While purchasing some second-hand pants recently I was asked by the clerk if I “qualified for the 10% discount.” The blank look on my face led her to simply ask “55?”
Ah, I thought, she’s wondering if I am 55 so I can qualify for the “senior” thrift store discount. That’s.. just…great.
Although my face probably winced, I was gracious and resisted blurting out, “Yeah… in a DECADE I’ll be that OLD!” Inwardly I was horrified that I looked older than my physical age of 44.
After a bout of self-pity, I got to thinking…
What is so wrong with being thought of as 55?
Was I being vain? Absolutely. I was quick to scrutinize my looks after that. Who was the culprit? Was it my glasses, my hair style or lack thereof, my wrinkles, or my outfit that made me look 10 years older?
As I continued to fret over the woman’s question, it became all too clear that I’m an ageist too. Why else would I react so negatively?
We live in a society that values Youth.
Except for underage, young adults trying to get into a local night club, people in general do not desire to look older than they really are.
No one wants to be old. Most of the elderly patients I visit don’t want to be old. I even have a 95-year old woman who tells me nearly every time I visit with her, “Don’t get old.”
Getting old means your body and brain don’t function the way they used to. You smell funny. You dress funny. You act funny. You are certainly NOT sexy. You’re irrelevant, seen as out-of-date or out-of-touch, unable to keep up with the changing times.
These are stereotypes, of course, and sadly what younger generations are taught in various ways to think about the elderly.
Much to my joy, our church celebrated Elder Sunday this past week.
What a wonderful celebration of the individuals 60 and older in our congregation. Our elders preached, sang, danced, prayed, and led our worship time. After the service, the congregation had the opportunity to see the many talents of our elders who are writers, photographers, artists, mechanics, etc.
My children were especially impressed with a woman who began creating beautiful scenes with miniatures at age 60. Her french knot rugs were truly incredible!! 25 years later she’s still at it.
My grandmother, Esther, who turned 98 this August!
We need more of these celebrations in our congregations, and in our towns and cities.
We must reclaim the sanctity of Elderhood, to honor our elders for the wisdom and insights they offer.
And for my own part?
I shalI honor the elder I am becoming. I will embrace the changes, even at 44, I am beginning to see in my body.
I will celebrate the many life lessons I have learned. I will rejoice that I am still alive to learn even more of what life and my faith have to teach me!
And yes, the next time I am asked if I qualify for the senior discount, I will resist the fear and stereotypes of aging by celebrating the sanctity of Elderhood.