Nobody would dare patronize Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Sure, she’s an old lady, even older than I. But folks still praise her, or damn her, just as if she were young! That’s not how it is for most of our elders, like me for instance. In our culture, being old is just not revered. The aged are not considered wise. More often we’re ignored. That’s not nice!
In itself age comes as a shock. When I, just as an example, think of the elderly, I’m not thinking of myself, or my man. I’m thinking of the grandparents and parents who raised me. They were old and I was there to be a caretaker, perhaps, or to stay young forever, even better. It hardly occurred to me that I was in line to be the older generation. I merely looked into the mirror and saw myself at 17. Convinced was I that this was forever.
But life happened. After my mother died, in Herzliya, at age 85, surprisingly, my father decided to move to Achuzat Beit in Raanana, a really nice assisted living facility. Dad had never been a social kind of guy. My sister and I thought moving there would be a big mistake. He was always the man in the big chair with the big books who contented himself with learning history; not into small talk whatsoever. We worried that he’d sit alone in his room, surrounded by his heavy tomes, friendless and depressed. Well, Mr, Unsociable became a bon vivant, living for many years with his crew of new-found best friends, all women. Right he was. Wrong were we.
When we visited Dad at Achuzat Beit we were always amused when someone mistook us for residents. Although the writing was on the walls we blamed their cataracts instead of our wrinkles. These days, there’s no question. We’re age-eligible.
So what is it about old age? Some of it isn’t bad at all. Watching your family grow and making you proud. That’s simply wonderful! Of course, with your experience and wisdom you’re old enough to do an inexorable amount of worrying about these same people. That can’t be helped and I’d be surprised if even RBG doesn’t worry a bit.
The infirmities are not the best part of old age. The stairs are steeper. So are the hills. The fonts are smaller. The volume on the TV is never loud enough. And then there are all the conditions. Various bodily parts start to give out…..just like on your car, but with the car the battery can be more easily replaced or repaired.
Travel was always a high point in our lives. We are many times million mile fliers. Intrepid would have been a good description. Oh, the places we’ve been.. Today we are far more cautious. So, our dear, but aged friends, just came back from Kiev. Hills as high as Everest say they. Cross another place off our shrinking bucket list.
It all happens so fast. But people around us can toss us a lifeline. Don’t exclude us because of our age. Don’t pour your senior citizen discounts down our throats (except for the Tuesday movies in Israel). Offer us leadership roles. We’ve got the time and experience. And don’t assume our minds are mush. Maybe yes. Maybe no.
No one respects RBG because she’s old. That’s not her main characteristic. She’s wise. She’s industrious. She’s a leader. But so are many of my colleagues in this race to the finish. Treat us like you treat her and we’ll be happy.