Age is only a number, not a way of life
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!