Aging and Being Single: Grandmother Hormones

Today’s New York Times Style section included an article, The Bliss of Grandmother Hormones by Dominique Browning.

She has a remarkably frank comment about aging:
“When we’re young, aging looks sort of yucky; frankly, even though it is extremely un-P.C. to say so, it looks sort of yucky when we get there, too. Hence, the magical thinking around skin creams.”

It’s not clear what we’re to make of that comment. Is she saying that yes, older people are ugly and therefore worthy of discrimination?

But, she says, all these concerns about aging disappear when one enjoys the pleasure of holding “a six-pound newborn boy” against “a heart burnished with the patina of age.”

Probably true. As a single person, I get a lot of pleasure out of holding my cat or snuggling with the dog. Age is a non-issue. Just mutual acceptance.

Maybe I should try for an op-ed about that. Not as PC as grandmothers but surprisingly common.

“10 ways to respect your elders”

Not sure how I feel about this article. It’s not easy to transport attitudes across cultures.

In some ways the stereotypes are reinforced, such as asking “elders” for advice. Being old doesn’t automatically make one wise.

But in general, shouldn’t everyone be treated this way? In a medical setting, everyone should be addressed by last name and title. But if everyone else is on a first name basis, why make the “elders” stick out?

It’s fine to serve “elders” first at a family or purely social event, but not everyone likes to be reminded of his or her status. In some contexts, special care comes across as patronizing.

I’m especially nervous about the advice to intrude on someone’s privacy by assuming they’re lonely and want company. No thanks! Nobody should be in a nursing home – they’re evil places. If you’re at a party and see someone who’s alone, it’s nice to seek them out; in fact, it’s a savvy networking strategy.

Age isn’t a useful marker here. Anyone can be lonely, physically limited, or able to deliver wise counsel. Focus on the person, not the age.

Virtual Villages For Retirees: Why?

Today’s New York Times has an article on retirees who form “virtual villages” to combat loneliness and get things done.

Frankly, I don’t get it. If you live in a city, you already have a virtual village.

Some things are free. You can get groceries delivered to your door. I don’t take any meds but I could find someone to deliver them if I needed to. Besides Fresh Direct, we have InstaCart (which will do drug store runs) and Task Rabbit.

Some things cost money. You can take classes all over town. You don’t need a “senior” approved class. I live near a world-class pottery studio and am a fast bus ride way from all kinds of art classes, comedy classes … anything a person of any age might want.

Some thing are free. Many community colleges and universities allow people over a certain age to take or audit classes for free.

I belong to a regular gym. I take classes. Sometimes I can’t do all the moves – not because I’m old, in most cases, but because I didn’t do enough gymnastics as a child. No problem. Few people of any age can do all of the moves and all the instructors will suggest modifications. I also work out on my own with weights. I started working with a trainer just over two years ago, when I had an injury and couldn’t find a competent physical therapist.

My city has tons of Meetup groups. They don’t ask your age. If you don’t want to go to a movie alone, join a group based on your interest, not your age.

We also have tons of opportunities to be useful with volunteerism – everything from tour guiding to animal rescue.

If I lived in the suburbs, I’d need a car, which costs $5-10,000 a year. Most cities have amenities for people over 65. Lots of things are free or almost-free, including food delivery.

Often you can get things free, too. I sometimes volunteer to usher for plays because if I don’t like the play, I can always say, “Well, at least I didn’t pay $50 and up to be annoyed.”

Mostly what bothers me is, why are these villages for retirees? Most retirees are healthy and able-bodied. Why  are they subjected to stereotypes of aging?

In fact, I’d like to ask them,  “Why retire?” I’ve tried a few times and got totally bored. I’m too busy to socialize with my age-mates at a happy hour or a movie. I spend time with people of all ages when I have something in common with them besides our decade of birth.

Right now I’m cursing the Internet because I can’t figure out how to get a blank page with a header in one of my blogs. I’m revising my website, which means rewriting pages and struggling with the demands of a new WordPress theme. I’m making videos, which is a hassle because I live near a noisy bridge in a noisy city and have to remove the background noise.

And if I didn’t have these things going on, I wouldn’t have the pleasure of a murder mystery that is a rare treat, not something I can do each day. I might write a mystery or do more comedy… but probably not. I love my pottery class but I wouldn’t be in the studio every day. There’s something about time stolen from work, contrasting with work, that leads to real enjoyment.




Life’s common core: ageist!

Life’s “Common Core:” Ten requirements for teens that won’t get them into college but will make them better people, by Kristin van Ogtrop, was first published in Time Magazine and then reprinted in several places.

The #7 item reads: “Write a heartfelt thank-you note to someone over the age of 70. Even if this person hasn’t given you a holiday or birthday present, find something to thank them for.”

Are 70-year-olds just waiting around for a thank you note from a strange teen or young adult? This idea is SO insulting.

Like many people, Kristin van Ogtrop patronizes 70-year-olds as cute little people who need help. Why thank someone for something they didn’t do?

Better have the kids return to #6 and head to their local animal shelter to offer help. Or find a neighbor of any age who needs a dogwalker.

Actually this whole article is filled with silly assumptions. The #10 suggestion suggests that if you’ll race to the top you’ll knock people out of their way. Some do, some don’t.

And while a few 70-year-olds might welcome a thank you letter (I can’t imagine what the content might look like) I bet the vast majority will want to shove that letter up someplace the sun don’t shine.

If it were REALLY good to get old, we wouldn’t need to say it.

I’m SO sick of those cheery posts “What’s good about getting old.”

If it were REALLY so good, would we have to keep making the point? You don’t see anyone writing about, “It’s great to be a man,” or even, “It’s great to be a woman.” Nor does anyone write, “It’s great to be black,” or, “Why I like being gay.”

Like this one from a mom blog:

There are so many good things about getting older:

1. You stop trying to impress people
2. You see things more clearly
3. Others tolerate your idiosyncrasies

When you stop trying to impress people, you’re giving up. You’re saying you’re not going to advance socially or professionally, so why bother?

Then again, I’ve never worried too much about impressing people with my wardrobe. When I was attending an academic conference several years ago, one guy came up to me to say, “You don’t care, do you? You’re wearing shorts to the opening event!” I hadn’t thought about it, frankly.

Seeing things more clearly can be painful. I shudder when I read a news article about anything medical. It’s usually wildly inaccurate. Anyway, what’s the good of seeing clearly if you aren’t taken seriously because you’re “too old?”

Finally, the reason people “tolerate your idiosyncrasies” is that they’ve bought into the stereotypes of aging. I’ve had my idiosyncracies for a years. People just thought I was weird. In fact, I discovered that one colleague who wrote reference letters for me (reference letters remain a quaint custom in academic job hunting) began each letter with, “Cathy may be somewhat eccentric, but …”

Now when I do something out of the norm, people assume it’s due to age. Sorry, folks: I was a maverick before I knew what it meant.

They think it’s “normal” when you lose thing or bump into walls.

Anyway, everybody ages differently.

Recently a young woman came up to me in the locker room at my gym, right after zumba. She said, “You are amazing! I want to be like you when I’m your age.” Thankfully she was about 20 years off when she guessed my age.

So on the one hand, I showed off a little. I told her my secret: work out 3-4x a week religiously and stay away from doctors.

But on the other hand, there area lots of women as fit as I am or more. What about that 90-year-old who ran marathons? If I did more age-appropriate things I’d be surrounded by women who were equally fit. But I like zumba.

What’s different about 60, 70 and 80

I’m tired of hearing that 50 is the new 30 and 60 is the new 40. Here’s what’s different as you get to the 60 mark and beyond.

1 – It’s harder to predict where you’ll be 5 or 10 years from now – sometimes even one year.

When you’re 40 or 50, if you’re healthy, the odds are very high that you’ll be the same for another five to ten years. You can make plans. It makes sense to invest in long-term growth stocks and your new business.

When you’re in your sixties, with each year, you’re less sure. Sure, some 70-year-olds and 75-year-olds are running marathons and businesses. But it’t not unheard of to keel over with a completely unexpected stroke or heart attack. Often, says a cardiologist I know, the first symptom of heart disease is a fatal heart attack.

2 – You stop saying, “Never say never.” Some things just won’t happen. You don’t have enough time.

3 – You realize you won’t outlive everything you own. Why buy more clothes? The t-shirts I have now will last another 10-15 years.

4 – You become comfortable with the idea of dying. It’s gonna happen. It’s more about dying a good death than living a long time. I’m more scared of going into a nursing home than I am of dying.

5 – You realize your days are limited and you want to make each one count. So you resent sitting around in waiting rooms or wasting your time on things that don’t contribute to your welfare or anybody else’s. You don’t have time to suffer fools gladly.

And, if you’re like me, you don’t hesitate to tell them, using language as colorful as possible.