By Dori Gillam
I’d love it if our overall society was more positive about aging. Shopping for birthday cards, I notice how many try to make fun of getting older rather than celebrating it. One card showed a cartoon of a white-haired man, bent over a cane, holding his back as if it ached. The card read, “Now I know why Peter Pan didn’t want to grow up!” Inside it said: “Happy 50th!” Another card: “As we get older, we lose our youth, but gain invaluable insight and wisdom.” Inside: Lousy trade, if you ask me. Happy 60th Birthday!”
Society, advertising and the media have many messages about turning back time, anti-aging and how, by age 50 or 60 we’ll be ‘over the hill’ and won’t be able to see, hear, walk or remember anything. How do we expect younger generations to respect their elders when it looks like aging is either a big joke or something to be avoided?
These messages are ageist, and don’t serve a purpose because everyone is aging, and we could all be supporting each other. Why spend time on birthdays looking at the losses of aging, rather than celebrating our gifts, talents, what we’ve learned, and what we have to offer.
Let’s buy more positive birthday cards like the one that shows a woman with grey hair that says, “If gray hair is a sign of wisdom, you’re a genius!” Or the one that shows two bananas – one is bright yellow and the other is brown-spotted. It says, “Being one day older only matters if you’re a banana!”
Not everything about aging is positive, but at least on birthdays, let’s celebrate the best parts of aging.
Dori is a speaker and writer, inspiring older adults to age creatively. She writes for 3rd Act Magazine, is a member of the Speaker’s Bureau for Humanities Washington, Board Chair for the NW Center for Creative Aging, Charter Member of the Age Friendly Seattle Coalition, and volunteers with Habitat for Humanity building houses around the world. Dori cared for her parents for the last seven years of their lives and performs a story about them at local theaters and for conferences. With a BS degree in Educational Psychology from the University of Washington, Dori has worked for Sound Generations, AARP and the Bayview Retirement Community. She is proud to have been born and raised in Seattle, does a mean tap-dance to “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” and has climbed Mt. Rainier and Mt. Kilimanjaro. Dori’s daughter, son-in-law, and grandson live in California.