Thursday, November 15, 2012

Too Old at 70? Hardly.


The first thing I did today was read Ronnie Bennett's blog post titled "How Not To Be An Old Person." It's a good one and she closes with these paragraphs:
"With a handful of excellent exceptions, the media stuff floating around advising us about how to behave in our old age is written by people who are too young to know anything at all about getting old. Their only idea about our sensibilities is that we're just wrinkled young people and it's hard to be more wrong. 
Many years ago, Crabby Old Lady was asked to consult an internet startup aimed at elders. The first question she asked was how many people older than 60 were on the staff. The answer was none and in fact, there was no one older than 39 or 40. 
Crabby didn't take the gig but she gave them one piece of advice that she stands by today for any endeavor aimed at boomers and elders: you cannot talk or write intelligently about old people without having a few of them (at least age 60) around to advise you."
Ronnie is right. Old and older folks are viewed differently. Are often 'less than.' I cannot tell you the times in the last decade that younger women have said to me, "Wow. You don't look 70. Or 65. Or 60 for that matter."
"You look good," they say as if marveling. As if 'old' could never look good. I always thank them, because it's nice to hear I look good, but what happens when I look good and am truly old at the same time?

The second thing I did this morning was watch a Huff Post Nancy Pelosi clip, in which at first she laughs at a question from NBC's Luke Russert, but then says, "Let's honor this as a legitimate question. Although it is quite offensive, but you don't realize that, do you?"
The question? Why is Nancy Pelosi 'at her age', running again for House Minority Leader? Shouldn't she be leaving in order to pave the way for new and younger leadership to emerge? Won't her 'staying' hurt the party in the long term?
Never mind that Nancy Pelosi has been an extremely successful House Leader. And the first woman to hold that position, ever. As House majority leader - before Congress fell to the Tea Party in 2010 - Nancy Pelosi was very good at her job of corralling votes and managing House Democrats. Republicans can't stand her because she IS so effective.
When the question was asked, Pelosi laughed and the folks behind her groaned. She countered first by looking away from the reporter and saying, "Next (question)." Then she turned back to Russert and called his question offensive. Russert was guilty of ageism and sexism. She asked if he might have offered an identical question to Mitch McConnell.
Pelosi asks, "So you are suggesting that everybody (over 70) step aside?"
And then, "The fact is that everything I have done in my decade of leadership is to see that younger and newer people are elected to the Congress. I came to Congress when my youngest child was a senior in high school. I was blessed to have that opportunity to sequentially raise my family and then come to Congress. My male colleagues had a jump on me because they come (to Congress) in their thirties. I want women to be here in greater numbers and at younger ages. We are working to bring in younger people, to encourage them and to give them opportunities to serve."
What Nancy Pelosi did not say and what I know is true is that at our august age, she and I and thousands of women the world over simply have a greater breadth of experiences and wisdom from which to draw when making decisions, running projects and collaborating with individuals and groups for common good.
We've been there, done that. We know how things work and what steps need to be taken for successful outcomes.
In our 20s, 30s and 40s, we are learning, and most of us are also raising kids. In our 50s, 60s and 70s, the kids are grown, we are ever more confident, seasoned and suddenly free. Many of us become power houses.
70? Too old? Unless we've had tiny strokes or bad health issues, we are not too old. Not at all. We are on a roll. 
And whether we look old and good, or simply old, we are, all of us, very good indeed.

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