My seventeen year old son came home from school in September, and announced, “My social studies teacher is really old.”
I had to bite. “So, how old do you think she is?”
“Your age.” (I was 50 at the time)
Two days later, I was working with my co-author on our book about aging (due out from Oxford University Press this fall). Jimmie was 85 at the time. She commented on the fact that younger people are so afraid of aging, it can get in the way of their enjoying their lives now. I pointed out that it wasn’t only younger people, but middle-aged people like me who were also afraid of aging. Jimmie laughed.
“You don’t get it, Mindy. You are younger people!”
Hedda Bolgar, a psychoanalyst in California, continued to see patients up until her death at 103. Many of her patients were in their 70’s and 80’s. Or, as she described them, “the younger generation.”
Most of us are both old and young, to somebody. If we can learn to stop self-segregating by age, it will be easier to see how simplistic and self-defeating it is to divide the world into “young” and “old,” and appreciate how we might learn to enjoy each other’s company. It will give us all newfound perspective.
Coming October, 2014: Lighter as We Go: Virtues, Character Strengths, and Aging, by Mindy Greenstein, Ph.D. and Jimmie Holland, M.D., to be published by Oxford University Press.