Saturday, April 26, 2008

Getting older.....

What is "old"??

Lines on the face? Retirement? Over 40? Over 60? Movements not as quick any more? Frail? Confused? Used up? Past your sell by date? Grey hair?

I read something about old people. I need to say something here.

It is all about perspective, isn't it. To a 7 year old, 15 is old. To a 15 year old, 30 is old. To a 30 year old, 60 is old. To a 60 year old..... 120 is old. And it is all about what we see when we look with our eyes. Eyes see one thing only though. The external.

We are pre-conditioned by stereo types, force fed to us through tv and newspapers. Young is good. Older is bad. The young hold the power. The old use up resources. I once read an article about a mugging, where the reporter mentioned that the "victim was an elderly woman of 35". I kid you not. That was the very first time I actually called the paper and asked if they were hiring 12 year old reporters. I was 32 at the time and less than impressed. Not to mention how that poor woman must have felt reading the article.

I have never thought of myself as "old". My mother is 82 and she is not old. She doesn't walk quite as fast as she once used to, but she can run if she has to. There is nothing she can't do. She may choose not to bungee jump, but that is a personal preference. I go with that one too.

One of our best loved and most professional of news readers here was removed from news anchoring, because she did not fit the profile. She was in her 50s and hugely respected. The target market for everything is the 30 somethings, but hey, the only ones with spending power any more are the older generation. All the old fashioned restaurants in shopping centres which used to have service areas, where you sat down and ordered your tea or lunch, have closed. It is all self-service. Have you actually seen older people trying to balance their shopping and trays? It is a disgrace. And me? Oh I would go for the "sit and be served" option every time. I don't think I am old.

When I started working at the place I am now, I had had some experience of the new breed of teenager. Now, remember that I too have one teenager left in my family, and this is in no way a blanket assessment of the younger generation. My kids are great, they have good manners, they are polite, they are well brought up, as are all their friends. They are lovely people. I was lulled into a false sense of security. In my innocence, or naivety, I assumed all kids were sort of like mine. WRONG.

When I started work here, I was not old. I never thought of myself as old. Older, yes. Old? No. The years have never mattered to me. But apparently those years do to the teenagers I spend time with now. "Oh G** it is the old woman.....I hate her", "I hate old people, go away", "You are so old and ugly", "Sh*t up old woman", "F*** o** old c*w", "Sh*t the f*** up you old b**ch", and yesterday's gem...."You are so G**dam**d ugly, grandma". That one came after I was informed that his mother would "get me". (I happened to be on duty in a place where he hoped to go and have a cigarette.)

Old? Maybe I am old. If they keep telling me I am, who knows, I may yet come to believe them.

But that is not why I am writing this today.

I get impatient sometimes when I go to the supermarket, and it seems as though the whole retired world is out shopping. I forget sometimes, that this could well be the highlight of their day. They are slower than I am. And I am usually running. But it is just momentary. The 20 year old out shopping may be thinking the same thing about me. His or her needs may be more important than mine. My needs are more important than the retired couple's. Or not. The point I am trying to make here is that when we get irritated by older people, whether we are 15 or 50, it is because we are indulging in a selfish moment. An "I" moment. Not a good idea. When we get frustrated because we want to be quiet, and they want to talk, we are having a selfish moment. Selfish moments are normal, natural and frequent around here, I can assure you. I wish they were not. I am no better than anyone else. But it is not all about me.

Think for a moment.... maybe you are the only person they have talked to today. Maybe they live alone. My mother-in-law used to talk to the tv. She lived alone, had no-one to chat to, and when the news came on, she would sit there and say things like.... "Good evening dear. Oh my, I really don't think you should be wearing that tie with that shirt. No. Maybe the blue one you had on last night would have been better..." and so on. It used to amuse me, and then I really thought, hang on, who else has she got to talk to? She chatted to everyone when she was out walking. In the doctor's surgery, at the park. In the shops. Why? It was her way of maintaining contact with human beings. Communicating. She was not ready to shrivel up and die in her house, alone. And why on earth should she?

I am like her in that respect. I talk to anyone and every one. I have been known to stop when I saw an unhappy looking teen on a bench, retrace my steps and ask simply if she was ok.

Why should old people have to apologise for being slower than us? Don't they have as much right as us to be there? Why shouldn't we take a moment and have a conversation with them? Smile and mean it? Don't all people, young and old, need compliments? How much have they got to share with us? Why are we so impatient? How much time are we really giving up? Are they lonely? Who has noticed they are alive today? Many don't have phones. They are expensive. Or computers. Or cars.

David is off to uni in the autumn. I could be alone in this house. If I don't go out and talk to other human beings, what would my life be like? I could get a parrot I suppose, or something that talks to me. Or maybe I will start talking to the news man too.


When I am really old, (about 90 or so!) I know I would want to be surrounded by life. Young people - not the ones I work with, may I add - children, 30 somethings, 50 somethings. I want to live, and be a part of life, not just on the outside looking in. I want to know what is going in their heads, and I want to interact. I am interested.

So one day, I will be the old lady chatting to you in supermarket queues, in doctor's waiting rooms, in the parks and wherever I can find you. Please don't get impatient, or irritated, or bury your faces in books or computers when I smile at you and strike up a conversation. Look up, see me, acknowledge me. Take a little time. Maybe just a couple of minutes. And talk back. I am nice. I am not a weird old woman. You may enjoy chatting to me for a little while.

And you may be the only thing that keeps me in touch with life that day.

Slow down. Think more. Put aside your schedule. Ignore the bells. It could be you one day.

Scratch that. It WILL be you one day.


Janine said...

Amen to that! We're not old, we're experienced and wise and it's a pity that your mob at school don't realise that.
I take after my mom in that I talk to everyone. Had a chat to an aged gentleman the other day and he told me that it had made his day to have a "young lady" flirt with him. That made me smile for the whole day too.

Hungry Hippo said...

With regard to what the teenagers you work with said, in my experience young people try and find the thing that pushes your buttons and gets you annoyed. Once they have found the insult that works that's the one they tend to stick too. In my case it was to say that I had big tits. Ironic really because it isn't true! However, it sure as hell pushed my buttons and got me seeing red! Personally I think such a remark should result in temporary exclusion. Sadly it resulted in no punishment other than what I dished out.

Morning Glory said...

Oh wow, this was profound. I saw myself in so many of the descriptions you just wrote. I talk to myself and to inanimate objects. But I'm not old -- I'm just the only one home at that time. I find myself noticing older people in stores these days, and I agree that it's important to let them know you notice them, in a good way, of course.

What a great reminder to care about the people around me. Thank you!!

Joyful Days said...

What a fantastic & observant post! I've worked in nursing homes and retirement communities and what you said is so very true. I enjoyed my work there and learned so much from my residents. My father is the guy that you see in the store that has conversations with everyone. He's met some neat people that way.

Just wanted to let you know I've been lurking for a while & really like "visiting."



Vee ~ A Haven for Vee said...

How you're not talking to yourself already having to cope with those kids is beyond me. You're a better woman than I am, Linds, that's for certain.

Sometimes I feel as if I have reached the age where I am now invisible. I smile at people and they pretend not to see me. It's strange. I'll try to follow your lead and see if it works.

Susie said...

Very well said Linds! I think this was a reminder we could all heed.
On a different note, I just read of a blogger friend who is on her way to visit London. She was wanting tips on places to see and do (inexpensive)
I gave her a link to you. Hope you don't mind?
Here is her link:
I know you have some wonderful places you could recommend!

mary said...

Sounds like some student's over your way are just as confused, angry, lost, hurting, undisciplined and damn right as rude as some kids 'Down Under'. One student suggested I was the ugliest thing he had ever seen. Imagine how deep that cut went, especially as I had a brand new 'funky' hairstyle and had lost 18kgs. Maybe he thought I was too 'old' for the funky hair and was a little threatened. At times like that I try and recall the beautiful story "The Wemmicks".

Barbara said...

One million per cent absolutely true. When we were in the Cotswolds last year we walked past a bus stop in an adorable village and an old lady (it turned out 90) was sitting on a low wall near the stop. As she smiled at us as we went past we stopped and talked to her ( but mentally thinking we need to get a move on to get to the next place before everything closes) Apparently she sat there just to have conversations with people at the bus stop as she was a widow of many years who lived alone.The fact that she shared with us lots of history about the village was a bonus.

Debbie said...

So true, Linds. At 50-something, I've found myself having many of those same thoughts in recent years. Thanks for reminding us.

Kate said...

Its always 'only five minutes away' as my beloved mum used to say - so very true!
I have just been checking out what the people I read - wrote on my birthday..... and this one is possible the most profound!