Perception is one of those things that we can’t do much about–not really. Some ask me how old I am and I won’t answer directly. I often respond with something like: “How old would you like me to be?”
I have never been this age before so this is all news to me. I don’t know what or how a 60 or 70 year old person is supposed to act, speak or present themselves. I just know that today I’m feeling pretty good and if that is contrary to how I’m supposed to feel at this time in my life then so be it. I won’t be what or who somebody else wants me to be.
People identify us as ‘seniors’. What is a senior? Why do they get treated any differently than most of the other people who walk around? I’m in better shape than many of the ‘regular’ citizens. I can still do most of what I did when I was twenty years younger although to be truthful I can’t do it for as long. I can still drive a golf ball 250 off the tee. I can still hike the Bruce and ride my motorcycle for a 6 hour day. I can create and produce when I need to. So why are seniors treated differently?
We do get 10-15% off at Sears, and there are ‘seniors’ rates at some restaurants and the movies. Whoopee! I would gladly give up these generous perks to be seen and treated as though I mattered. One thing that we seniors do have and enjoy is a genuine appreciation of what we have, how we got it, the value of friends and those around us and the basic gifts that we are given most days. We have knowledge and many of us still have most of our ‘marbles’. We have wisdom that can’t be taught or bought. We can still appreciate the beauty that surrounds us in all its forms. We have come to be grateful for the simplest things.
I suppose one of the benefits of being a ‘senior’ is that sometimes I don’t get taken too seriously. I can get away with a great deal more than I could when I was younger. I can say things that I want to say, do things that I want to do, go to places I want to go to. Like magic it all gets forgiven if I say that I am a ‘senior citizen’. Somehow those two words can provide a truck load of understanding and tolerance. I say, with a large measure of truth, that I do not take advantage of this new found freedom. I suppose there will come a day when these ‘slips’ will be genuine but I’m not close to that place yet.
Most importantly I have earned my rightful place in society. But this same society now considers me more as a consumer of services than a provider of mentorship. I have earned the right to be eccentric without criticism. I have paid my dues when it comes to tolerating stupid people. I have become honourable enough to speak my truth and have it accepted rather than seen as tainted because of a disorder of some kind. Not everything is the result of ‘early dementia’.
I want to be seen and taken seriously regarding who I am, what I know and what I have seen. I have information that needs to be considered important and thought provoking rather than heard as ranting about things that no one else wants to face or deal with. Most of all I want to feel connected to the world I live in and not be discarded, discounted or forgotten. I don’t want to have my future decided by others when it comes to how and where I will spend the ‘twilight of my day’. Society has become too busy to look after its elderly. I wont and don’t buy it. We are an integral part of the chain of life and we need to be acknowledged as such.
But the one most devastating, destructive, debilitating and damaging thing to have happen to seniors, I believe, is the withdrawal of or the absence of human touch be that physically, emotionally, spiritually or mentally oriented. Don’t ever believe that hugs and even sex (if you can) aren’t important any more. They are likely more important, now, than ever in that seniors understand the importance and the value of being connected to others in a way that says ‘you are important’ and you have a place. Bedsides, it’s good for the heart.
I will not allow anyone to determine that I am ‘old’ before my time. Many ‘seniors’ get old long before their time because they are constantly being reminded or treated as if they are already there. The pharmaceutical industry has got this message down to a science-literally. It’s like a self fulfilling prophecy for many.
I will be the steward of my life and that includes doing what I want to do and when I want to do it. If that is a challenge for others then they need to move on and leave me alone. I’ll find others who ‘get me’.
Anyways, that’s how I see it.
Comments are welcome. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out my web site to see what else this crazy old guy is working on: jimcloughley.com
Please pass this along to friends and most importantly family so that they can become a bit more enlightened about who we are.