I HATE aging for many reasons: The more time that goes by, the more people I love die; newly surfaced physical changes continue to impact my independence; and the bottoms of my feet are drying up like my grandmother’s soles used to be.
I LOVE growing old: I own myself, my thoughts, and my actions. My confidence is increasingly unshakable; I do not give one hoot about what others think of me (what a relief that is); there is less drama and frenzy among me and my friends; I no longer fear being vulnerable; and I am extremely grateful for every little good thing (especially clean and accessible running water).
Every wrinkle is hard-earned – years of smiling, crying, and dealing with the stuff of life. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
What is old age for?
When we are young, we look forward to claiming our adult status. Free at last! There does not appear to be a similar rush into elderhood. Steeped in myth and mystery, we question whether old age is a stale leftover from a productive adulthood or a dreaded anomaly.
In the Western culture, few people understand the central purposes of old age. The consequence is a culture in crisis: Ageism; elder abuse; anti-aging campaigns; ableism; and an increasing separation between the young and the old.
Who does these sorts of things? We all do – professionals, family, marketing experts, and old people themselves.
Blaming others for not respecting old people, for whatever reason, is part of the same attitude that keeps people oppressing other groups – women, teenagers, poor and working class, people of color, people living with disabilities, and homosexuals, among others.
Age discrimination is real, unfair, illegal, and a serious crime against all humanity. Like everybody else, I welcome the day when old people are treated with respect and dignity; but until then what is needed is an updated public conversation about people respecting people, period. Respect is earned, and not based on age.
With many people aging alone, we simply cannot afford to alienate one another. It takes an inclusive community mindset to get through life. We are all in this together. Our fates and destinies are bound together. Why can’t we just respect each other? We can – but it is up to each of us to act accordingly.
In the meantime, I know plenty of people who wage daily war on their own aging process, feeling no more content with each passing year, and finding it extremely difficult to cope as they grow old.
Which camp are you in?