I have been thinking a lot about getting old.
I think it started with the death of my Grandmother earlier this year. She had been suffering for a very long time with a very debilitating disease and although it was difficult to say goodbye, we were all relieved that she would no longer have to be a prisoner to her mind and body. We took the time to celebrate her life – sharing photo’s and anecdotes that were uniquely her. It was mournful but also heartwarming to see and celebrate the mother of my mother and all that she had contributed to this world and our lives.
I have also been exposed to different stories in the news over the past several months of elderly alzheimer patients going missing. Going for a walk one day and never coming back.
This has got me thinking – I wonder what getting old is going to be like and why am I so terrified of it?!! Is this my perfectionism manifesting itself again? Am I not ALLOWED to get old?I remember being younger and hearing older people say: “I still feel like I’m twenty-five!” but I never really believed them. How could you feel 25 when trapped in an old, worn out body? But I am beginning to understand. My body is no longer as fit or capable as it once was; my face is beginning to show lines where there weren’t any; my feet get sore and my mind gets tired. However, I still feel like the 18 year old who had her whole life ahead of her, only now, there’s a lot LESS of that life!
If I took the media’s perception of aging as truth, then I should be very afraid and avoid it at ALL costs! I need to buy the right creams, do the right treatments, exercise and eat well, in order to avoid or at least slow down the aging process! But what is undermining that message? That getting old sucks. And I am beginning to see this ‘ageism’ infiltrate or permeate our society and it scares me! After all – if we all continuing living don’t we ALL get ‘old’ eventually?
I think ‘ageism’ is going to be like sexism. A time in history, that will shock future generations when they study the beliefs that were held about getting old, how we treated the aging population and our lack of care and involvement with the elderly. Currently, getting old is like a terrible virus – we put up the best firewalls, strengthen our programing, and sit smug, while judging others who are infected, until one day we realize the virus has crashed our own system.
I don’t want getting old to be so negative! I want to think more positively about aging. Instead of focusing on the lack of freedom and restrictions that inevitably come, I want to focus on the beauty and insight that is gained. How age brings understanding, of self and others. How age grows us in wisdom. How, as we age, more generations are created, expanding ones family and the love that is shared between them.
I hope one day, getting old will be cool. Instead of disdain, avoidance, or at best, apathy, you’ll see teenagers wanting to interact and learn from seniors; families visiting, caring for and learning from grandparents. Above all, that they wont be ignored; that we will SEE them, take the time to value who they are and what they have and can still bring to life!
Becoming Ordinary: Day 65