Tag: boomers (page 1 of 14)

Are you guilty?

Worse than racism.  Worse than discrimination against sexual preference.  Worse than hatred of others due to their faith.

Ageism. 

Science tells us it has very real mental and physical health consequences on the very people targeted, including a decreased will to live, less desire to live a healthy lifestyle, impaired recovery from illness, increased stress and a shortened life span.

Yet so many people casually make comments about people being an old geezer, or over the hill, or some old fart.  Or they avoid going to a certain place because “old people go there”.  Or even worse, families and younger friends and relatives avoid visiting aging parents in skilled nursing and retirement communities because they don’t want to be around all those “old people”.

And even the trip to the doctor is not safe.  If you’re over a certain age, chances are good your physician is less inclined to discuss new technological advances, new procedures or new therapy.  Because he or she might be assuming your complaints are just due to “getting older”.

How incredibly sad.  How maddeningly wrong!

Older adults…from age 60 to 112… are the ones with the wisdom.  The life experiences.  The perspective that comes from lessons learned.  They have the stories.  What a treasure trove we all are as we age, and usually, how willing we are to share with someone willing to sit still and listen.

The American Society on Aging reports that in 1968, Dr. Robert Butler, founding director of the National Institute on Aging, coined the term “ageism,” four years after free speech activist Jack Weinberg first uttered the phrase, “Never trust anyone over 30.” And since then, not much has changed.  In fact, the ASA says that “ageism doesn’t even register on the public’s radar.”

Here are some other ways we “wise” ones are being overlooked through ageism:

  • Older adults have a more difficult time finding gainful employment. They are seen as technology-averse, unwilling to learn new skills, difficult to manage (particularly by younger supervisors), too expensive, and not productive enough to justify the perceived increased expense (The New York Times, 2009).
  • Older adults more frequently have their health concerns dismissed by healthcare professionals. In addition, they are less likely to receive routine screenings or preventive care, more likely to be treated less aggressively than younger patients with the same diagnoses, are generally excluded from clinical trials, and are typically treated by physicians who have little to no training treating older patients (Currey, 2008)
  • Older adults, when not entirely disregarded by the media, are typically portrayed with negative stereotypes; and, when and if aging is depicted from a positive point of view, the depiction is typically unrealistic and unattainable (World Economic Forum, Global Agenda Council on Ageing Society, 2012).
  • Older adults running for public office are routinely questioned about whether they have “what it takes” (ostensibly, good health, physical stamina, mental acuity, sufficient projected longevity, or all of the above) to serve in demanding leadership roles (York, 2014).
  • Older adults have historically made a meaningful difference in their communities through civic engagement activities (White House Conference on Aging, 2015); however, institutions that could benefit from the knowledge, wisdom, and skills older adults offer are not making an effort to harness those skills in ways that could help local communities build their capacity to better serve those in need.

Now I’m a baby boomer.  So, I’m really just starting to experience ageism.  Sure, there’s the irritating store attendant who wants to call me “ma’am”.  And the woman at the movie theater who wants to give me a senior discount even though I haven’t reached that age yet.  Still, these are tiny things compared to the big picture.  Yet they point to something that sociologists are talking about:

We boomers are having a hard time with the idea that we ourselves are aging. 

Are we afraid?

Is it that it seems like it took five minutes to get here?

Or are we already seeing how we are starting to disappear, at least in terms of how well we are truly “seen” and “heard”?

Maybe the best thing we can do ourselves is to check how we treat those older than us.  Instead of making a judgment about someone based on white hair, a few wrinkles and a birth certificate, maybe we think about how we will want someone to interact with us if we are lucky enough to reach a “golden” age.

  • We will want people to hear what we are saying—actually listen when we speak.
  • If we have a complaint about a pain or discomfort, we will appreciate a medical professional treating us as aggressively as they would a 20-year-old.
  • We will appreciate respectful gestures (letting us go first, holding the door for us, etc.), but we would also appreciate the opportunity to simply blend in when appropriate.
  • And when we truly are incapacitated in some physical way and require special attention, we also will look forward to interaction with those we love…visits, phone calls, letters. A reminder that others value who we are—STILL ARE—and that we are not something to be avoided at all costs.

It’s a tough subject.  And yet it’s one that is going to be more and more important as the population continues to age.  I know I can’t believe I’m not 40 anymore.  I often don’t recognize parts of my body. I realize I don’t really care that I don’t know the names of some of the people on the gossip magazine covers.

But I also DO know how I’m better at my work than ever.  I’m more patient.  I can see the bigger picture.  I don’t panic when some of my younger cohorts do.  I value the work ethic, deadlines, and keeping my word.

I’m still here.  For quite a while.  And I’m going to do my best to treat those years older than me as just someone who’s sitting in a different part of the train.

Cause we’re all going in the same direction.  So why not benefit from someone else’s sneak preview?

 

“The longer I live the more beautiful life becomes.”

      Frank Lloyd Wright

 

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”

    CS Lewis

 

“Laughter is timeless.  Imagination has no age.  And dreams are forever.”

    Walt Disney

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We are all “The Hero”

I saw The Hero this weekend, a new movie starring Sam Elliott.  That’s probably enough said, as Sam Elliott is one of my favorites, and not just for the obvious physical appeal.  It goes a lot deeper, as each of his many roles has demonstrated, but none more than this one.  Especially for boomers and beyond, this one resonates deep.

Without giving away spoilers that aren’t already in the movie’s trailer, Sam plays a veteran actor of western genre movies who gets some bad news about his health.  Understandably, he begins examining his life, attempting to reach out to those he’s loved, trying to rekindle a dwindling career, and frankly just make sense of it all.

Who among us, as we age, hasn’t wondered how we would feel if we got a depressing diagnosis?  Maybe some of you already have.  Maybe a loved one has.  It really simplifies things really fast.

Watching the movie, I was struck by many things.

How fast your life goes by.

How suddenly you walk into a room and you are the oldest and often by many years.

How simple things are now harder, not matter how in shape you are or how many crossword puzzles you do.

How the mirror isn’t your friend anymore.

Dang but inside, you’re about 45.  Ready to chart a new course.  Start a new love affair.  Travel the world.

But first, maybe just sit down and take a breath.  Or even a nap.

Sam shows every emotion in this film.  Fear, tenderness, embarrassment, frustration, anger, resolution. A lifetime.  He feels he’s only done one good thing in his career.  Yet as the film unfolds, it’s clear he’s touched many lives and had an impact he may never fully realize.

I want to think that’s true for each of us.  Because aging can feel scary.  Lonely.  Like your once ever-expanding world is suddenly getting so much smaller.  Your real friends, fewer.  Your joyful moments, only now and then.  And it’s too easy to think we haven’t amounted to much.

We don’t feel like heroes.  But don’t you believe it.  We ARE.

We’ve made others smile.  Held someone’s hand to cross the street.  Taught valuable lessons.  Sang over a few hundred birthday cakes. Been there through disasters. Comforted grieving spouses.  Helped our children learn patience. Showed what true friendship means.  Taken care of our frail parents.  Worried over a sickly pet.

We may not feel like our life matters, but maybe that’s the nature of life.  To not get to know the ending until afterwards.  Like someone who leaves a movie early and misses the gem after the credits.

It’s there.  But only for those who are still around.

Our role is to keep going forward.

I suggest you go see The Hero.  There’s a scene in the movie that speaks to the idea that everyone is a star, everyone is a hero.  That’s something we all can use.

Cause we’re still rockin’ it.

 

“Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” – Christopher Robin to Winnie the Pooh

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Power of the Labyrinth

Life can take us in many directions, and often on paths we never thought we’d choose.  Sometimes the way ahead is clear.  Other times, (and for me, more often than not,) the path ahead is a bit hazy…I can’t quite see the images…and when I get to that intersection I am really not sure where I’m supposed to go.

It’s like hiking, which has always been my favorite thing though these days my feet don’t want to cooperate.  I hike a trail. I can tell where it’s going.  Then I come to a point where it seems to split into many options.  Obviously only one is “really” the trail.  But the others look kind of okay…are they options?

If I choose one I’ve never done before, will it bring me back to where I am right now?

 Or will I get lost and never find my way back? 

The movies want you to think that it’s easy to figure out moments like this.  There’s a sudden vision.  Or the music changes and the sun comes out and you just know.  More likely is you are tired, distracted and you’d just like someone to come along and tell you which way is which.

file000143069688That whole fantasy about how things get easier as you get older…hmmm…how’s that working for you?  I agree we have more wisdom as we age.  But I’m not sure it always makes things easier.

When my mind won’t settle enough for me to figure out what’s next, or there’s just no peace because it feels like I’ve backtracked and messed up and soon I’ll even up living under a bridge, I try to find experiences that quiet it all.  Meditation is good.  Tai chi is restorative.  Nature is always a balm.

And then there’s the labyrinth.

According to The Labyrinth Society, a “labyrinth is a single path or unicursal tool for personal, psychological or spiritual transformation.  Labyrinths are thought to enhance right brain activity.”    Labyrinths are considered walking meditations, where your psyche meets your spirit.

Labyrinth enthusiasts believe that as you enter the labyrinth, you release.  When you enter the center, you receive.  Then as you leave, you give back to the world what you have received.

One of the most famous labyrinths is that found at Chartres Cathedral in France.  This labyrinth is 42 feet in diameter and is thought to have been constructed in the early 13th century, though no one is sure.  What is known is that up to 1,000 people have walked the path and the numbers continue to grow.

What is it that pulls so many people to walk this design?  Does it really have a power all its own?

Many years ago I was at a point in my life where I could not figure out what was my inner self giving me direction, or what were the messages I’d absorbed for years from well-meaning but negative people I was around.  I just wanted to clear my mind and get a feel for what my path should be.  I had heard of a large labyrinth laid out at a church near me, and I decided to try it.  A friend had suggested that before I walk the labyrinth, I say a prayer or meditation of what I hoped to find…what answer I was looking for.  And be sure to enter the design with as clear a mind as possible.

Easier said than done, but I followed her advice.  And it was, for me, an amazing feeling.  As I entered the labyrinth, I felt what I can best describe as a force field…an energy that seemed very real and very strong.  I took my time and let thoughts come and go.  What most impressed me was how just as you think you’re about to reach the center, the labyrinth takes you back out to the outer edges, slowing you down, making you revisit where you have come from, not allowing you to just quickly find that golden egg.

In other words, you can’t get where you going without circling back to where you’ve been. 

I find that to be a huge lesson.  We don’t just come out of the rodeo shoot and never look back.  We make progress, we accomplish things, we lead our lives…but we’re always calling upon where we’ve come from.

Some reject this idea, as they have come from places or environments that were abusive or so negative they never want to look back.  I understand that.  But I think even that pain has something to teach us and if we boomers ignore it, it’s just going to keep popping up and block our forward motion.

dioI also noted how once I reached the center of the labyrinth, I felt peace.  I could just breathe and be for a bit.  (How often do we do that??)  Then as I was ready to leave the center, I once again had to follow a path that picked up speed, then slowed, and again, took me literally full circle…to the outer edges and back.

Maybe this all sounds weird.  But lately, I’m in a place again where my inner self is a bit off-balance, where it is easy to give in to the notion that because I’ve returned to an earlier address, I’ve failed or walked backwards.  Yet my conscious mind knows that’s not the case; I’ve just taken one of those spur trails to see where it will take me.

I’ll still get where I was going, but I will take an unexpected route.  And it might be one that for a while doesn’t feel quite right, like putting on shoes that don’t fit or a sweater that itches.  But if I trust a higher force to get me through the dark parts, then surely there’s a vista at the end of this trail that’s far more beautiful than I could have imagined.

I let go.  I receive.  I give back.  And maybe in the process, I return to who I am so I can be even more.

“Methinks the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow.”     

       Henry David Thoreau

 

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New Bodies for Boomers

I went to a large hardware/home maintenance store that has lots of aisles and products and stuff…yet now if you want keys made, you walk up to a machine.  Really.  You push buttons and choose designs and get your keys.

Okay.  Kind of sad somehow, but okay.

I got to thinking…after having a weekend of being busy in the yard and other places and wondering why it’s become so hard to get up of the ground and what in the world is going on with my knees….what if we baby boomers could walk up to a vending machine and order new body parts? 

How cool would that be?

Knees creaking?  Hit button 2.  Arms wearing out?  Button 3.  Eyes going?  Hit buttons 4 and 5 (don’t worry, they’re in large print.)  Why would I want to do this?  Well let’s see.

Let’s take a look at the baby boomer’s guide to our bodies.

  • Feet. If you’ve reached 60 and you actually (a) still wear open-toed shoes, (b) do not have to get up in the morning and immediately tape your toes or heels, or (c) can wear high heels or cowboy boots for more than 3 hours without beginning to have pain-induced hallucinations, you are lucky.  Good on you.  For the rest of us, we’d be choosing new feet with no plantar fasciitis or planter plate failure or bad toes or high arches or any other joys of aging.

Imagine…wearing those cute shoes again.  Dancing again.  Sandals.  Sigh.

  • Arms if you raise your arms, do you feel like you have two ornamental flags flying? The joys of aging.  Michelle Obama has the arms we want.  What we generally have falls a bit short, though my personal goal is to go sleeveless and not care.  Not there yet.  But if a machine would let me get them, I’d be all over it.
  • Eyes. Can you read this without sitting across the room?  Have you had cataracts yet?  Do you have a pair of glasses in every room of the house?  Congratulations, you are a boomer.  And you get bonus points if you have ever looked for your glasses for more than 2 hours and they were on your head the whole time.
  • Ears. Want me to speak up? Television loud enough?  Please.  For the sake of those around you, see a physician.  Really, it’s okay.
  • Joints. When did it get so hard to get up out of a chair…and off the floor? It could be added to the Olympics.  It’s not fair.  But it is what it is.   I recently bathed my dog…it was an Olympic event.  Some of you know what I am talking about.
  • Brain. Please put this machine in the nearest gas station as soon as possible. Let’s see, why would we need a new brain?   where are the keys.  Where is the car.  What day is it.  Where did I put that.  Have I paid that bill.  What did she just say?  Did I RSVP for that.  I used to know the words to that.  How old am I…wait, I’ll check….

Okay, it’s too much to hope for.  Meanwhile, we will just keep going with what we have.  And new machines will keep being added to what used to be the old-fashioned hardware store.

Maybe one day.

You never know.

 

“There are no gains without pains.”

      Benjamin Franklin

 

 

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