I’ve written a number of articles for Medium. My channel for articles on aging and health is http://medium.com/@goodwincathy
Like most writers, I enjoy getting comments on my articles. But this one left me puzzled. The reader said:
Trying to live like someone much less than your chronological age is a fool’s errand.
I had absolutely no idea what this meant. How does someone “much less than my chronological age” live? And just what does it mean to try to live like them?
Olga Kotelko began training to compete in senior track and field events when she was 77 years old. She continued competing till she died in her early 90s. True, she competed in senior events, but most people in those events were quite a bit younger. Few people in their 40s and 50s (even 30s!) can get out on a field and throw a javelin or sprint down the field.
She’s not alone. Look up the movie, Age of Champions. A women’s basketball team includes players in their fifties and sixties…and I believe a few in their seventies as well.
Several flight attendants are in their sixties and seventies. They pass annual qualifying tests and they do exactly the same job as their colleagues who are in their 20s. I’ve met practicing attorneys in their 70s.
Bottom line: No matter what you do, you’re not just emulating younger people. You can be sure others your age are doing the same..or more.
When I asked for clarification, this person wrote back:
It’s OK to be old and connect with people who are in the same place in life and have similar hopes, goals, health limitations, etc., as you.
A lot of people feel this way. It’s often assumed that people want to be with their age-mates as they go about their lives and choose activities and goals.
The truth is, geriatricians have a saying: When you’ve seen one 80-year-old, you’ve seen one 80-year-old.
When you look at one person who’s in their 60s, 70s, or 80s, you can’t make any predictions about their abilities, health, values, hopes, goals…or anything else. Knowing someone’s age tells you nothing.
The 70-year-old may be walking carefully approaching frailty. Or she may have played two sets of tennis this morning before moving on to her workout in the gym.
She might have retired 5 or 10 years ago…or she might be working and bringing in an income to supplement her savings.
Plenty of people over 70 aren’t taking any meds. Plenty of people in their 40s are taking meds. You can’t assume people who are the same age will have similar health levels.
I wrote about this extensively in my book. Age is not a basis for friendship.
As we get older, we become more diverse – not less.
Fourteen-year-olds have more in common with each other than 60-year-olds.
For one thing, it’s extremely rare for a 14-year-old to have kids. A 60-year-old could be single, happily married, widowed, newly divorced, or in a dynamic relationship. A 60-year-old with six grandchildren will have very different interests and perspectives compared to a 60-year-old who’s never married and has no interest in children.
Even in high school, were you friends with everyone your age? Some people avidly followed sports while others thought the Dallas Cowboys were a country music band.
A few years ago someone told me about an improv class for “people over 45.”
Did they do scene work or games? What level of proficiency was expected? How big was the class? That’s what mattered.
I happen to like scene work in improv. I’d avoid a class that focused on games regardless of how old everyone was.
When people believe age forms a meaningful basis for friendship, bad things happen. Conflicts arise in places where older people are assigned to “over-55” institutions as a form of ghetto living.
Instead, let’s focus on setting realistic goals and building relationships based on shared interests.