Thursday, December 23, 2010

The senior dilemma....

My 62nd birthday is next week. Some of you will stop reading now, because there is an widely believed stereotype in our culture that anyone over about 55 or 60 is a dried up prune of a person with nothing left to offer. I came across another example just today in something I was reading. The author of whatever it was listed groups of people who were discounted as unimportant, and sure enough, there it was: Seniors.

I'm not even sure what a "senior" is. I look at other women my age, and many are busy professional people, totally put together and well-groomed, fingers and toes shiny with polish, and nary a totter in their steps. Other 62 year old women have white tightly curled hair, slouchy cardigans, plastic shoes, and they hang onto arms when they go up 6 inch curbs for fear of falling.

This happened to me just recently. Not the falling part. The inability to identify someone as a "senior citizen." A woman I had been working with mentioned she was 65, and I nearly fainted. Is THAT what awaits me in 3 short years, I screamed inside my blonde streaked head? She looked closer to 75, I swear she did. The curler marks were still visible in her hair and she wore those baggy "pedal pushers" with blue keds with white laces, not the cool high tops but the low slip on kind. The ones that no one has worn in 20 years. Her attitude could be described as being done, finished with life.

So, I'm totally confused. Is a "senior" someone over a certain age? It seems to differ depending on what restaurant you're in, and who sets the rules in each company, anyway? Or is it a retired person (in which case, I have nothing to worry about, since I'll never be able to stop working)? A grandparent, maybe? I can't claim that one yet, either. Or is it a state of mind, a viewpoint, a way of accepting the erroneous fact that one has learned all there is to learn?

What is it??

And I have to say that I am no more sure of things than I was at 30, 40, or 50. (Of course, at 20 I thought I knew everything.)  As I have moved into "senior" status, all I know for sure is how little I know.

It's all very confusing to me. My life experiences have been legion and the lessons enormous. Often painful, but always imparting a list of things to do more carefully from that point forward. Or things to avoid by any means. Like don't get a puppy if you don't have a fenced in yard; ask questions before accusing your child based on anyone else's input; when a recipe calls for "shortening" make sure you know which kind BEFORE beginning; friendships are worth nurturing, but it is just as important to know when to let go; the sour-looking person in line in front of you has burdens just as heavy as yours. Maybe heavier.

I also know how I feel inside. I still have goals and dreams. There are places I want to visit and people I would love to meet and learn from. I know, too, that I have much to offer younger people, both within my profession as well as an independent woman who has succeeded in a world that was often not kind to a single, divorced mother. It's not that I am interested in any huge career moves, heaven knows. I'm happy with what I've accomplished, but I still welcome intellectual stimulation and challenges.

Life doesn't get any easier with age. I just know more about it now. But I don't know what designates one a "senior citizen."

And I bet you don't, either.

"Youth would be an ideal state if it came a little later in life."
Herbert Henry Asquith

No comments:

Post a Comment