An unexpected, but rather funny comment from an 11-year-old boy recently got me to thinking about how children view the older members of the community and whether they actually think about growing old. I was spending time with a family while at work and during the course of a game the mother, in her late 30’s, said she had to rest as she was getting tired. Her son instantly replied – that’s because you’re old”! Well of course at age 68 I consider the 30’s to be anything but old, so I asked what did that make me. The reply came back very quickly – ‘a fossil”! Well I burst out laughing at his response as how could I be offended by his honesty?
Not long after I remembered that ‘fossil’ had been the nickname given to my father by the teenagers in the classes he taught in his early 70’s – the word retirement wasn’t in his vocabulary – and here I was four years away from that age, being called the same thing! And I’m not retiring either!
I then got to pondering on how I viewed older people when I was young. As the child of what I considered from my child’s view of life to be older parents, I can distinctly remember being terrified that they would die and leave me alone. They seemed so old, which is actually quite funny now as they were only 38 and 45 when I was born, definitely not old for parents these days. But it was a huge fear, one which weighed the young me down for many years.
But it was one of my granddaughters who really got me to considering age through the eyes of a child. Soon to be 10, I asked her if she was looking forward to going into double digits and her reply absolutely stunned me. She said that she wasn’t, as with her getting older so was I and she didn’t want me to die and leave her; she wanted to have me around as long as she could. But as stunned as I was, her honesty opened up a whole new conversation about ageing and how important it is to care for yourself from a very early age. It is never too soon, or even too late, too build a strong and vital foundation for life.
In contemplating what I have shared I can see so clearly how important it is to be a true reflection to our young ones of what it is to grow old, not to make it a time of life they are not looking forward to but a time they can see is full of love, vitality, wisdom and that there can be joy in ageing.