I'm not telling you anything new when I say that modern industrial culture is obsessed with vigor, youth, production and consumption. When people are not productive or consuming, vigorous or young, they no longer fit into what's valued.
That's why I saw an ad the other day (I forgot to note what it was advertising or where I saw it) which depicted a forlorn old woman under the headline, "Don't Let Old Age Catch Up with You." Because I am a curious woman, I soon found myself on Amazon perusing descriptions of two books I have no intention whatsoever of reading. One was titled "How Not to Act Old" and the other "How Not to Look Old."
Imagine living in a culture where people wore white wigs in order to look older and more authoritative. Forget the wigs even. A culture where people were reading books How to Look Older and How to Act Older. With millions of people aging, a change in how we regard age is inevitable.
Sometimes I wonder whether "active aging" touted by retirement communities and the aging network is just an extension of our obsession with youth and vigor, our disinterest in the inner life and our unwillingness to consider death. If older people are pushing themselves to keep busy in order not to let old age catch up with them, I would say yes, it is just another kind of shallowness, a frenzied avoidance of some of the deeper aspects of life's tapestry.
So many people are living longer and staying healthier. Imagine the positive impact of millions of older adults who choose to mature altruistically, harvesting their accumulated life experience and setting out a feast to share with others. Older adults who recognize the power of their numbers and the value of their accumulated experience for the common good. This is what I visualize and imagine. Not old people running from age and death, old people filling up their days with distracting activities or old people withdrawing as if they are useless or already gone, but millions of old people like a wave of peace--loving, caring, enjoying and contributing to the welfare of others as their review their own lives, forgive, heal and let go into the bigger picture.
Photo by Rick Z/Flickr