Age is only a num­ber, not a way of life

Daily Times (Primos, PA) - - OPINION - By Ray Re­gan Times Colum­nist Ray Re­gan is a Ch­ester County grand­fa­ther and writer.

When Dy­lan was 2 years old he lit up my world. He taught me to see though his eyes, every­thing was a won­der, dust par­ti­cles float­ing in a beam of light – a cu­rios­ity. Match­box cars and trucks roared to life. I learned to be pa­tient in new ways.

Dur­ing the last fam­ily sleep­over, Dy­lan (now 7) asked me how old I was. I told him and he said, “Gdad, that’s sooo old!” Although I don’t feel old, he sees me that way now.

Dy­lan’s world has ex­panded with school and friends, be­yond our play­times. That he sees me as dif­fer­ent now, be­cause of age, trou­bled me. Some blame this at­ti­tude on too much “screen time,” smart­phones and so­cial me­dia. Is it Pop Cul­ture?

Co­in­ci­den­tally, I no­ticed that most mid­dle-aged folks at the mall and gym made oc­ca­sional eye con­tact with me, some smiled back. While young peo­ple, usu­ally looked through me or turned away, like a bird caught their at­ten­tion – eyes averted when we got close. It makes me feel in­vis­i­ble. I’m con­flicted, grow­ing up we in­ter­acted and learned from older folks, and peo­ple still do.

There’s no doubt that life is a lin­ear pro­gres­sion de­fined by birthdays. But go­ing by my re­cent ex­pe­ri­ence, chrono­log­i­cal age has be­come a bar­rier to healthy con­nec­tions, like we’re two dif­fer­ent species.

So what’s the deal here, what can we do? We can’t re­make our cul­ture, but we can change how we, as in­di­vid­u­als feel and think!

Not buy­ing into the me­dia hype that youth is paramount helps. Our crit­i­cal mind knows that ad­ver­tise­ments are only ways to sell prod­ucts – and we mind­lessly watch a ma­jor­ity of young peo­ple on TV. They buy more stuff.

But these TV im­ages re­in­force our un­con­scious be­lief in the false di­chotomy of young as beau­ti­ful and cool, while old is old.

It be­lies the truth that we are just one big, some­times happy fam­ily of peo­ple, a con­tin­uum who have dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives and rich­ness to offer each other.

When we con­nect with some­one on a hu­man-to­hu­man level, “young” and “old” dis­ap­pear. Although it takes prac­tice, stress lev­els go down if we just lis­ten with­out our dis­tract­ing judg­ments,.

Also, as we learn to vis­cer­ally ac­cept our­selves, pos­i­tive pay­offs hap­pen. And stay­ing open to other peo­ple re­gard­less of dif­fer­ence makes a dif­fer­ence.

While that dream to win gold in the women’s down­hill de­parts by mid­dle age, a life free from the bur­den of age ori­en­ta­tion has no lim­its. All it takes is a lit­tle vul­ner­a­bil­ity with the will­ing­ness to try new things.

Art dis­re­gards age. Any­one can be cre­ative, write, paint or craft what you feel. View­ers and reader see only the work, what’s be­ing ex­pressed. Emo­tions are age­less; cre­ative work has no date stamp. Think of the mu­sic you love.

Adding to age gap is older peo­ple act­ing old – play­ing “An Old Per­son” in real life. Do we wake up one day and say, “Hey, I’m not sup­posed to do (what­ever) any­more!”

Un­tapped tal­ents are abun­dant in older peo­ple. And oh, the fun you can have shar­ing them, even with gray hair.

Think you can’t learn some­thing new? What about Neu­ro­plas­tic­ity?

Neu­ro­plas­tic­ity: “Also known as neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis or brain plas­tic­ity, this new knowl­edge is showing us that the brain has the abil­ity to change through­out life by form­ing new con­nec­tions be­tween brain cells, and to alter func­tion.” How­ever, this effect de­pends on the brain be­ing chal­lenged, stim­u­lated by learn­ing new tasks.

So, by push­ing through the fear of new things, try­ing some­thing you al­ways dreamed of, you’ll have a health­ier brain. And this in­cludes all ages.

When you’re older, in­side you don’t feel so dif­fer­ent from your youth­ful self. Why not live that ex­u­ber­ance? No doubt, age is al­ways there. Did you ever walk past a win­dow, see your re­flec­tion and go “Whoa! Who’s that?!

We can’t change pop cul­ture, but we can learn to be our au­then­tic self – do what you love, prac­tice grat­i­tude, be cu­ri­ous, act silly at times, help some­one, spend time with chil­dren, be kind, and dance, if only in your heart. Wear a bright color to perk up the peo­ple you meet.

Some­times I back­slide into my com­fort group. But I’m hap­pier when I see ev­ery­one, young and old, as teach­ers with a unique story to tell me – in­clud­ing Dy­lan!

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