Occasionally, we will read about the eighty-something year old gymnast, the ninety-something year old doctorate graduate, or the eighty-something year old award winning actress. These few are held up as successful aging adults. What about the eighty-something neighbor who is raising her two grandchildren because their parents were killed in a car accident? What about the seventy-something year old that volunteers at the neighborhood elementary school and tutors children having difficulties? What about the seventy-something grandfather who continues to work after retirement to help pay for his grandchild's special medical needs?
Sometimes we hear about these people on the news. Most of the time it is because they are victims of a home invasion, involved in a car crash, or have been raped. Seldom is it for the good they do in the community. I heard a news story where they actually used the following phrase:
An elderly woman, age 54, was found dead in her car in her garage, the apparent victim of asphyxiation.
Seriously, elderly at age 54? Was this a mistake? Surely they didn't mean to call a 54-year old woman "elderly". But wait! This is not the first time I have heard someone in their fifties or early sixties being called elderly. I have noticed over the years several times when the media has referred to people as elderly when they were not even sixty yet.
Personally, I don't consider a person "elderly" until they are in their eighties. You can look around you and see "old" people that are in their twenties. They don't have energy, they are negative and they dress like they don't care. Most "elderly" people can work circles around the young, have positive attitudes, and dress with style. Why?
When I was growing up, folks in their fifties and sixties were raised to work for everything they had. They didn't have computers, they had libraries and parents/grandparents to go to for answers, and having some "luxuries" (dishwashers, riding lawnmowers, etc.) may have been available, but were not financially feasible. You went to the doctor when you were sick. Nearly all meals were prepared at home and going out to eat was for special occasions.
I am not for one minute saying that "the old days" are better than today. I am saying that it was different. My grandmother made quilts for her beds. She made them out of old worn out clothing that she turned into scraps of cloth. Sleeping under one of grandma's quilts was comforting. Today, you can purchase a handmade quilt rather cheaply and they are very pretty. Most of them, however, are made in China or some other country. In fact, we can buy anything from anywhere fairly cheaply today. Things today are easier and yet, we still hear how hard life is.
The point is this, what constitutes "old" when we are talking about people?
Who decides what is "old" or "elderly"? My answer? We do. We are the ones who either think old or elderly, act old or elderly, or dress old or elderly. We are the ones who teach others how to treat us. Decide who you are and live that way. DO NOT ACCEPT THE WORLD'S VIEW OF OLD! Make the most of every day. Yes, we are getting older and yes, our bodies will eventually prevent us from doing some things....but that is not set in stone. Giving up a few things as we get older does not make us old.
"You can't help getting older, but you don't have to get old."
- George Burns, Comedian -
You have an assignment - deciding how old you want to be. How old do you feel? Why? Can you change your attitude and feel more youthful? Are you doing everything you can to maintain your health and vitality? Share any ideas on staying young at heart.