Thursday, November 5, 2015

Thoughts on Aging...

I saw the picture of Jimmy Carter building houses the other day on Facebook with the caption "You may be a badass, but you'll never be 91-year-old Jimmy Carter battling cancer while building houses for the unfortunate badass." I thought "Right on! Way to go Jimmy Carter!" Because after all, Jimmy Carter is a badass.

Then this morning, C showed me the above picture of George H. W. Bush from a NYT article about the new George W. Bush biography. C made a comment about how he thought the newspaper was somewhat intentionally showing Bush Sr. in an unflattering, diminished way. I looked at the photo and was inclined to agree. Bush is clearly physically ailing, his face looks bloated, his teeth are bad, etc.

But after a minute, my social work training kicked in, and I realized how agist I was being. Look, I think it's great that Jimmy Carter is doing so well and that his brain cancer hasn't had to slow him down too much yet.* But it is not embarrassing or shameful if aging and the litany of health conditions that come with it, do slow you down more than a little. The NYT article was a legitimate news story about the biography and the elder Bush's criticisms of his son's cabinet. Giving the picture another look -  Bush is smiling; he looks engaged; his wife is there with him with her arm around him. Not too shabby, if you ask me. 

As a society, we need to learn to value people as they age, however they age. Yes, we should encourage people to be healthy, stay active, stay engaged, but if your health or your circumstances haven't allowed you to optimize those things, we shouldn't hide you in a corner and only acknowledge the time in your life when you were younger and more vital.

Can you tell I'm turning 40 in three months?

*One note - that picture is from five years ago when he was building houses in Haiti. So he was actually 87 in the picture, and did not presumably have brain cancer yet.

1 comment:

  1. :) A couple of observations from someone who is now so old that I no longer require...ahem...pap smears...first, as someone who is officially, per the US gov, elderly myself, I liked the pic of the Bushes and my first reaction, before reading anything, was that they both look good for their ages. Second, before I read your post, I wrote my own post on aging! We are so connected.