What most of us have learned about aging is by watching our parents go through the process. Yet our generation (most specifically, the baby boomers) faces different challenges than our parents. Just as we’re slowing down, the world is speeding up. Just as our brains are slower to learn new things, technology requires us to grasp new processes that are essential to our daily lives. While our aging bodies and minds might require more help, the world seems to be less caring than the one in which we grew up.
We’re in new territory, especially for the generation that, in our 20s, sang along to The Who’s “I hope I die before I get old.” My aim in starting Aging Journal is to share stories about what it feels like to grow old in a culture that doesn’t belong to us anymore and doesn’t especially want us around.
A lot of the popular reading material (such as AARP’s magazine) promotes the idea that after retirement, “our golden years’ are full of unlimited opportunities. But that’s not true if you suffer from physical problems, lack of money or loneliness, which is common among older adults who lose their support structures when they stop working.
So how do we, as elders, navigate this new world—both the outside one full of rapidly changing technology and a culture created by younger generations; and the personal world where friends die, our bodies don’t work as well and we’re not able to do the things we once did?
There are no easy answers, but by this time in our lives, we’ve been kicked around enough that we’ve gained some wisdom—and maybe some courage, patience and compassion also. One thing I know is that we need to support each other—emotionally, if nothing else. Aging has always been an uncharted terrain, but as more of us move together into this new land, and as the world speeds up, leaving us older ones behind, we need to stick together and share our stories of survival.