Stories of Resilience: David

David celebrated his 80th birthday by taking a 2-mile hike alone in the mountains and then hitched a ride back to his car. He had no trouble finding someone who would give him a lift. When he was in his 70s, he had decided to adopt an attitude of being open to everyone he encountered.  It was part of his Buddhist philosophy of believing in his fellow human beings’ basic goodness. When we hiked together, I was always surprised how oncoming hikers would smile broadly at us, because it rarely happened when I hiked alone. But some goodness emanated from David, and people responded in kind.

I met David in his late 70s, when he started a network of meditation study groups here in Boulder. He attended weekly spiritual lectures by well-known teachers but saw the need for more interaction among spiritual practitioners. When I look back at his life, I can see the pattern of wanting to help others and bring people together.

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My Story: Don’t Call Me Sweetie

In the space of one week, three store clerks called me “sweetie” or “sweetheart.” As in “What can I get you, sweetheart?” or, in the case of the young hair stylist, “How do you like your hair cut, sweetie?”

My initial reaction was ambivalent, but mostly horrified. “Sweetheart” is an affectionate term and one that, when I was younger, I enjoyed hearing from waitresses in rural towns while driving through Nebraska. But in hip Boulder, that’s not the norm. Was I emanating some kind of helpless vibe? Was it the broad-brimmed embroidered hat that perhaps seemed old-fashioned, that framed my face to look endearing (not an adjective most people would apply to me), especially now that I’m wearing glasses?

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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.

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