Can I write about aging and relevance without sounding defensive? Maybe not, but I want to give it a try because I think we older Americans are stereotyped, marginalized, neutered, and disenfranchised by the media simply because of our age. It’s a kind of profiling and I bristle when I’m lumped together with a group that has lost its connection to mainstream America. It pisses me off and it should piss you off too.
Except for age, we’re no different from the rest of you. We care about what’s happening in the world. We try to stay as current, productive, concerned, fashionable, and athletic as any other segment of the population. We think it’s important to stay engaged with a cross-section of different ages, issues, and cultures to keep us relevant. My friends are not on the sidelines; they are busy working on cures for Alzheimer’s and cancer, trying to bring sanity to the gun debate, delivering clean water to polluted areas in Africa and Asia, improving services to veterans, helping the poor find jobs, making art or writing about complex issues. That’s what we’ve always done and what we continue to do.
Yes, there are old farts in plaid pants who drink too much and worry about their golf handicaps, just as there are young men hanging out on street corners with their pants around their knees. Neither group represents the whole spectrum of the American demographic. Most of us are working hard to stay in the game and make a difference. We tweet, text, email, stream, Facebook, Instagram and show up to work just like everybody else. So cool it with the jokes and backhanded compliments about old people.
We think it’s demeaning when older couples are called “cute. It implies they have desiccated, sexless partnerships. What’s more we don’t want to be “inspiring” if that means you’re surprised when we weigh-in on complex issues, run marathons or ski.
Most of my life I’ve lived close to the edge. Now, at 82, I’m even closer to the edge – of eternity – and lucky to have lived a full span. My friends who died when they were young were denied the pleasure of seeing the changes that time brings to the world and their families. They missed out on so much… I don’t want to miss out on anything as long as I have the ability to stay in the game. That’s why this seems important and why I’m digging in for the homestretch.
Asian cultures honor and venerate their elders. Elders are looked upon as repositories of wisdom and guidance. I’m not expecting it, but we could use a little more of that here. Age can be a positive attribute, but it shouldn’t be the defining one. Let’s focus on relevance. I want to be smart, relevant, and still live on the edge. It sharpens the focus