It may be a mean-spirited description of the traits often attributed to old folks, but a good portion of society has stuck it on you.
Are old people really quarrelsome, peevish and tetchy? If you don’t have a Thesaurus, listen in to the teenagers’ whispers as you accidently walk in on their sleepover, ‘want to avoid getting old, hang out with old people.
Not surprising that attitudes about the elderly have gone from ‘the wise generation’ to just short of misanthropic. When I was growing up, my grandmother lived with us. We shared our lives. Today there’s not a lot of intergenerational contact between older adults and young adults, other than occasional visits to granny at the retirement community (if they can afford it) or the nursing home after Medicaid steps in to pay the tab.
It’s as if perceptions have shifted from viewing aging as a fundamental part of life to regarding the elderly as a class to avoid. Think about all the pharmaceutical advertisements on television. Aging is a disease in and of itself, to be treated with whatever pills are necessary to ward off the malady despite the risks of ghastly side effects that can describe a fart as a dangerous onset of Meteorism (duh).
The disparaging depictions are found everywhere, grumpy old man, hyper-sexed granny; the Tide commercial citing the need for one detergent that fits the needs of everyone, including doddering grandpa wandering in looking for his pants. Funny to the twenty-ish copywriter who penned the commercial, not so to the grandfathers who watched it. And aren’t you fed up with the corny birthday cards for older folks flaunting those tired “over the hill” clichés. What’s funny about insensitivity, caricature and ridicule?
Yet there is validity to the disparagement. There is reason to believe that things get on old peoples’ nerves more quickly than they do for other people. They may well be defensive, protective of the reminiscences of early days that are no longer pertinent. It is hard to have a smiley face when the unstoppable current of time has forced you out of the mainstream, pushed into the eddy and left to languish as the flow of life rushes past.
I know the feeling. And I know what saved me. I refused to become a spectator. Which was daunting until I adopted the credo that gave me the motivation to leave the sidelines, “let go of outcome.” I realize that’s it’s not all about winning (although I am trying damn hard to do just that). It’s about enjoying the process, being in the game even as being in the big leagues is far-fetched.
I would rather quaff a combination of Kefir, Kombu, Kombucha and Kimchi than play a round of golf, but I’m going to use the game to make the point. The goal is to shoot par. Which is increasingly difficult to do as you get older and can’t drive as far or chip as accurately. So you adjust the goal and endeavor to ‘shoot your age.’ In your prime you’d scuff at a round of 89. At age 89 you’d buy a round of drinks for the entire clubhouse.
Trying to recreate an idealized version of the past is futile. Get stuck in that groove and what else can you be other than grumpy and irritable? Crank up enthusiasm for achieving what is realistically doable, regardless of the outcome. And you’ll be good company.
I’ll borrow some unattributed quotes to sum up. “Don’t worry about getting old. Worry about thinking old”
“Young at heart. Slightly older in other places.”