Tomorrow I have an appointment to have my hearing checked. I used to think I could hear just fine–after all, the last hearing test I had (when was that again?) indicated I had perfect hearing–so I was confident the problem was that my husband mumbled. But for a while now, I’ve noticed I seem to be saying, “What?” “Huh?” and/or “Excuse me?” more often than I’d like–or, even worse, smiling and nodding in response to something someone said to me that I just can’t quite make out. It’s frustrating to me, and I suspect it’s frustrating to others.
Sound familiar (no pun intended)?
The thing is, I’m a little anxious about the test–or, more accurately, the test results. I’ve never felt anxious about getting my eyes checked. In fact, I’ve always looked at wearing glasses as a type of fashion accessory. And while I gulped hard when I had to move to bifocals (right around the time I turned 40), progressive lenses have allowed me to see better while concealing my age-related eyesight challenges.
Fast forward fourteen years, and I have no idea what the doctor’s going to tell me tomorrow. I know our hearing diminishes as we age–in part due to genes, and in part due to our penchant for listening to loud music (a phenomenon especially prevalent among Baby Boomers and the post-Boomer generations). But the possibility of having to wear hearing aids really gives me pause, because no matter how discreet today’s hearing aids may be, they still seem (at least to me) to scream, “You’re OLD!”
Since I started this job nearly four years ago, I’ve learned a lot about aging, and my attitude about growing older has changed considerably. I’ve come to believe that the adage, “Age is just a number,” is more than an adage–it’s a fact. That people can be old–or young–no matter how many years they’ve lived. And that by harboring preconceived notions about a person’s abilities and/or disabilities based on their age not only does THEM a disservice, it does US a disservice.
Time has offered Adults 50 and over the opportunity to acquire knowledge, build skills, and cultivate talents. As a result, these adults have gained tremendous experience and wisdom through that process–experience and wisdom which can only come with age. But that doesn’t mean we’re done learning or contributing. In fact, surveys conducted on behalf of Denver’s Rose Community Foundation revealed that 50% of Adults 55+ in Metro Denver planned to keep working past the “traditional” retirement age, 75% planned to volunteer, and two-thirds planned to continue learning, either formally or informally, in some form or fashion.
At Boomers Leading Change in Health, we are privileged to work with a group of adults, the majority of whom are 55 to 64 years of age. Some have gray hair–others don’t. Some are aided by glasses, hearing aids, and canes–others aren’t. Some embrace the latest and greatest technology has to offer–others not so much. Regardless of all that, they are all smart, caring, energetic, tenacious, patient, optimistic and dedicated to “changing the world again” for thousands of medically-underserved people in Metro Denver. And to a person, from the youngest (in her 30’s) to the oldest (in his 70’s), not one of them looks, feels, or would describe themselves as “OLD.”
I am in awe of them. I am humbled by them. I am inspired by them. And regardless of what may transpire during my hearing test tomorrow, I hope I will have the grace to emulate them. Because the more opportunities I’ve had to watch and learn from them, the more I’ve come to realize that age–in particular, the “fringe benefits” that come with aging–does not have to define who we are or what we do. How we live our lives does.
And that, I believe, is an important lesson for everyone–no matter how old we are . . .
Can you hear me now? Let me know what you think.