A good friend passed on a DVD of my This Chair Rocks talk to a filmmaker acquaintance, who had a serious critique. She found the talk compelling and called me “a smart and wise cheerleader for this next passage,” but continued, “What I felt missing in her talk was death. She moved quickly over it, saying that her big surprise was how little older folks feared death. I think she is wrong, but she has been immersed in this research far longer than I have. I think we [all] fear death; it is the great unanswered question.
Questions I'm asking
As questions come up, here's where I write them down
The first adage that gets trotted out early in any conversation about old age is, “Well, it beats the alternative.” The second, generally attributed to Bette Davis, is “Old age is no place for sissies.” Which, if you stop to think about it, is not just creepily homophobic but utterly ridiculous. If there were some purgatorial holding pen for the faint of heart, it would be awfully crowded.
So says Matt Perry in "Cheer Up and Push Back: One Woman's Fight Against Ageism," an interview for the California Health Report. It's a nice piece, I'll cop to being excitable, and I appreciate the exposure.
Yes. And it’s a good thing, because people the same age can function very differently, and functionality should trump chronology. But that makes it harder to wield the blunt instrument of public policy fairly, and the shifting landscape of retirement makes doesn’t help. Some people are cutting cut back on their hours, some retire and then return to the workforce, and some just keep working—some by choice and others out of necessity—and their stories are all over the media this week.
That’s the question that came in to Yo, Is This Ageist? a few days ago, and I’ve been banging my head against it ever since. Not that the question hadn’t come to mind long before, in particular the notion of of discriminating against a group you aspire to join, but the answer is far more complicated.
I’ve been invited to speak to the Weill Cornell Hospital Department of Geriatrics, so I’ve been reviewing my interviews with people in the field. Eighteen months ago I much enjoyed meeting geriatric care manager Claudia Fine, and today I was struck by her description of her sister’s difficulty dealing with her mother-in-law’s dementia.
Two news stories last week, one about a 42-year-old nursing student running for homecoming queen and another about a 91 year old mayor swindling River Falls, Alabama, out of $201,000, got me thinking about the journalistic convention of including ages in stories.
That’s the card I bought to thank London friends for hosting my talk, Old Age Sucks and It’s Going to be Great, last Wednesday night. It was well received by a bunch of smart people, among them my younger colleague in the Sehgal piece at the Tate Modern, Will Jennings, who gently corrected my statement that most people don’t want to think about getting old. “My generation does,” he said, “You grew up in a period of plenty, but we’re aging into scarcity - no pensions, no job security, no water – and we have to think about it.” Point taken, and it’s why it’s so terrific to have all ages in the audience.