Archive for the ‘Ageism’ Category

No Expiration Date by Cassie Bat

Older than dirt, younger than springtime.” Just what is old? Wine is vintage, furniture is antique, so are houses from another era, cars from different dates command big prices, a set of dishes marked with double crossed swords from 80 yrs ago equal more than my downpayment on my house. So what does that make me? Am I a valued treasure or consigned to the local dump? Frankly I don’t care. I’m here, right now, with 86 years of a great life behind me and 19 years to go. Since I do not have an expiration date stamped on my heel I can pick my demise. In the mean time I disregard the idle chatter of what I should or should not be. Never did listen to it anyway. You see, in my head I am just 36 yrs old although my body wants to disagree and I sometimes humor it, I still march to my own drum. Both age and time are man-made constraints and totally without regard reality. To illustrate, there are some 30 yr olds that are way too old for me and I avoid them like the plague. To my sisters who are wondering ‘what next?’, put on your ass kicking boots and come join me on a marvelous trip.

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How uplifting to read these thoughts first thing in the morning on my seventieth birthday. I am usually very positive and grateful for where I am in my life, three years post-retirement. Yet in the past few days, I have felt a little shadow behind me at the thought of reaching this decade-changing milestone. In part, I’m buying in to the cultural myths about being old(er). It’s also natural, I suppose, to worry some about moving toward the end of life, facing the unknown timeline of major life changes. Last night I went outside for a glimpse of the big, bright super blue moon. Today I will aim to enjoy my place in this beautiful, mysterious world.

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Everyone has a personal soapbox, something they feel strongly about and will loudly and passionately speak out if anyone will listen. For many, many years I’ve been talking, writing, and at one time, producing public radio programs on a subject that people, even older persons, don’t always want to hear about — aging.  In fact, the reason I originally became interested in the subject was, at that time, both I and my friends were turning fifty, fifty-five and sixty and trying to find a dozen ways to avoid, deny, evade, and abort any discussion of their age. Hey, we loved turning twenty-one, it opened new worlds. Why wouldn’t additional years continue to present expanding horizons? More years, more life experience, wider perspective, more knowledge. I remember thinking that it looked like a plus to me.

And then, on my birthday, the greeting cards started to arrive containing strong implications that I was heading into a time of life that I should try to avoid at any cost. One card has a picture of an antique chair, quite beautifully illustrated. The wish inside was less attractive.” Age is what makes furniture worth more and people worth less! Happy Birthday anyway.” Two more with that same message related to aging arrived the next day. I wasn’t much cheered by them either with messages such as “I made sure I didn’t get you a funny card for your birthday. I know how easily people your age pee their pants.” And then this, “At your age my wish for your birthday is that I can find you someone to help you read and comprehend this card.” That one pushed me over the edge and led me into finding my soapbox and I’m still standing on it.

At anytime we can focus on what we gain with age, not just what we lose. What if we looked at mid-life and years beyond as a quest, not a crisis? Might our later years be richer if we labeled them “mature” instead of “old”? As we blow out the candles on our birthday cake, how about thinking about the challenge of staying creative, vital, and aware – of looking ahead to a year of being active, energetic, hopeful and resourceful? Holding on to as much physical activity as each of our aging bodies will allow without danger of injury seems sensible. Everyday around 6,000 of us either celebrate, or agitate, over the candles on our mid-century birthday cake. It’s trite but true; attitude makes all the difference.

On my last birthday when I turned 86 I received cards that boosted my confidence that although I realize there will be changes and challenges ahead, I’m ready to embrace the years ahead. One such message was “A birthday is not a measure of how old we’ve become, but a celebration of where we are in the magical circle of life. Happy Birthday.” You can age without living life to the fullest, but you can’t live without aging as the years add up.

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Some years ago, when I was living in San Diego a friend of mine took me aside at a party given by a mutual friend to ask me how I felt about  some of us “seniors” (women, that is) starting a political activist group.  I thought it was a great idea. Eight women and one man (a colleague of mine from San Diego State-History Department) met to discuss our focus. We became the Board.  The biggest problem we ran into during the first few organizational meetings was what to call ourselves. (more…)

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