Reshaping Perspectives

I’ve never been one to focus on my age. I feel how I feel no matter what that number may indicate. Sometimes I felt worn and tired in my thirties. Other times I felt twenty-five again even though my age (in numbers) indicated otherwise.

Reaching 100 is the only time we should focus on the number. Making it that far is momentous. Remember Wilber Scott on NBC and the Smuckers 100 year old birthday announcements? My great-grandmother, Petra Ness Borg made it on that show when her day came. She lived to be 103, a stalwart Norwegian through and through. I feel confident I’ll be around for a while.

This attitude set me up for my incensed reaction when my eye doctor told me at age 40 that I may need “readers” soon. How dare he put me in the “old eyes” category. This was blatant manipulation. Yes, there are physiological changes that take place as we mature. It may be important to prepare for those changes. But once you put those kinds of thoughts in someone’s head and repeatedly emphasize them, we all go down the “old age” hole of no return.

Right?

I changed my optometrist after that incident. My eyes have changed little since then. Although, I did have cataract surgery at an early age which was/is a hereditary anomaly. But I still don’t need glasses to see beyond my computer screen. And, yes, I concede that readers have been a thing with me since my late 40’s.

When people older than me have said “Well, just wait until you turn 60 and your body starts to REALLY deteriorate”. My internal voice would shout “screw you”. Do not place me or anyone else in your erroneously prescribed age category.

I don’t particularly appreciate when the narrative is to manipulate me into thinking this way or that because of some falsely endorsed standard. Since I was young, defying standards was a part of my modus operandi even when it may have been at my own peril.

I acknowledge the changes in my life and body as I get older. But, I refuse to simply accept them as inevitable or resign myself to predefined notions. Everything is open to change; NOTHING is set in stone. Many supposed inevitabilities are merely cultural constructs, and not limited to aging. A multitude of factors come into play as we mature. These factors include a life of moderation or lack thereof, financial wherewithal, DNA, mental health, career choices, family dynamics, where we live. The list goes on.

The word “old” has negative connotations and is thrown about in nefarious ways. It is intimidating and diminishing the worth of those lumped into the “aged” category.

“You’re old and everything is going to start breaking down.” Yes, no doubt changes do occur, and just like a car or house, maintenance is necessary.

“You’re old, thus naturally grumpy.” If you mean, stoic or cynical or testy, well then yes. Living a full and longer life is not all rainbows and lollypops. Let’s be realistic.

“You can’t hear or barely remember what day it is much less the name of your best friend.” As for hearing, I tune out noise if I need to focus on whatever is at hand. I call it selective hearing and it’s not about age.

As for memory issues, when I left the structured life of teaching college, it took me a while to get away from the concept of weekdays, semesters, holiday breaks and remembering students’ names. Eventually, I began forgetting what day it was because they are all full and I simply don’t have to distinguish between them anymore. No helicopter boss is hanging over my every move.

I accept the fact that I do need appointment reminders on my phone calendar.

“You’re so old and can no longer contribute to the economy, purchase the latest gadget or follow the latest technology.” Most folks I know 60 or older have embraced technology mainly because of their previous and most recent careers and/or because of their children/grandchildren. Assuredly, it may take longer to wrap our heads around some concepts because we did not grow up with a computer in our crib. But we are quite capable if the will is there.

As for economic worth, volunteering as a job (so to speak) is a huge gift that those over 60 can give to communities. Not to mention part-time positions to keep folks busy and/or to supplement their income. Even entrepreneurship is not out of the question.

And regarding purchase power, maturity leads to judicious spending. Buying the latest gadgets comes with higher scrutiny than our 30 year old selves would have considered. A trip overseas versus a new car, a townhome versus a big house, a fitness watch versus a fancy Rolex, paying bills or investing versus drinks at the bar are a few examples.

When my parents were in their early 60s, I did not think of them as old. They were having the time of their lives, transitioning from work to leisure, going south in the winter, and hanging out at the lake cabin in the summer. They worked hard and were enjoying the fruits of their labor, that is until Dad got cancer and died at the age of 67.

My dad was young but unfortunately lived in a time when cancer took the lives of so many because the research was not there yet. Had he been alive five years ago, his cancer would not have killed him.

My mother died at the age of 83. She had some diminished physical capacity toward the end, mainly because her smoking habit finally caught up with her. But she was still witty, funny, aware of her surroundings, and a real fireball. It wasn’t until the last couple years of her life that she lost the spark.

I know so many people over the age of 60 still working and/or living vibrant lives. They are staying curious, in shape, and involved in their communities and government, etc. Placing all folks beyond sixty years into the “too old to contribute” box is ludicrous. Not to mention a disastrous manner in which to treat almost 20% of the population.

Where would the world be without this amazing collective of historical wisdom, intelligence, and passion?

I met a 93 year old recently at the gym I go to. He was proudly showing me pictures on his phone of all the wood carvings he’s done and continues to do to keep his mind sharp and to stay busy. He revealed that his wife died not too long ago but his passion for living was still evident despite his loss.

Another gentleman, maybe mid 80’s was on the stationary bike beside me. His bike screen was on scrolling landscapes as if he were riding through those scenic views. I commented on how wonderful that was. He said, “Yeah, it’s like I am traveling the world.” My heart melted.

My 91 year old father-in-law lives in an assisted living arrangement because of an injured hip and the stairs in his house were no longer manageable. In truth, he doesn’t need much assistance but appreciates the comfort of being around others. He and my mother-in-law were active even up until the time she passed away several years ago. Leading the exercise sessions during the week, playing cards, and socializing daily with the other residents keep his body and mind sharp. When on the phone, we discuss everything from politics to the financial markets. His health comes up but usually only when he wants advice from his physician son.

We all know people younger than 65 who act as though they are older both physically and psychologically. They can’t or don’t have the will to keep up. Maybe they have not taken care of themselves. Or are too set in their ways and can’t see beyond the trees of the aging scenario. Figuring the die is cast, why bother? Most just need some guidance, compassion, and love to get out from under the culturally induced mind games that have them trapped.

My daughter, an only child and youngest grandchild, has always appreciated adults. She spent a great deal of time with those older than her. She adores her elders and relishes in their stories with a respect that defies what others of her generation espouse. There is a realization that the wisdom experienced in each of these individuals is priceless and valuable to all who take the time to see and feel it.

Thank you for reading.

Image: Rubber Fig Tree – photo taken by Michelle Lindblom in Coimbra, Portugal 2022

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