I have had some great examples of people who grow old gracefully, with aplomb and dignity. I love to brag that my Great-Grandma Tureson was into her nineties and driving the freeways of Los Angeles. There are a couple memories I have of her (I must have been about twelve or thirteen the last time we visited before she died) weaving in and out of traffic like a pro, and my dad having a hard time keeping up with her.
My grandmother McEvoy is someone else that has seemed to age without it taking her down to a pit of despair and wallowing. She lives in a retirement complex and volunteers at the office a few hours each week in order to keep active. She also uses the computer, and yes, has an e-mail address!
Our society views aging as something to be ashamed of. We push our elderly relatives into nursing homes and scarcely visit, except when on days of required observance such as Mother's Day or Thanksgiving. A number of years ago, I had an experience that showed me just how society's views on the elderly differ. A friend and I were in Las Vegas, watching something on the strip, the pirate show I think. We were with some of her high school friends and one of them spoke Japanese. As the crowd surged forward to watch the spectacle, two Japanese couples pushed and elbowed their way to the front. They were muttering something to themselves and caused our friend to laugh. He spoke back to them and they were quite surprised to see this young white kid speaking their language. He translated for us what they had been muttering, something along the lines of: "We are old and so everyone should respect us and allow us to go to the front. It's our right as the elderly." Wow. They assumed that because they were old, they would get the respect they deserve. Perhaps that is how they had been treated in Japan, but not here in the good ol' US of A. It made me sad to think that we weren't as respectful and appreciative of age as they were.
I have also had some very bad examples of aging. One in particular would be my Grandma Clark who would say every time we would visit, "I will probably be dead tomorrow." How is that for some great incentive to visit?! I'd rather not thanks! She did live quite a long life, and was pretty healthy for all her lamentations. She would complain that it wasn't fun to get old and was down right negative about it. She didn't look at the life experience she had or the great lessons and stories she could pass down to her posterity.
Currently, I have an example in a couple of co-workers who aren't that ancient, truth be told. They both complain about bodily functions, walk like a tortoise because of lumbago (does anyone really even know what that is?) and call everyone youngsters. My biggest concern though, is that in one of them, she has taken so far that I think she may have the beginning sings of dementia. Now, she really could. I'm not a doctor, so I can't make that diagnosis, but there is certainly a mind over matter if it isn't true.
Something I've learned from those that have aged with grace.....they know their limitations and are okay with it. They know when they shouldn't drive anymore. They know when they need help with the big stuff, and even when they should quit while they are a head. I'm sure that secretly they are all frustrated with the loss of flexibility and strength and that they don't move as quickly as they used to, but they take it as a badge of honor of a life well lived and loved. I've also learned that they can tell stories, or teach us things to pass down through the generations. I learned to crochet from my Grandma McEvoy, and now it is a hobby that is cherished. My own daughter is learning to knit from my mom. It is something that she will hold dear as she grows older. There is a connection there that can't be forged any other way. Certainly not with complaints of lumbago.
So, we live in a society that values youth and vitality. Everything must be shiny and new, from cars to people. What about the worn, and well loved articles? Aren't they worth as much as the new model? Only if we look at it with a perspective of valuing history and preserving its worth.