.
“Can I help you young lady?” Why mention age at all? This comment just reinforces the cultural value that young is good and old is bad.
“Old dogs can’t learn new tricks.” This generalizes that anyone who is old is not educable or retrainable – such as the belief older adults can’t learn new technologies. It’s not that we can’t. It’s just that we ask the question, “Why?”
“60 is the new 30.” Now what does that mean? In our 60’s are we supposed to be the same as when we were in our 30’s? And would we really want to be?
Older adults are diverse, each with their own individual gifts, challenges and possibilities - as well as different levels of mobility, aptitude and interests. There is not one picture of what our 70’s, 80’s or 90’s should look like.
And yet - knowing how these well intentioned remarks can embody a deeper negative view of aging and older adults, the other day when I learned a friend was 86, my first thought was, “Wow, he doesn’t look 86!”
You’re lucky if you appreciate local history because as this is a leap year there is an extra “Original Courthouse Regional History Forum” on Saturday, February 29th. This week’s forum is “Famous Visitors: Guess Who Came to Dinner?” Rodger Nichols, a man of many talents as well as local historian and member of the Courthouse board, will share stories about notable folks who have come to The Dalles in the past 215 years plus some homegrown notables. The program begins at 1:30 p.m. in the 1859 courthouse behind The Dalles Chamber of Commerce/Visitors’ Center.
The hit television series first aired in 1966 where the IMF leader received his tape-recorded instructions ending with “This tape will self-destruct in 5 seconds” was Mission Impossible starring Peter Graves (the younger brother of Matt Dillion - I mean James Arness). I received correct answers from Cheri Brent, Diana Weston, Lana Tepfer, Jess Birge, Marta and Guy Moser, Jeanne Pesicka, Dave Lutgens and Ron Nelson this week’s winner of a quilt raffle ticket. And last week I missed Elaine Lee.
This superhero could be found in comic strips, theatrical shorts and television cartoons since the 30’s and was one of my favorites when growing up in the 50’s. For this week’s “Remember When” question, what was the name of the character who sang (and you can sing along at home), “I yam what I yam and that’s all what I yam, I’m ….” Email your answer to firstname.lastname@example.org, leave a message at 541-296-4788 or drop it off with a case of a certain green vegetable.
Well, it’s been another week, enjoying the early morning sunlight. Until we meet again, don’t look for what you don’t want to see.
“We have to be able to grow up. Our wrinkles are our medals of the passage of life. They are what we have been through and who we want to be.” Lauren Hutton