Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Age Equals Incompetence, Right?

As we grow older, our senses and physical abilities tend to become less available and less effective, but many of us take for granted that this happens on something of a time schedule, just as the leaves fall in the fall, and then comes winter. I suppose, as it is December and the leaves are long gone, and as I will be 93 the day before Christmas, that I am being personal again.

I have written before about the tendency of people to regard me as changed since I am over 90. Some of those closest to me are among this lot. I do observe that I drive more carefully now, but this is because I want to avoid any discussion with the authorities about age if I commit some tiny infraction. I accept that eventually time conquers all, but I also know that individual schedules are hard to predict.

Composers create music, and musicians give concerts well into their late eighties. We see people of that "ripeness" completing marathons, even if not winning them any longer. Writers and scientists do very well at similar ages. Understanding accumulates, I think — I was party to matters in my fifties that I am too "smart" to touch now. The "been there, done that" flavour of wisdom does not suffer with the passage of time.

Some societies, as termites and primitive human groups, pool their learned and instinctive behaviour, acting as the group "knows" how to act, often avoiding pitfalls thereby (sometimes literally). This collective wisdom is passed down from generation to generation, a group inheritance of sorts. However, it is difficult to find examples of such complete cooperation in our Western society, or of such attention being paid to the knowledge of elders. In the rush of modern culture, is the voice of the older individual still heard?

18 Comments:

At 6:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Elders have always been respected among native cultures, and still are.

 
At 7:29 PM, Blogger The Culinary Chase said...

I think the hardest hit with regard to respect for elders are the Asian cultures. The Chinese, for example, always had at least the grandparents living in the same home as the grandchildren. Some will say it is because the grandparents are there to help raise the grandchildren or that the grandparents reward for their selfless upbringing of their own children is to be looked after when they are older. Whatever the reason, this is slowly being eroded.

Group homes & nursing homes are springing up more than ever in Asia as young Asians opt for a lifestyle without the senior matriarch or patriarch living under the same roof. So, in this vein, "age does not equal incompetence" it means the young adults going forward don't have time to see the value a senior person brings. Sad to say, but a reality in this day & age.

 
At 9:37 PM, Blogger whitesnake said...

Last night I spent about 2hrs sitting with 3 gentlemen in their 80's. Just having a few beers and some whiskey to say thanks for services rendered.
The stories they told, the adventures they had, the lives they have led.

But most of all the things that are yet to come!

 
At 10:18 PM, Blogger LaurieM said...

Your blog is an excellent vehicle for ensuring that the voice of our elders is heard.

I wonder, do you find that you are typical for your age? In capability, disposition, and interest in the world around you?

I know of three elderly ladies. One, at 93, has a quiet social life in an assisted living environment. Another, at 83, lives with one of her sons and is still active in the Cub Scouts (38 years of service) and Vetran's affairs where she is much respected and almost revered I'd say. The third, at 82, is a toxic woman who sucks her children into drama and is avoided by her grand children.

So in my experience, we need to evaluate the quality of the elderly voice, and not just listen to it because of accumulated years.

 
At 10:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

lauriem, that's a very good point.

 
At 11:02 PM, Blogger matrix said...

This might sound odd, but I think some, including myself, are sometimes simply too afraid to ask. We sometimes feel our questions might be a reminder of age and it's inappropriateness to ask the questions we might want to ask. I think this is a reflection on our society. We seem to be predominately forward looking and taught not to dwell in the past. I grew up in the 70s, 80s, 90s, and now we are in the 2000s. I understand how each decade I experienced had it's own culture, it's own feel and view on society and that particular essence of being that made each decade unique. I always wondered what things were like in the 60s, 50, 40, 30s, 20s, and earlier. We get glimpses, but we rarely get the perspective and true feel from someone that was there. I find that timepiece films also always reflect the decade they were made in more than the decade they are trying to represent. We find it difficult to get out of the current "now" even knowing there were current "nows" in the past and will be more in the future making this current "now" look lame. Don, please feel free to share whatever you want. Know that there are people out there like me that want to know what you have to say based on your experience. It's not a matter of bowing down to the elderly out of respect, but rather a fascination of your experiences. You are a living human being who experienced things that everyone younger than you has not. I personally find that fascinating and what to know more. What was your world like in each decade. How much has changed. How is your mental state compared to your physical state? I think it's different for each person. Regarding the fear of asking I started this post with, my wife has a grandfather who is currently 102 and still lucid. You can talk to him but... He is more focused on the now. I remember trying to "go there" and find out what things must be like at this age and I believe I offended him. I felt I crossed that line and never "went there" again. He was more interested in things now and not in passing any philosophical advice to me now. I respect that as everyone has the right to share what they want. However, I must say that I do feel blessed to have found this blog, because you are sharing things that many of us might be hindered to ask. You are alive and sharing what you have experienced. You are sharing things many of us want to know but are afraid to ask. I can't think of anything more valuable than that. I just hope I have someone to share my thoughts with when I am older. I'll definitely have to start a personal blog. : )

In short, many of use do respect elders. We respect and appreciate what you are sharing in this blog. And... Some of us are simply afraid to ask.

I wish I knew someone at your age as open as you to ask questions. At 92, it means you were in your 20s in the 1930s. I can't imagine what that must have been like. The 20s are when you typically branch off and explore. The world is wide open and you are out exploring life. What was it like back then? How did things change from the 30s to the 40s and 50s. We get glimpses in film and media, but they are only glimpses behind the filter of media.

Anyway, I think elders are still respected, some of us are just too afraid to ask.

 
At 11:44 PM, Blogger bonho said...

I used to work as a legal secretary in a law firm in NYC. Although we started off on the wrong foot, I eventually wound up working for the senior partner who was in his mid-80s in the mid 1980s. He'd traveled the world and became a lawyer by his early 20s, by apprenticeship, before schooling and bar exams were the norm. He was an accomplished illustrator, and even though he'd had a stroke some years earlier, he'd doggedly learned to write and draw with his left hand. He had a sharp legal mind and an appreciation of independent thought.

He also especially appreciated that I had no problem deciphering his scrawl. He gave me the chance to do paralegal work, with a view toward training me to be a paralegal. He sent me to London for a month to be his representative in a difficult international estate matter. He was a good lawyer and had a very loyal client base.

Within a few years, though, due to pressure from the other partners, his firm merged with an uptight DC law firm and he went from a beautiful corner office in the Empire State Building to a crappy tiny box with a small window that had a view of a wall. He was not allowed to hang his art in the office, and was edged out within a year by a bunch of cookie-cutter smartass lawyers who were really dumbasses. He'd been practicing law longer than most of those other jerks had been alive, and he lived life with a zeal that most people can only aspire to.

I've never understood the prejudice the young show toward the old simply because they're old. I can only assume it's some sort of twisted jealousy.

 
At 3:28 AM, Anonymous Ook said...

At 50, I am starting to experience what I think is significant prejudice regarding age matters. I am under no illusion that I would not be disadvantaged by my age were I to find myself job hunting.

This issue has come up more than once in matters regarding younger woman showing an interest in me. That is, associates of all sorts expressing distaste with the idea, unsolicited, when it comes up. This although I haven't dated, or tried to date, a younger woman since I was younger!

A significant minority of younger people seem to make assumptions about me if I don't start off on the right footing in general business--a footing that displays that I am still sharp.

I was recently asked, outright, how I "could possibly know" about a recent trend in drug use in youth culture. This by a younger person who should well know that I am well connected.

The digital divide, of course, continues to involve a generational gap. There is even a divide between new and old generations of cyberites in how they use cyberspace. The web, pages like this, is already predicted to play a much reduced roll for the next generation of cyberites.

However something unique is happening.

A study now predicts the human race will become increasingly older on average than ever in history. It predicts a stabilization of an older population at about 9 billion.

That will change our sociology. Maybe it will make for a wiser race. Let's hope.

http://www.un.org/esa/population/publications/worldageing19502050/index.htm

 
At 3:39 AM, Anonymous Ook said...

Ok, so this Blogspot place really screws up links in comments. It neither wraps them nor allows them to be rendered as hypertext.

Here is the link artificially wrapped by me. It will probably have to be pieced together in your browser's address window.

http://www.un.org/esa/population/publications
/worldageing19502050/index.htm

 
At 7:55 AM, Anonymous Gareth said...

Sadly, for every person of advance years who has a valuable perspective, there are 10 incompetent and decrepit people holding on to positions of authority they have neither the dynamism to exercise, nor really the competence to occupy.

The net result is those that have valid and use contributions to make to society are drowned out by those whose sole accomplishment is not expiring.

 
At 8:52 AM, Blogger Rob Hutten said...

In my early teens I sat down with a centenarian neighbour as part of a school project. He was a grown man when the last century rolled around, and in his middle age when cars and electricity made their way into ubiquity. He was quite deaf, but hadn't lost his mental acuity.

There's no substitute for this kind of direct interaction with one's elders. Please, Mr. Crowdis, muse out loud whenever the mood strikes you - we're all ears.

 
At 2:52 PM, Blogger I_Wonder said...

Don, I find that I appreciate and enjoy life the older I get. I'll be 60 next week. I find myself gravitating toward older people who have experienced the years that I hope to experience. I want their knowledge and wisdom so I can make my remaining years the best part of my life. You may not pass on all of your knowledge and wisdom but I appreciate and hope to emulate your example.

 
At 3:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don,

It would be cool if you wrote up a quick list of 'Things you know for sure'. A list of basic truths you've learned in 90 years.

Saludos desde Boston!

 
At 2:15 AM, Blogger Milo said...

I hear you, and it looks as though a lot of other people hear you too. I wonder if you'd have so many people listening if you were a thirty year old whippersnapper.

Your wisdom is astounding. You are my hero.

 
At 8:19 AM, Anonymous Claire said...

I'll be 30 soon and I feel so much more sensible and in tune with life than when I was 25. I hope this means that as I get older that upwards trend will continue.

I would really love to know what older people think of society's quest for status.

 
At 6:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Don:

As I was reading one of your reader's comments (Ook said, "This issue has come up more than once in matters regarding younger woman showing an interest in me.") I cannot help but laugh from my own experience.

I decided to get a graduate degree at last. I am in my mid-thirties and didn't want to teach anymore and went back to university to get another profession. I was attending classes with 23 year olds and some of the guy were trying to hit on me. I asked one of them, "Why are you hitting an older woman when you can try dating girls around your own age?"

That one guy said, quite honestly, "You're not superficial AND (a big AND) you have a better figure than the younger girls." The two other guys around me nodded their heads.

I always believed myself plain and I grew up with other kids who were much better looking. From K-12, all the kids generally looked the same--skinny. There were a few overweight kids but too few to notice.

When I looked at the student 'body' literally, I have to admit that it has gotten bigger around the girth with all the fast foods available on campus.

I've always biked and exercised regularly all my life from childhood when television was just a break.

Anyway, when that one guy from my class said that, I smiled. I also turned him down. He just won't understand me and where I'm coming from when I tell him about my life--he wasn't there for part of it and I probably won't be there for the remaining half of his.

 
At 3:47 PM, Blogger jean said...

Actually, it's age equals incontinence, all too often.

Just discovered your blog, thanks to Peace Bang. You have over 20 years on me, and I thought I was old to learn to blog, even get pictures on it, design a webpage, use e-mail and all that. I'm impressed.

 
At 6:06 AM, Anonymous Luke said...

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