This is the first in a series of columns we are excited to present for another year from the Summit of Uptown called REFLECTIONS FROM SUMMIT.
Getting older? What does it really mean?
When Juliet asks that question in William Shakespeare’s iconic play, Romeo and Juliet, she seems to imply that the names of things do not affect what they really are. But is that really true? For instance, how do you feel when you read a news story that calls a person elderly—and then you find out that the person is 62 years old? How do you feel if someone refers to you as a senior citizen?
If we think about it, we are all well aware of the stereotypes that pop into our mind when we hear that term. Hopefully, we’ve moved beyond the multi-layered cliché portrayed by Ruth Buzzi and Arte Johnson on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In, the TV show from the late 60s and early 70s. Remember Gladys Ormphby, the dowdy spinster, clad in drab brown with her bun hairdo covered by a visible hairnet knotted in the middle of her forehead, who thwarted the advances of the dirty old man character by bashing him with her purse?
Or what about the short-lived commercial for a cookie that featured a gray-haired couple in rocking chairs on their porch? Looking over the top of his glasses, the husband says, “Squirrel? That’s a funny name for a cookie.” I believe that commercial was pulled over protests about the numerous senior citizen labels that the ad agency was able to pack into that 30-second spot—gray hair, glasses, rocking chairs, and hearing issues. Swirl, the actual name of the cookie, has long since disappeared from the grocery shelves.
But if the cookies have disappeared, ageism certainly hasn’t. Myths about seniors are rampant in today’s culture. From films and television to the jokes we laugh at, fallacies about what it means to be 60 or 70 or even 80 or 90 or 100 are insidious and omnipresent.
For example, contrary to the idea old people are miserable and grumpy, the truth is that if you’re happy when you’re young, you’ll be happy when you’re old. In fact, many studies find that as a group, seniors are among the happiest. The lowest levels of happiness are actually reported by people who are 40. And after all, common sense tells us that happiness or sadness is a product of individual personality traits and not a characteristic of a particular age group. Another prevailing idea would have you believe that the older you are, the less creative you are. But Anna Mary Robinson Moses held her first one-woman art show in 1940 when she was 80 years old. Dubbed Grandma Moses, she continued to paint until she was 101.
The truth is that those of us who have reached senior status are living in uncharted territory. Did you realize that life expectancy has gone up by about 30 years since the early 20th Century? According to Laura Carstensen of the Stanford Center on Longevity, “Older people today are like pioneers of a new life stage, trying to find their way.” As they lead the way, the nomenclature for this new phenomenon has just not caught up with the facts of how people actually age.
Terms such as Senior, Boomer, Midlifer, Golden-Ager, Venerable, or Jewel just don’t seem to do the job. And neither does Gener-ager suggested on a blog or the tweet that proposed Super Adult. Perhaps we don’t need another term at all if we treat each person as an individual and not just one more among many.
If you are looking to explore a new place to call home where you are known as the person that you are and not by a label, you may want to consider Summit of Uptown where you’ll find countless programs and activities to suit your individual interests that provide not only education but promote friendships among the people who live here. Offering the best of Independent Living and personalized Assisted Living, Summit always invites community members to join us for programs and events.
You can visit the Summit of Uptown website here or call 847-825-1161 to find out more about programs, activities, services, and amenities at Summit of Uptown, which has been providing quality services for seniors for more than thirty years.