With Zeke on my 52nd birthday.
As a 9 year old kid I had some issues that presented as physical aches and pains. My grandmother, then in her late 60s, talked about her own aches and pains, attributing them entirely to “getting old.” I replied that I had my share of aches and pains as well, so why were hers due to getting old, yet mine were not? I remember her laughing at my conclusion because I had said something important. I had made her realize that she had known various aches and pains ever since she was kid, so why at this stage in her life did she so willingly buy into the popular notion that these were suddenly age-related, as opposed to previously being simply life-related?
This ageist conceit applies to many things that are life-related and that can and do happen at any age from our youth to our later years. When I was a kid and forgot things, I may have been mocked for it, but not in the same way younger people dismiss older people for the identical thing. When you’re young, you forget stuff and that’s perfectly normal. But when you’re approaching your later years and you forget stuff, instantly people assume this is entirely age-related, or worse, conclude you have Alzheimer’s.
Unlike other prejudices, such as those related to religion, race or national origin, everybody who doesn’t die young is going to get old. Although true, there’s little comfort in knowing that these youthful people dismissive of their “olds” will themselves experience the very same prejudices down the road.
We can’t change the human race, but we can refuse to sign up for others’ prejudices, ageist and otherwise. More importantly, we can, like my grandmother, filter what we ourselves say and how we phrase things to others so as not to add to the problem.
By concluding that the very same issues we had as younger people, such as tripping and falling, forgetting someone’s name, or having an aching back are nowadays due entirely to our getting older, we reinforce others’ ageist attitudes and plant the idea in our own heads that maybe we should “slow down” and begin restricting ourselves. Nothing will make us older faster than adopting uncalled-for or fear based limitations.