70 is the new 40. Age is just a number. You’re only as old as you feel.
Clichés aside, seriously; what’s age got to do with it?
As my colleague David Boyd Williams wrote in a recent blog on ageism – leveraging the wealth of experience that older adults offer is good for our society. And, when senior living communities highlight their residents’ vibrant contributions, they underscore the great things inspired age can bring.
Prepare to be inspired: meet Phyllis Zeno and 40 more Asbury Methodist Village residents, ages 75 to 102 as they sing, dance, and most importantly, have a blast together in their community’s fourth original musical in 5 years. Mrs. Zeno is the composer and playwright for all four productions. She’s 91.
Surprised? I hope not. Ashton Applewhite certainly gets it. The ageism activist and TED2017 speaker encourages people to embrace both sides of the story when it comes to aging in her book This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism. Yes, she knows that physical decline is real but little else is inevitable, and as she points out, nobody is talking about the very real benefits of aging, which she’s fighting to change.
In an interview with Asbury Communities, she says, “Aging isn’t a problem or a disease: it’s a natural, powerful, lifelong process that unites us all.” There’s no one “right” way to age; you can compose musicals, go fly fishing, work, knit hats for babies, travel the world – or sit on the porch and watch the world go by if you’re so inclined. The experience is as unique as the person; the pervasive, pernicious influence of media stereotypes contributes to the impression that age is only about decline. Ms. Applewhite says, “I tell people to start by looking at your ideas about aging and thinking about where they come from. Look for ways in which you’re ageist instead of for evidence that you’re not, because we can’t challenge bias unless we’re aware of it.” Inspired? Download “Who Me, Ageist? her free guide to starting a consciousness-raising group; it’s available under Resources on ThisChairRocks.com.
My dad gets it, so I sent him the link to the “Who Me, Ageist?” guide. Like Ms. Applewhite, he knows there’s no marker, no date when someone becomes old and everything goes downhill. He’s living his life on his terms, enjoying himself, unconcerned with what society thinks he should be doing. He just might take up the fight.