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Submitted by: Patricia Bubash M.Ed., Licensed Professional Counselor

Birthday Image Free Word Clipart“You are only as old as you think you are,” It is all in your head,” and the classic, “It is only a number!”   I am sure that every one of us has heard one or more of these profound commentaries regarding age as we add pages to our calendar.    I am, also confident that the person stating these thoughtful admonishments is attempting to be positive for the listener.  And, I would guess, without much success.

Many of my friends have expressed their distress upon receiving their first copy of AARP magazine.  My female friends are crushed the first time they are referred to as “Ma’am” (this doesn’t apply to women living in the south!  Ma’am is applicable to all females, all ages!).  Most distressing of all, is the first time the cashier at the movie theatre asks. “ senior rate”?   I am confessing that for the first year or two upon acquiring senior status”; I would not accept the senior discount!   Those extra two dollars meant nothing to me if the 17 year old behind the window knew I was an “oldster”.   I was delighted—thrilled when I would, on occasion, find a place that gave discounts at 55.  It was not as painful owning up to 55, but 60, that was “tough”. Paying the extra money was worth not admitting to my years.

And, why is this an emotionally difficult time for many of us senior citizens?  As baby boomers we have worked most of our lives in productive professions; have accrued many years of life experiences, earned college degrees, and many even achieving postgraduate degrees or doctorates.   Shouldn’t our endeavors be honored, valued and admired?   Should be, but living in a society that worships youth, aging is not considered a “cool’ thing to do.

Is there any of us who have not experienced the “youngster’ at work who refers to us as “mom” or “dad”?  Younger colleagues often look upon their “older” colleagues as not being quite as savvy, up to date on technology, and oh yes, not appreciative of today’s music!   Aren’t we the ones accused of being forgetful? (our minds slipping because we are “older”!) That youngster would never forget his or her turn to bring donuts!

What really offended me was when my youngest daughter’s friends decided to affectionately call me “mom” – My issue with their choice of greeting for me was that unless I had given birth at the age of eight, there was no way that I could be this person’s mom!  They were right behind me on the calendar. Calling me by my first name made a lot more sense.  Certainly, it was more logical.   I think addressing me as a mom made them feel younger!

The real clincher for me with the age factor happened when I seriously began to write my book.   I had subscribed to a writer’s magazine.   As I was reading on ways to find editors, how to get their interest in my book, etc., a sentence loomed out at me:  “don’t tell the editor that you are retired, and now have time to write.   This creates the idea that you are older, and are just dabbling when others have been serious writers for years!” My immediate thought was, so what?   I paid my dues, or rather taxes for more than thirty years, now I want to share my experiences in written form.   The words from the magazine article re-emphasized for me, the negatives of being older.   From the author’s point of view, it wasn’t a bonus even in the writing community.

A younger friend of mine was sharing with me her distress in seeing a magazine cover illustrating the  “buff” bikinied body of Helen Mirren.   My friend who was more than ten years younger than the 65-year-old actress.  This youngster of 53 was bemoaning her less than buff figure as compared to the much older actress.  Well, good for Helen, she is showing the world that as we age like fine wine, we are getting better. (Another profound cliché to make us feel better – giving us hope).   Of course, we know Helen has personal trainers, a personal chef, and probably, an in- house gym.with all the newest equipment to aid in keeping that aging body taut.

Where did aging become a determent?   In Asian countries, people in their seventies and eighties are viewed as wise, sages, worthy to be their country’s leaders.   Frequently, I have noted that many of the Chinese dignitaries are in their late seventies or early eighties. (I pay more attention to “how” old these days – hoping I am younger than those in the headlines).   It seems to me that age is honored and revered in the Far East.

Grandma Moses Grandma Moses, 1953. New York World-Telegram and the Sun staff photographer: Roger Higgins.

We have our own testaments to the wisdom and creativity of age; Grandma Moses who did not begin to paint great masterpieces until in her seventies, Laura Ingalls Wilder who wrote the beloved series, Little House on the Prairie in her sixties.  Another sixty “ish” author, Robert James Waller.  Can anyone forget the adulterous characters in his best selling book which became the blockbuster movie, The Bridges of Madison County?  And, how about Colonel Sanders with his “finger lickin good” chicken?  The Colonel introduced his unique fried chicken recipe to the public as he entered his sixties.  Then there is our former President, George Bush, who on his 80th birthday skydived out of an airplane – a first for him…  The controversial photographer and painter, Georgia O’Keeffe was continuing to paint just weeks before her death at 98.

As another good friend and peer, advised me, embrace these years we have accumulated.   They are what make us who we are.  Finally, after all those years of working, parenting, educating ourselves, we do have time for introspection and self-awareness.  We can determine what we want to do with the last fourth of our lives; what we can still contribute – or not, rather, choosing tranquility and happiness for our lifestyle.

The offerings for exploration are great and diverse.  So many colleges, organizations, churches, and the infinite Internet provide ways for us to continue learning. and experiencing.  Late in life can be a time for extraordinary achievement because we have the knowledge acquired Older person driving - free clipartthrough our life experiences, and now, best of all, we have time to explore or to experience anew. Or it can be, simply, a time of great contentment – Your choice in direction, unlike our young friends and colleagues who have to do the 8 to 5 everyday!   Our comment to them, “been there, done that”.

Now, I must conclude my thoughts on aging.  I am preparing for a weekend zip lining adventure near Van Buren, Missouri.  The person sharing the information, and leading the group is  my yoga friend   Georgia who is on the dark side of 70 and continuing to be excited about new experiences – She is my inspirational guru!!

Links:

Visit Patricia Bubash’s site 

Meet Six Women Redefining What It Means to Be Old

Read more about Grandma Moses or Georgia O’Keeffe, look at their artwork here and here, or check out the books of Laura Ingalls Wilder and Robert James Waller.

 

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