I hate to be called hon or dear or even ma’am. When asked if I want help with putting my groceries in the car, I always refuse. I still like wearing my jeans with the stylish hole in the knee and statement t-shirts. And yet. Ten years ago, I fell walking with my young (at that time) granddaughters near their school but refused the help of a man passing by. A few months ago, I fell walking to a class for seniors at Northwestern University and complained, when my friend offered me a hand to get up, that the students rushed by without any offer of help.
Young people are using the phrase OK, boomer to indicate disdain for folks of my generation.
That’s when it hit me that I was officially old. I was invisible to the college students. When I go to weddings, I no longer have to obsess over what to wear. I will be at the old folks’ table furthest from the music (thank you for that) and no one will be looking to see if I am wearing stylish shoes. Any basic black outfit will do. I get it. My healthiest days are in my rearview mirror. There’s a lot more doctoring and a lot less visibility after crossing that Rubicon of age seventy.
Recently, my daughter asked me how we should celebrate my upcoming birthday in September. Why do we need to do anything special, I asked? Because it’s a special birthday was the answer. Oh yeah, I’ll be turning 75. I remember as if it were yesterday planning a party for my mother’s 75th birthday. She had just become the great-grandmother of my twin granddaughters and happily shared her celebration with one for them as well. She was a Bubbe now, but she looked great and didn’t seem terribly old to me.
But the next sixteen years were not as kind to her. There were joys as she got to attend the weddings of three more grandchildren and hold seven more great-grandkids. But as my father’s health declined and he became less able to walk well, their world started to shrink. The stairs in the three-floor condo they loved became increasingly challenging. Then my father died and she was alone for the first time in her life. Still, after convincing her to move into a senior living apartment, Mom had three years in which she made new friends, participated in many activities, and surprised us with her independence and ability to reinvent her life. I could do a lot worse in my life than following her example.
Part of the aging process is letting go. As I watch my friends leave their homes to move into elevator buildings and senior living apartments, I wonder how much longer we should hang on to our 108-year-old home in which we have lived for almost 45 years. When we bought it, we had young kids and wondered when the older residents on the block would sell their homes to young families so our kids could have more playmates. Now, we are those older folks not wanting to leave a house that is far too big for two people. We have room for our kids from out of town to stay with us, and room to host the large parties and family gatherings we have held over these many years. But we don’t have the energy to do this much longer. So yes, there is downsizing in our near future.
At some point after that 75th birthday party, my mother stopped coloring her hair. It was a shocking transformation. While she still looked great for a woman in her eighties, she also started to look her age. I’m not ready to go there yet, but some of my friends have. They look lovely but I can’t picture myself that way.
I think I get why those college students didn’t see me when I fell. Apparently, being a boomer makes one a target for contempt these days. Young people are using the phrase OK, boomer to indicate disdain for folks of my generation. I’m sure my granddaughter sees OK, boomer on TikTok all of the time. By the way, aren’t you impressed that someone my age knows about TikTok? Nevertheless, kids are telling us that we were totally wrong about most everything. Boomer has evolved from being cool to become a dirty word associated with ageism. Our supposed wisdom doesn’t mean much to the young generation that coined this phrase. We are the ones responsible for climate change, endless wars, and economic injustice. On top of that, I was even trolling their college campus.
I remember thinking my generation would fix the world. Now I fear our collective knowledge and expertise have made it a pretty bad place for kids who are about to enter adulthood. Perhaps it’s time to act my age and turn to younger generations for guidance. Mayor Pete, anyone?
Boomer. Educator. Advocate. Eclectic topics: grandkids, special needs, values, aging, loss, & whatever. Author: Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real.