Being old is thought of in such negative terms these days in America and something to be avoided at all costs. From Baby Boomers to Millennials to I kids we do not really respect those who have collected a significant number of years. We look up to those older adults who seem eternally young, that is like us, still active, still doing, still working. Yes, I know I am guilty of this too. When a person reaches 40 or maybe 50 we often do not think of ourselves as that old. And old to us is someone our parent’s age, or older than us by at least 15 years. Why all the negatives of getting old? Why do we struggle with seeing ourselves in this role?
Social Scientist indicate that the reason we Baby Boomers have such a hard time with the concept of getting older is two fold. One is we fear a loss of independence, control, and significance. This alone may explain why death is so frightening to us and why we feel so negatively about the final chapters of life, i.e. old age because it leads to a loss of control. We have grown up as the largest and most influential cohort in the history of the world and are use to having some control and exerting influence on our world around us. We want to remain youthful, because we equate being youthful with being in charge and in control. The second reason researchers tell us we have a hard time with looking forward to getting old, has to do with a lack of satisfaction with our lives. We are a generation which had great freedom in life so we also formed great expectations, hopes, and dreams. Old timers have said to me they never worried about having a career because they did not have that luxury. Work satisfaction and achievement was found in earning a living for one’s family and trying to make a better life for one’s children. We Boomer’s expect that the things we do in life should equal great satisfaction.
Plus we have grown up in a consumer world, where we have thousands of products aimed to make life easier and better. This is reflected in one Boomer’s sentiment to me: “I am not going to worry about old age because I am never getting old. By the time I get old maybe the doctors will have discovered a cure for old age. But time moves on whether we like it or not and our bodies and minds and spirits even are changing. I think back often to the things I have chased in my lifetime thinking they would bring happiness. Some of those things I wouldn’t think of doing now because my mind does think differently in maturity than before.
Perhaps in our rush to remain forever young we are missing the pleasures and gifts of old age. It is something for us to think about. Older adults move quite literally from doing into being. They often become more reflective, philosophical and mindful. Their concerns are not so much performance driven as they are legacy driven. Older adults I have discovered move from doing into being in life. So it doesn’t matter as much what they do in life as much who they are becoming.