By the year 2030, 1 in every 5 Americans will be over 65. We tend to have a pretty dismal image of older age in our society: decline, disability, depression, death. Shakespeare, parading the seven ages of humans across the world’s stage, declares the “Last scene of all,/That ends this strange eventful history,/Is second childishness and mere oblivion;/Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.”
Not an especially enticing picture, is it?
The myth of aging is everywhere. We’re all affected by it, even if at one level we understand that it’s simply a story we’ve created and may not necessarily correspond to the reality we experience. The myth of aging is a powerful, destructive one that profoundly affects the community we create and the extent to which we involve the old in it. Since (if we’re lucky enough) we’ll be old someday, it’s in our own best interest to address this myth so that we can remain an active and valued part of community as we age.
You can find many media items about the assistance (well intentioned but often patronizing) the young give older adults. But there’s far less attention paid to what people of all ages receive from the old. It’s the experience of life in a complex, interdependent, multigenerational society that, more than anything else, teaches us how to be human.
To be continued….
by Susan V. Bosak