I am still trying to get people over 65 to let me know what they feel are the positives and negatives of ageing (send to YourStory@over65.net) but both myself and friends who are trying to get contributions for it (for my book on ageing) are amazed at the wall of silence we are coming across. I even put a request in my local U3A newsletter (which goes out to over 4000 members) and only got 2 responses.
Why don’t we want to talk about what it is like to go through a phase of our lives that most younger people will one day go through? We are constantly told about the X and Y generations who apparently speak out freely about their lives but we won’t talk about ours. Why? Are we ashamed of it or don’t we want to confront what is happening to us in terms of frailty and our additional likelihood of disease? If we aren’t willing to confront these things how are we going to cope with them?
I wonder if the fact that we live in a society which treats us as second class citizens (through ‘ageism’) has something to do with it? Don’t we believe in ourselves?
I am hoping that the book I am writing about my research into successful ageing will help to unite us older people as a group and also to help society not only to understand us but to feel proud of us for what we have achieved in the past, and for some of us, what we are still achieving.
The years after retiring now stretch into decades which makes it a very important part of our lives and both we and society should recognise this. For some, such as people like composer Peter Sculthorpe, cartoonist Bruce Petty and ambassador Noeline Brown, the later years of life are no different from their earlier years and they just keep on doing what they have always done, with their years of maturity adding to the quality of their work.
This has happened throughout history. Some people, such as Shakespeare, wrote some of their best work later in life whilst others, such as Hildegarde von Bingen, changed careers late in life. She didn’t start writing music until the later years of her life yet we still enjoy it today over 1000 years later.
Regardless of what we are doing in this later stage of our lives we should be proud of ourselves and of what we are doing and what we have achieved in earlier times. We are the first generation to have had such a long later stage of life, we are the pioneers of how to cope with it and we should be aware of this. The baby boomers are determined to change things in this later stage of their lives but they are only just starting out on it and we should be able to guide them (and help them to know what lies ahead). This is our role as elders and we shouldn’t be shrinking away from it.