What is it about age that seems to make people so self-conscious or uncomfortable? The other day I was at a local cancer treatment center for some genetics counseling, and the nurse who took me back from the waiting area asked me–in rather hushed tones–to confirm my date of birth for him. I confirmed the date and assured him that we didn’t need to whisper about it–I am okay with being 54. He responded by explaining that there are two things their female patients generally don’t like to talk about: Their weight. And their age.
Now, the weight thing I completely understand, but I must say I was completely surprised by the age thing–especially since this was a clinic where patients were going through all sorts of not-necessarily-pleasant treatment protocols in order to prolong their lives. I mean, if the goal is to live longer, why wouldn’t someone who’s trying to beat cancer be happy to share their age–and even shout it from the rooftops?
It makes me sad.
Why does our society focus so much on the down-side of getting older, rather than on the up-side? (And yes, there is an up-side!) Why is so much energy and so many resources devoted to looking younger, dressing younger, and acting younger, instead of looking your best, dressing your best, and acting your best–regardless of what your age might be? And why do we fight the inevitable physical effects of aging by insisting on doing things we shouldn’t be doing–things that zap our energy and can even put us (and others) in harm’s way–only to prove a point that we shouldn’t feel the need to prove?
As Baby Boomers redefine what aging (and old age) look like–for us, and for future generations–perhaps it is time for us to redefine how our society looks at and treats its most veteran members, as well. It is time for us to not only recognize, but to CELEBRATE, the gifts that come with getting older:
Experience. Knowledge. Wisdom. Perspective. Patience. Understanding. Serenity. Happiness. Calm.
The fact is, “age” is a relative term. I’ve known one couple–now in their mid-80’s–for 35 years. When I first met them, they were younger than I am now–and they seemed (at least to me) to be “old” then. On the other hand, I’ve known a number of other people–also in their mid-80’s–my entire life, and they’ve NEVER been old.
Age is nothing more than an indicator of the passage of time. It doesn’t measure one’s intelligence, ability, agility, compassion, desire, or even health status. It doesn’t measure one’s capacity to love or be loved. And, it doesn’t measure one’s capacity to do or think or make a difference in the world.
Mark Twain once said, “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”
Well, I don’t mind telling you that I’m 54 years old–and I’m okay with it. I’m enjoying this time in my life–and I’m looking forward to whatever the future may bring. I’m continuing to learn from those around me–both younger and older–and I’m excited about the possibilities and opportunities that come with age. I’ve done and experienced a lot in my life–both good and not-so-good–and, like my Boomer contemporaries, I’m not done yet.
So how’s about we stop playing the numbers game and focus on something more important–not just adding years to our lives, but adding life to our years!