STORIES

You Are Just Now Old Enough

         This is a personal story that has had a lasting impression on me and one that may speak to others. It started on the morning of my 65th birthday. I was having a quiet time, as I usually do each morning, and was feeling a little morose. After all it was a BIG birthday and I was thinking about time, or I should say the lack of time, to do all the things I had dreamed of. The back story is that I had always thought that I would experience some major success in my life. Maybe invent something to save lives, or have a powerful message to share on a worldwide stage, or write a bestselling book. I called it my ‘rich and famous’ dream! Well, up to that day it had not been manifest. I must say I was having a bit of a pity party and no one was attending but me. And then the thought came…

         It was a divine inspiration and I know the thought did not originate inside me.   The message was, “Connie, you are just now old enough!” I was completely taken back. “Really? At 65, I am just now old enough to do my best work!” It was such a powerful thought I hopped out of bed and was filled with energy and excitement about the future. This thought could apply to anyone, at any age. Every morning you are just old enough to face that day. You have the right amount of experience and wisdom to bring to the tasks at hand. My 95 year old mom’s daily prayer was, “Lord if you don’t take me home today, I’m here and ready to do your will.” The point is you are never too old! As a matter of fact you are just NOW old enough. You’re not getting older, you are getting better! The worst mistake is to believe your days of productivity are over! Because of that thought I am making plans for the future. More to come on that topic.

Filial Piety

     Are you familiar with the term filial (fi-lē-əl) piety? Years ago I was at the Dole Institute on Aging at the University of Kansas and coincidently ended up observing a Chinese woman presenting her doctoral thesis to an audience of professors. She explained that her research compared over 5,000 print and film advertisements to see differences in the depiction of seniors.  She named ten criteria that she looked for in the portrayal of older men and women: vitality, health, activity etc. The last criteria mentioned was filial piety. Being an outside observer, I wasn’t about to ask what it meant. I was delighted when one of the professors asked for clarification.  She explained that in the Chinese culture there was a well-accepted virtue that children will take care of their older parents and the virtue is filial piety. Filial means family and piety is worship or devotion.

     When asked for an example she pulled out a magazine showing an old man in a wheelchair with his beaming son standing next to him. The son is admonishing others to buy this superior brand of wheelchair. The presenter said there were very few representations of older Americans in a state of weakness or need. American ads showed seniors dancing, swimming, playing tennis as targets for things like cholesterol medications and Viagra. No one appears old except for a little grey hair; otherwise they could be young adults. At that moment I knew that filial piety was a virtue worth embracing and promoting! Our Elders are precisely that-old-and we should not pretend that their needs are not real. Ageism is a real issue. Just as advertisements gloss over the realities, as an entire culture we want to gloss over the pressing issues of aging. It is time to face aging and all its wrinkles and get on with celebrating the whole process. Just like racism and sexism, it is time to say no to exclusion. The irony is that unlike race and sex, everyone is universally aging, except for the unfortunate that die too soon. Let’s get on with celebrating our whole life and be happy that we have the privilege of getting old! 

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