Essay Non-Fiction posted February 13, 2020

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A Systemic Bias


by Marisa3

Let me preface this piece by stating that I realize there are those that will take umbrage with my reference to being in one's seventies as the "7th decade". I am fully aware this is not correct from a purely chronological standpoint, however, I would ask that you suspend your need to get bogged down in minutiae and focus on the point I am attempting to convey. As far as I'm concerned I am in my 7th decade of life, chronologically incorrect or not, I am unequivocally HERE!!

I have written on the topic of aging a few times, but given the broad subject matter, I feel there is still more to explore, especially concerning current societal mores in relation to aging. Ageism appears to be systemic in a society that is hyper-focused on youth and striving to stay young forever. Now, if one is in the multibillion-dollar business of marketing anti-aging serums and creams, this is obviously not a problem. There are many who are getting quite wealthy off a very large group of individuals who are trying desperately to remain physically young where their appearance is concerned. It is clear age is equated with no longer being relevant and this is conveyed to those 'of a certain age' (euphemistic term) in numerous ways, both overt and subliminal.

I have found the decade of one's seventies to be the demarcation point where, going forward, the overt actions of others are much more prevalent. In other words, the gloves are off and anything goes. The stereotyping is nothing short of appalling. Example: This past holiday season I decided to travel to Germany to visit family. Upon arriving at the airport and first thing through the automatic doors, I encountered an attendant that inquired as to my need for a wheelchair. He completely ignored the fact that I was perfectly ambulatory and handling my own luggage without difficulty. I, of course, declined his offer and proceeded to check-in. Once upstairs at my gate, I was seated at the farthest point of the waiting area next to the windows. All of a sudden I turned around to see a man dashing across the floor pushing a wheelchair and headed straight for me. Upon arrival, he asked in a harried tone if I had called for a wheelchair. Once again, I said no I did not ask for nor did I require a wheelchair. Then when my flight was ready to board, the person at the ticket counter turned and addressed me as Ms. Monroe and said that they would have a wheelchair ready for me in a moment. I told her that I was not Ms. Monroe and that I did not require a wheelchair. That was three times someone had tried to put me in a wheelchair. I am certain it was because my hair is very white (actually platinum), which I presume equates to automatically being non-ambulatory to most folks. This presents a real issue for me and I do not find it amusing to be lumped into a stereotypical category based on age.

Aside from the physical appearance of stereotyping there is the way younger people, and I use that term broadly as my son is now fifty-one, approach seniors in general. There is a tendency on their part to patronize older people. They assume a person of seventy lacks mental acuity or the ability to understand and process verbal exchange at a normal pace. Again, that is a conditioned response and one that does not take into account individuality.

As humans we all develop in various ways, some slower than others, so it is wrong to assume that all seniors are dull of wit. I personally had a number of paternal family members, that lived well into their nineties, whose only impairment was being a bit hard of hearing. They all lived on their own and were still quick of wit and fully engaged. My great grandfather had an article written about him in his local newspaper with regard to his being the oldest living barber in the State of Texas. He was in his mid-nineties and still actively pursuing his barbering business. He was also well respected within his community. Back in a time when lifespan was much shorter than it is now, these folks outlived the insurance statistics for longevity by a number of years. Not only that, they had quality of life and were fully engaged in their communities up until their demise.

"I think that ageism is a cultural illness; it's not a personal illness." France McDormand

I do believe ageism is a cultural malaise and that our collective minds have been brainwashed by Madison Avenue and the trillions of dollars that go into ad campaigns for everything from the clothes we buy to the skincare we use, all hyper-focused on youth. Now, I'm not suggesting that we revert to the sackcloth and ashes store, but some sense of reality should come into play. To focus on being healthy and active is worth the effort, but to think we can stop or turn back time and look forever twenty-one is nothing short of ridiculous.

"The idea is to die young as late as possible." - Ashley Montagu

The source of youth we seek comes from within. It is about living in the present and continuing to embrace change. It is well known that the only constant in life is change, so if we resist it will lead to the stagnation of our spirit; our ability to find pleasure in living.

Let's be real, no one has pulled a fast one on us. It has been laid out very clearly from the beginning that life is a temporary state. The aging process is inevitable for all of us. Slapping on tons of skincare potions and wearing clothes designed for millennials will not guarantee us one second more of life nor a second shot at our youth.

I believe it is to our benefit to draw on the positives of age; the lessons we have learned and the wisdom we have acquired through the years. Also, to warm to the fact that we never stop learning; it is an endless process that only ceases upon our demise.

Keeping active is high on the list of "to-dos" for aging gracefully. I find traveling and visiting other cultures a very fulfilling way to keep one's mind active and current. I also have continued working fulltime, which is not for everyone, but I find it rewarding. I work with and for professionals that are considerably younger and that is a kind of tonic for me. Additionally, keeping up with software upgrades and new programs is a continuous challenge.

"I am old enough to see how little I have done in so much time, and how much I have to do in so little." Sheila Kaye-Smith

There will always be more to do and see and less time to do it in. None of our task/wish lists will ever be completed, but that is to be expected. There will come a time for all of us where we will finally leave the story, but until then we can partake of the many wonderful aspects of living on this big blue ball we call home.

As Bettie Davis said, old age is no place for sissies. The latter decades do present new challenges, of this there is no doubt. As with everything in life, age has its tradeoffs. However, the upside is that it comes with a certain amount of satisfaction. Having lived to this point, I have seen my children grow into adulthood and I am very proud of the end results. I have also been fortunate enough to be a grandparent and had the pure joy of watching my grandchildren grow up. They have kept me young in spirit and they are a true blessing to me. It has also been a pleasure to witness my children arriving at a new appreciation for me based on their experiencing parenthood. They now fully understand that parenting is no easy task, but it is certainly a rewarding one.

At this stage in life, memories become softer and more precious. The mind and the heart choose to remember the good moments from the past and the pain of loss grows less with the years.

There are three deaths. The first is when the body ceases to function. The second is when the body is consigned to the grave. The third is that moment, sometime in the future, when your name is spoken for the last time. - David Eagleman

I find the above quote to be truly humbling.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

Artwork by Dick Lee Shia at

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