Elderly – Not

Amy Bryant

Elderly . . . elderly! That’s the word my cleaning lady used the other day referring to me. It’s a good thing she cleans well, or she’d be out of a job!
I’m used to being thought of as younger than my age. Up until I had 70 candles, folks thought that I was fifteen years younger. Once I hit 80 candles, they usually guessed that I was ten years younger. But the word elderly never entered the conversation. It’s another way of saying old, and not in a complementary way.
Why am I so quick to run away from the term old, or any euphemism thereof? Now, I’m not foolish, and I do have a mirror or two at home, so I know that I’m no longer young. But I’m cocky enough to consider myself youthful, i.e. energetic, active, quick on the uptake.
A recent health crisis has forced me to reconsider some aspects of my view of myself. At this point in my life, I’m finally beginning to acknowledge some of my age-related qualities.
Take health-related conversations for example. As I pay attention to my conversations with folks within a 25-year age range, I find more and more friends are giving attention to health problems.
“Hi how ya doin?”
If your friend answers truthfully, you could be inviting a litany of complaints – and I’m ashamed to admit, I’ve started joining in on this level of conversation. What’s the solution? Do you just say “I’m doing great. How are you?” As in most of life’s quandaries, I guess the answer is balance; share, then focus and glean from the brighter side.
Some of our decade graduates are doing worldwide tours for their recent book, or basking in the relaxation of laid-back retirement, or downsizing into the added care of assisted living. Let’s face it, once our cake holds 80 candles, our speed tends to start slowing down. The next person who tells me that age is just a number risks being flattened at myfeet.
One solution is continuing to do the same things that you love, but at a gentler (my euphemism for slower) pace. I used to do high impact Zumba three times a week, now I intersperse low impact aerobics and line dance.
I guess the bottom line involves change and acceptance: acceptance of the changes going on within and figuring out a realistic, yet acceptable, self-affirming solution to the elderly aspect of the candles on our cake.

This entry was posted in 70candles, Adaptations and accommodations as we age, Attitudes about aging, Looking ahead, Our bodies, our health and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Elderly – Not

  1. Cecile says:

    “Elderly” may relate to my years, but not to my spirit! A former colleague, a PE teacher at the college I retired from, asked me to guest teach yoga in one of his classes. (He’s 70 as well and plans to retire this year. Also, not a very good yoga teacher…)

    At 70, I had more balance, flexibility, strength, and interoception than most of the young people in the class. After the class, I showed them how the poses we worked on led to poses such as handstands, which I did for them (near a wall!). Then I told them I was 70 years old. They applauded politely.

    One student came up to me after class and asked what she could do to encourage her elderly parents to move more. She complained that they had the mindset that they were too old to move much. Yikes–a self-fulfilling prophecy!

    Thanks for your share.

  2. Janel says:

    Amy, thank you for your honesty! I have to laugh as a massage therapist referred to me as elderly when he filled in for my regular massage therapist. Needless-to-say, I gently shared that with his boss. We all sure have our prejudices, don’t we? When I name a thing someone has said that sets me off, I try to think about how I am doing something similar. And I usually am.

    I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. How we are so wrapped up in our own little worlds we don’t have perspective. We don’t disclose that we aren’t perfect in fear of being discovered. Some like to pride themselves on being on no medications at 80 or 90. That’s great, but that doesn’t happen to most of us. Parts wear out, need adjustments.

    Maybe the secret is to be more accepting of everything we all endure. Working twenty years in health care I don’t mind hearing about someone’s illness as long as it doesn’t monopolize the conversation. It is just part of what we are going through. I find sharing with others now really helpful.

    Like you I have always looked younger. I’ve been sick and on bed rest the last few months which resolved until I had an upper respiratory infection in my lungs this week. It’s been one thing after another and it is wearing.

    I guess you have to draw on your own inner optimism and gratitude for a good life knowing most likely this will resolve.

    One thing I do like about this age (75) is that I am less of a perfectionist, more willing to disclose my vulnerabilities and that I can laugh about it. It’s all so silly the super-serious lives we live. And, the things we let bother us.

    Just don’t call me elderly.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *