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Photo by Dalila Moreira on Unsplash.

Anne Lamott is the author of Bird by Bird, a book treasured by millions of wannabe writers. This edition was published in 2007 and is still considered a must-have for new writers.

She’s written lots of other books and novels. And she’s a columnist for The Washington Post. Her topic? Growing old

Yesterday her column was  called, “It’s not so terribly strange to be 70.”  As of this writing the article had 1232 comments, mostly positive. That says more about her audience than her article.

Like all Lamott columns, this one mentions her physical losses, especially her memory. She forgot her “pants” on one trip. It’s not clear if they were the same undergarments she wrote about in an earlier column. On another excursion, she forgot her makeup and had to make do with a quick drugstore pit stop.

Who cares? Not all “older” people are forgetful. Some younger people forget everything. 

Then we have a series of things she learned over the years. She got sober about 40 years ago. She learned all the same things that people report learning at 50, 60, 70, and 80. They talk about a new kind of wisdom. They’re mostly about letting go and not letting small things get in the way. I do like this one:  “..when well-wishers from my spiritual community exhort me to let go and let God, I want to Taser them.”

What we don’t need are more articles and books about turning a certain age. We need books and articles about ageism. We need authors who fight the stereotypes, rather than perpetuate them. 

When I looked for a photo to illustrate this article, I first typed “age 70.” I got all kinds of pictures of physically disabled people. I got lots of photos of people leaning on canes or each other. The truth is, lots of 70-year-olds still work full time and most are healthy.

I’ve gone back to read May Sarton’s books, diaries as she goes through the decades. For now they seem to be reports of people coming to visit her, along with her many physical problems. 

Bella DePaulo does it better. She says she’s been single for 70 years, period. We don’t hear about her wisdom. We don’t hear about her physical problems (I don’t think she has any). We hear about the book she just published, Single at Heart, and her travels to promote it.

I wish Anne Lamott would focus on what she’s uniquely qualified to write about. Lots of people get old. Many of them turn 70. Few of them are such prolific writers. Even fewer can write about writing.

What’s really important is that each person ages in a different way. What works for Anne Lamott won’t work for other people. As one commenter said, “I am 82 and living a busy full life. We all need to quit looking at numbers.”

That’s what Lamott – and the entire Washington Post – need to teach us.