It’s been said that growing older beats the alternative. No argument on that one, but there are a few other things people say about aging that we wouldn’t mind leaving behind. Here’s what we mean:
1. “That’s not age appropriate.”
What does that even mean? If a 60-something wants to wear a mini skirt and feels good doing so, why does it matter to anyone else? Where is it written that older people shouldn’t dance in public, drive sports cars or be out past midnight? Having fun is not the sole purview of the young and older people would sincerely appreciate it if you kept your askance glances to yourself. Go, Tina!
2. “You’re too old to do that.”
Seriously? Older people are doing new stuff all the time. There was the 103-year-old man who married his 91-year-old sweetheart, and the 79-year-old Irish grandmother who sneaked out of the pensioners’ home to get herself a tattoo. How about Polly Chester, who went skydiving for the first time at age 72. OK, so she lost her dentures mid-flight; it happens.
Seriously, while most of don’t go jumping out of planes, we have not stopped living. And that’s the point. Older people are having fun. Many of us will be living well into our 90s or even longer. About the only thing we may be too old for is trying to knock some sense into people who think we are too old for stuff; seriously, why hurt our knuckles? And just like Portland, we intend to …
3. “You are aging gracefully.”
Aging gracefully is too often used as a synonym for not looking your age. Please get over the idea that there’s something wrong with looking your age. To really age gracefully, you need to be comfortable in your own skin. That’s hard to do with the constant pressure to look younger.
4. “You don’t look your age.”
Let’s apply some logic here. If I’m 65 and you say I don’t look my age, what you are really saying is that you have no idea what a 65-year-old looks like. And while you may mean this as a compliment, there is a back-handed slap as well. To wit: You are saying that it’s a good thing I don’t look my age because being my age is a bad thing. The only place being my age is a bad thing is in your mind.
5. “Grandpa is adorable.”
Puppies, babies and kittens with yarn are adorable. Older people are not. “Adorable” — and its first cousin “cute” — are demeaning terms when applied to someone to whom you should be showing respect. Please knock if off already. The first 40 million times was plenty; this isn’t clever and frankly never was.
6. “You wouldn’t be a good cultural fit at our company.”
By cultural fit, you mean since I likely won’t go to Karaoke night my 20-something officemates could maybe feel uncomfortable so therefore you can’t hire me? Or do you mean that because I’m your mother’s age you assume I can’t innovate or be creative? Or is it that you think I must be tech-illiterate and don’t know how to upload photos from my phone? Sorry, but this is nonsense. Actually what it is is ageism, and it needs to stop.
7. “You would look great in gray hair.”
Most people who say this are in their 20s and color their hair gray as a fashion statement. Among older women, the decision to either stop or forego coloring is a deeply personal one. Someone else’s opinion does not matter so there is no point in expressing it. Our feelings on this delicate topic are individual and nobody but us knows what’s best for us. Arguing over coloring or not coloring is an exercise in futility. Remember the Berlin Wall came down only when it was ready to.
8. “Wow, you may live to be 100!”
Believe it or not, many people don’t actually want to be around that long. We want to live healthier lives, not necessarily much longer ones. Being illness-free, self-sufficient and having a purpose in life are the things that matter. Being warehoused someplace with no memory of our loved ones is nobody’s idea of a good time.
9. “I know I should enroll in my 401k but I just haven’t.”
This comment makes older people want to smack younger people upside the head. People in their 20s and 30s have time to make a difference in their retirements. We get that retirement feels like light years away; it did for us too. Trust us: It will sneak up on you and you need to be prepared. Fully fund your 401k and save, save, save. For many of us, it’s too late and to hear you whine about it reminds us of our own mistakes.
10. “When will you retire?”
The “twelfth of Never” is the short answer for many of us. It’s a combination of not having enough saved, increased longevity translating into more years that we need our money to stretch, and the fact that we really have no reason to walk away from jobs we love and are still capable of doing. The real issue with this question isn’t that younger people particularly want to hear our stories of woe or how we can’t afford to retire, but that it is sometimes asked while they are measuring our desks for fit. Boomers have been blamed for clogging up the work force, taking up jobs that someone younger wants.
Gallup shows that only about 50 percent of boomers who are age 60 are still in the work place, and that percentage drops each year of age thereafter. Only about a third of those aged 67 and 68 — the oldest boomers — are still working in some capacity.
Bottom line: We will give you plenty of notice so you can plan our retirement parties, we promise.
This post was first published on Huffington/Post 50