If you are reading this today, Thursday, you are doing so at the same time that Senator Bob Dole lies in state at the U.S. Capitol. It’s a place that he spent several decades of his life serving as a Senator from Kansas and for some as the Majority Leader of the Senate. Until recently he could be found sitting in his wheelchair outside the World War Two Memorial in Washington greeting visitors as they passed by. But it is not his political career or his weekend hobbies or even the man himself that we intend to focus on here. Rather it is his age. Bob Dole was 98 years old.
It is a fair guess that none of the readers of this blog will have reached that age and that probably the minority personally know anyone who has. As the world’s population grows, so does the number of young people who inhabit it. And somehow in all of that, the divide between generations can tend to grow, if only incrementally. What can, and regrettably sometimes does, happen as a result is that a subtle ageism can begin to emerge without our noticing it. In the past couple of decades that attitude was likely exacerbated by the advancement of technology that caused a digital divide not only fueled by economic disparities but also by differences in age. Recently the attention given to elders during the pandemic also may have contributed. Regardless of the cause and of the dates on our birth certificates, that is a shame for all of us.
Age and ageism are not the same. One is an unalterable fact of each of our lives. The other is an attitude not based in or supported by reality. If we lose sight of that, we all lose out. Period.
There’s an old saying that goes like this: “You are as young as you feel.” Thankfully, these days there are numerous well-publicized examples of those individuals whose lives and contributions have affirmed that truth on the world stage. In this short post we want to draw brief attention to a few of them to make larger, and thankfully more pervasive, point.
Queen Elizabeth, who marked her 70th year as British Monarch on February 6, is 95 years old. So is Tony Bennett, whose voice has not changed at all, as millions of viewers witnessed recently when he appeared on television with and sang beside Lady Gaga. Two of Britain’s most acclaimed actresses, who also still engage audiences and show no signs of slowing down– Judi Dench and Maggie Smith – are 86.
It has been said, wisely, that “age is just a number.” Yes, that is the reality of it – and something that we should spend more time acknowledging…and celebrating. At NFESH we do.