We Need to Talk

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.

Kathy Kaiser

kathyakaiser@gmail.com

2 thoughts on “We Need to Talk

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  1. Thank you for this post, Kath, and for sharing your thoughts and stories and for providing a place to share support.

    My mother died when she was 73. I’ve already lived longer than she did. I watched my father navigate old age doing most of the activities he had done all of his life–tinkering under the hood of a car, rebuilding a motorcycle, adding a deck to his home, putting down a long gravel driveway. My Aunt Hazel’s idea of aging was to get up in the morning and do whatever she damned well pleased, which might include getting on her mower and taking care of her property or baking a bunch of pies. And she never complained of a single thing. I have arthritis in my hands and I whimper a lot, and my back hurts, so I’m sure as hell not weeding my garden (not that I have a garden or ever did any weeding).

    I have excellent role models for how to live in my aging body, and some of models of how I don’t want to be. At our age, we can be observers and commentators of the world around us, still learning from people older than us. My father, in spite of his good health (until her was 80), was a sour old man because he isolated himself from neighbors and family, not understanding how much he needed all of us. You and I and the people we gather around us all understand the need for community and connection. It is vital to our sense of well being. Writing blog posts and commenting on them is one of the many ways we get to connect and share our lives.

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    1. Especially in this polarized and angry world, all we have is community and each other. Thanks so much, Verna, for contributing to this aging blog. And I think I want to use your Aunt Hazel as my role model. I like that she did whatever she wanted. Perhaps you could write a piece about her for my blog. I’d love to hear more about her.

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