Last New Year’s Eve I fell over the big divide. I am now 70 and classed as elderly. Other big birthdays did not bother me, so why did this one?
Grandmothers at 70
I remember my grandmothers at 70. Most of the time they sat in a chair, watching TV. They had lived hard but interesting lives, only to be written off at 70. Each had successfully run a business after the death of her husband, when it was essentially still very much a man’s world.
My paternal grandmother and her husband had emigrated to Canada at the turn of the century. The idea was to make their fortune, and return home to open up a corner shop in their local town. They achieved this, much to my nan’s disappointment (her voice unheard, she had wanted to stay in Canada). I just saw wrinkled, sad-ish old ladies, and wish now that I had talked to them properly. They still dominated the lives of their adult children in a way that we would not dream of doing. As a young child you were always in slight fear of your elders; above all, you refrained from provoking them. Anyway, what did they know?
Deluded at 70
Of course I speak for myself. Now at 70 I consider myself (probably delusionally) quite young. The world has changed around us. We assume, unless we have specific problems, active longevity. I feel that our wisdom is still not listened to much, after all, what do we know, though at least we are not bedevilled quite so much with active sexism, openly at least. The most important change is that we do not think that only men matter. We do not think that they must have the final say, or that we need them to run active businesses or lives. The men do, I think, often fear female solidarity, and were generally much happier when we competed with each other for their attention!
So why did becoming 70 upset me? Well, in practical terms it is still a cut-off age for many organisations. Doors begin to slam shut, and whereas years ago I would have fought to push them open, I find it harder and harder to summon the energy to do so. It is more, I think, a mental ennui. I have not had a hard life like my grandmother’s, but I have seen and done so much. Patterns still repeat themselves more than people think. Nothing is really new.
The worst of it, though, is the way the elderly are perceived in today’s society. There is so much ageism, active and in perception. Our voices are not always heard. It is an extra barrier to fight through.
We must turn back ageism as we did, to a great extent, sexism. People matter, not age or sex. Our contributions are as valid and useful as any ones, and should be valued more, not less. The young do not know it all.
What changes would you love to see to establish 70 as the new 50?
PS I gave myself a sharp talking to and am now ploughing on with my 30-year plan.
Marian is a thinker, writer, blogger and speaker. Fascinated with truth about the reality we find ourselves living in. Also wife, mother and grandmother, which is very important to her. She has had a career in local politics and charity work. Coming to writing late, her main struggle is balancing the needs of a big interactive family with developing and promoting her life’s work in her books.
“My life has been a triumph of hormones over intellect”
Marian’s Blog www.marianmatthews.com
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