As we were leaving an event in our neighborhood this week, my middle daughter, Tara, asked me, “Can you write a piece about the advantages of growing older? All I hear are negative remarks.”
She was right. All of us over 60 that greeted her were quite vocal when she asked how we were doing. We gave it to her straight up, hurling our latest rash of medical problems and procedures without thinking how she would view the information.
While I didn’t pay too much attention to the rhetoric at the time, I saw it later through her 35 year old eyes and the picture wasn’t attractive. It certainly didn’t give her warm fuzzy feelings about growing older. And, there’s damage in that presentation. It made me ponder the many times I’ve heard our elderly residents say they hadn’t seen their children and grandchildren in weeks, months and sometimes years. Last Friday, I visited the nursing home and saw only a handful of visitors. The picture was disturbing.
When I got home, I rummaged through my files and found one I had put aside: a May 17, 2005 Family Circle article titled, “There’s Still a Girl in There”. I saved it because I wanted to remember what the beautiful ladies featured in the article said about the aging process. What I forgot, and many of us forget, was the overall message.
For you younger folks: We older folks are at a juncture in our lives that is scary and hard to reconcile with. We forget you haven’t been here. It’s like telling a young girl about childbirth. It sounds scary, when in fact, it is beautiful.
We remember all the hustle, bustle and life in your daily lives and we miss it. Oh we say we don’t, but we do. We’ve replaced the joy of little ones with bridge and fall asleep if we sit for too long. And we hurt! The old adage is true: if it doesn’t hurt, it doesn’t work.
So here’s some things (paraphrased from the article) the seniors from Damariscotta, Maine wanted to tell the younger folks. I hope it will make us all, young and old alike, more tolerant of our specific places on this journey in life.
1. It’s hard to admit we don’t need help. You need to keep trying to talk to us. Be patient. We are working through our stubbornness just like you are with your children. We will eventually reconcile it all. If not, nudge us with more love.
2. We need time to adjust to change. All the things I used to do are getting harder. I have to let things go, and it’s not easy. Give us time and be patient with us. We’re trying. Respect our decisions, even if they aren’t what you would do with your life. We are changing what we do to accommodate what we can do.
3. Please don’t talk down to us. “Imagine living a long, rich, productive life only to be spoken to and treated condescendingly in old age by someone decades younger.” It’s like your 10 year old making you look foolish. Be patient.
4. Celebrate our life as seniors. We have many stories in our heart. Don’t ask us how we feel, ask us about who we are, what our dreams are about and how we view life now, seeing it change and modify over many years. And listen. Make us a part of your life and become a part of ours. Sharing generationally allows us to stay connected and less misunderstood.
What do you look forward to when you grow older?