Some may query what does disgracefully mean in the sense of growing older? What have I done that is disgraceful? Most of us are conservative in much, if not all that we do and the thought of doing something disgraceful isn’t something we contemplate, it usually leaves a sour taste in our mouths. For others who are free spirits, disgraceful means being free, not bound by impediments or the voices of others, basically living the life they chose and being happy with that life.
Everyone has their own interpretation of disgraceful. For some it may involve being adventure bound, for others becoming involved with someone substantially younger, for others undertaking their bucket list, doing voluntary work in remote locations and much more. For me, it meant moving out of my comfort zone and doing something altogether different, this led me to leaving my home town, my grown up children, my family and friends to pursue a different life. I settled in a foreign country where I had to develop new friends, learn new customs and much, much more. I have been blessed with meeting the most interesting people from a diverse range of cultures and sharing their lives.
I have observed as you have that over the years respect, responsibility and relationships have changed. Many of the younger generation are keen to stamp their presence on the world and unfortunately have little patience for those more mature. The older person no matter the experience, injection of capital into the economy, giving back to the community in the main have become invisible.
Recently I had an email from a friend who wrote to tell me about a well know journalist in Western Australia, sitting in an upmarket cafe in Perth, listening to the complaints of young wait staff who were obviously displeased with the ‘grandma’s and grandpa’s who frequented this particular café spot. Did they take these jobs for the opportunity to meet other young people, a possible mate or work to earn a salary often paid for by those frequenting the cafe? What the younger generation don’t think about is that someday and sooner than they can imagine, they are going to be older also. Time marches quickly.
Being old is a mindset and as an eighty-year young aunt of mine told me recently she doesn’t think about getting old, she just lives her life and enjoys all she does, travelling, enjoying the arts and being a state bridge player keeps her too busy to worry about what might happen tomorrow. She fortunately has good health and though she has slowed down slightly from her younger days and her looks are more mature she expects to be treated as we all do with respect and that doesn’t mean she has to become invisible.
The more mature may have the wisdom of age but that doesn’t mean they have to be relegated to the bottom of a pile because those just out of university believe they know more than their elders. I find it most amusing listening to them saying things that they believe are new but in actual fact has been rejuvenated to make them appear new, just think of some of the old songs that have been given a new lease of life but the words are just the same.
The more mature may lack the figure they once had, but that doesn’t mean they feel any less sexy or appealing than a younger person on a night out on the town. There are many more mature women who are single today and clothes that are old fashioned and daggy don’t cut it with these stylistas.
Labelling of age is common in our society and most of us, both men and women are fixated with the notion of ageing. Look at all the products that line our shelves today especially the anti ageing ones, look at the job adverts that want graduates, or those with a couple of years experience written into the job applications.
Anyone over 50 today is unfortunately labeled ‘old’ and try as we may, we cannot reverse the ageing cycle significantly. Cosmetic surgery, exercise, eating the right foods, sleep, sexual activity all contribute to maintaining that fountain of youth elixir however, not everyone has the comfort that is afforded to others.
On a recent trip to Lombok in Indonesia I was visiting a weaving community. A woman sat outstretched with a weaving loam attached to her back and the remainder of the apparatus on her lap. Another woman approached her and the young male guide advised that this was an old woman who no longer did this type of weaving. I looked at this old, wrinkled, thinly shaped woman and guesstimated her age at around 80. My curiosity got the better of me and I asked the guide, how old she was to be shocked to learn that she was only 60.
The perception of age and being ‘old’ differs in many cultures. The way we look after ourselves our living conditions, food, the clothes we wear, the work we do, the life we lead, can affect our outward appearance.
People in a relationship my age differently. One may be more active and the other more sedentary. Minds are still active even if bodies are changing and not necessarily capable of what they were in the past. The relationship is usually one of companionship and family and enjoying the company of grandchildren and friends. Those that are fortunate to have been in a long lasting relationship still share a love that is very special. Not everyone is as fortunate to have that. Look around at the people you know and ask yourself the question what is it that has caused them to want to remain together? Look to see if they still hold hands, if they do things together, speak warmly to one another, kiss, sit on the couch and cuddle or give each other hugs. All these things speak volumes about peoples relationships.
Age gracefully and enjoy each moment as each bit of time that passes is special in its own way.