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  • Writer's pictureJudy

Feb. 25, 2024: The Privilege of Aging

I will be having a milestone birthday this week. One that soundly and clearly puts me in the “senior citizen” category.

 

         While aging is a universal process, there are decided differences in the way eastern and western cultures view their older citizens.  While some cultures revere their elderly for their wisdom and life experience, here in the US, we seem to want to erase any evidence that we have begun to accumulate years of experience.  Products abound to help us deny the years. Color the gray hair. Erase the wrinkles. Injections to plump up some areas and surgery to minimize other areas. Youth, or at least the illusion of youth, is valued.

 

         In these last couple of weeks leading up to my birthday, there have been several deaths in my social circle.  A former high school classmate, who succumbed to cancer; a colleague who unexpectedly passed away; and the father of a student, also very suddenly ripped from his family.  All souls who have been denied the privilege of getting older.

 

         Somehow the gray hair, wrinkles, and aches and pains that are part of life for those of us of-a-certain-age, seem less negative and more like awards for still being here.

 

         I recently came across a piece on the Growing Bolder website called the New 65 Project. Based on the findings in the New Age of Aging Study , this project is pushing back against the-  “65 is the new 45” or “70 is the new 50” because, while the intent is positive, it implies that the only way to explain someone who is happy, socially engaged, and involved in their community at age 65 or 70 is to say that they look or act much younger.”


         I started to ponder this. I am guilty of this myself.  I remember when my dad turned 85 a couple years ago and I told him that 85 was the new 65. I meant it as a compliment- that he was as engaged and active as someone 20 years younger. But the fact is, he was defining what 85 was to him by the choices he was making and the life he was leading.


         The website explains that the New 65 Project is designed to smash the stereotypes associated with aging and specific ages.  As I prepare to turn 65, I love this concept. I cannot count the number of times I have been asked, now that I will be 65, will I be retiring soon?  Why should a number dictate a life-decision as critical as that? I love my job, I adore what I do, and I like to think I am pretty good at it.


         I will be celebrating 65 and I alone will be defining what that means to me.




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