It’s a little disconcerting to be at a family gathering and be faced with the fact that you’re part of the oldest generation there. I remember attending big family get-togethers when I was in my late teens and I was asked to sit at the kiddies’ table. Then, the oldest generation walked with canes, sat in the first chair they could find, and never moved for the entire event. Family members brought them plates of food. Now, this older generation that I find myself part of, is mostly mobile, still working on many projects and doesn’t spend the entire dinner talking about operations and ailments. We are pioneers of what retirement and aging looks like and it’s not what we remember.
I am coming to terms with the fact that I am in the older generation but it doesn’t match what I thought of as older. I am trying to dissolve my own biases. I was raised with the idea that people should not look older (most of us in western culture were). Being old continues to be thought of as not desirable. Hiding your age was necessary, especially as a female-presenting person. Canadian news anchor, Lisa LaFlamme was fired for daring to let her hair go grey and thereby showing her age.* I’ve largely fought this bias by refusing to colour my greying hair (except with unnatural colours, such as purple) and not purchasing expensive anti-wrinkle creams. Now, I look older.
How Old Are You?
I still have a hard time casually giving my age (57) but at least I don’t lie about it and subtract 5 or 10 years. I’ve known close friends and family members to just flat out refuse to disclose their age, or year after year answer “29.” It’s frustrating. We are afraid of the stereotypes that people will apply to us when they know how old we actually are. We are afraid of being judged because of a number.
Ironically, acknowledging our true age would help dissolve some of those stereotypes. If people, particularly younger folks, know that someone in their 70’s regularly goes on hikes, runs a small business and/or volunteers at the food bank, maybe they will not accumulate the same stereotypes about aging that I did.
Ageism Limits Us All
If I do not challenge my biases about being older, they will stop me from choosing to do and try things that I think older people don’t do. Ageism will limit me. If I don’t acknowledge my age, it harms me now and future generations as they age. Turning this around can start with the older generations at family gatherings. Proudly, state your age!
I am very impressed by your blog and the work you put into it, Caroline. I am 69 in two months, and seem to be using a lot of energy trying to figure out how to be ok with a growing list of physical problems while still wanting to do so many things. It’s very tricky accepting what is inevitable while trying to stay ahead of what I can control/change.
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I agree. Finding a balance between what you want to do and what you can do, is challenging because it’s always changing. Accepting that there is always change is a life-long struggle for me too.