Several years ago, the facts of aging hit me squarely in the face. My parents were both gravely ill. I’d been like a lot of my Baby Boomer generation—absorbed in what my peers and I were doing, and not noticing much else. This changed.
Now, my focus is drawn to elders like steel to a magnet. I am hyper-aware of commercials for Medicare supplemental insurance, differences in how older people move in stores, and how clerks treat them, friend’s stories of aging parents or spouses in need of Lincoln Senior Care, and new uses for technologies to support aging people. My list could go on.
The more I noticed, the more I realized others had, too. “Aging people” is a mainstream, cultural phenomenon. Seniors have moved from the “grandparent sidelines” to the starring roles in movies, such as “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” Judy Dench (2012), “Gran Torino,” Clint Eastwood (2008) and “About Schmidt,” Jack Nicholson (2002). Ninety-year old Betty White has a TV show, “Off Their Rockers.” National Public Radio recently featured aging issues and inter-generational living in their series, “Family Matters.” Even cosmetic advertising is changing to accommodate the new face of American culture: this spring, MAC Cosmetics Company featured 90-year old, Iris Apfel, as product model.
Despite all this attention from so many areas on aging, I never thought I’d see my 15 year-old actress daughter in the role of a wheelchair-bound elderly nursing home patient in a high school play. Seeing her wheel about the stage, struggling to remember her name and where she was, brought the intimacy of aging back to me. My parents’ declining health had struck my daughter deeply. She created this role to work through her feelings.
You may be working through your feelings now. For others, the future holds increased awareness of connections to aging, whether through grandparents, parents, friends, spouses, or maybe themselves. Living change is rarely an easy process. I’ll have more to say on this subject soon.