Years ago a friend of mine, when he was still teaching, offered a community service class called Adventures in Aging. I am coming to believe we need to approach aging as an adventure or we will surely be pulled down and out. And yes, creativity IS required to see this process as an adventure. Continue to move. Keep that sense of humor going! Learn. Keep making friends. And more.
I was on vacation not long ago with a group of friends. One of the things we got to do was to ride on our bus (a small touring bus that carries 14 passengers) on “Thunder Road” – the race track at Watkins Glen! It was great fun. One member of our group had called and emailed to arrange for this opportunity. After the fact he sent a short note of thanks to the person who had accommodated our request. And in turn that person sent a note back, commenting how much they love “having senior groups come to the track.” Wait! SENIOR GROUP? We don’t think of ourselves in that sense. And yet, and yet – the truth is that we are seniors…happy in fact, to take advantage of senior discounts.
It occurred to me then, and has continued to rise up in my experience, that as we age – we do get older – but we resist being “old.” In fact I believe that there is – and always will be – and “us” and “them” mentality between whatever age we/I are/am, and those who are yet older. We’ve all encountered someone we believed to be old commenting about others, “I don’t want to sit/live/hang out” with those old people." In our heads we’re screaming “Old people? YOU are an old person!” Ah - but not in the eyes/mind/soul of the person speaking. It happened again today. My dryer tumbles but does not dry at present, so I found myself at my neighbor’s home this afternoon watching the Red Sox and visiting while my clothes dried there. He is about to turn 88 later this month. He was looking at his hands and showing them to me and said “My hands look like the hands of an old man…” With that, I shared my thoughts – us and them. We do get older, but we do not get old. Why? Because there is someone else(s) older than us; it’s that simple.
Recently I went on a day trip to VT and sat with a woman I had not met previously. I knew she was older than I, but not how much older. We chatted through much of the bus ride and I was impressed with her “adventuring” in aging. She had a digital camera and told me she off-loads the pictures onto a thumb drive and then looks at them on her TV. Pretty adventuresome to be so technologically involved, I thought. Toward the end of the day I inquired if she minded if I asked her age. She said she does not usually say, but then told me she was 72. That “sounded” old – she was in my mind, “other”- vis a vis me. And yet the truth is she is only just over 5 years my senior. At the age of 33 the difference between 33 and 28, or 33 and 38, would seem inconsequential. On the other hand, at the age of 7, a 12 year old is very grown up, and a 2 year old, a baby. I guess it’s at the beginning and the end that the differences are – or seem to be – magnified.
Let’s hope we continue to have the opportunity to grow older - exploring, adventuring (if even from an arm chair), befriending, loving, laughing, and…living fully.