LETTER: Those under 50 have a warped view of aging

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Published: Wednesday, April 4, 2007 11:18 PM CDT

Speaking to senior citizens, a young speaker told them to take courage. “At your age,” he said, “you won’t have to put up with dentures, trifocals and hearing aids much longer.” The problem with that kind of encouragement is that it’s useless. I haven’t ever heard even one older person say, “My loose dentures are such a nuisance, I wish I could die.” From this young speaker’s viewpoint I suppose the thought of having to use “cheaters” was unbearable.

The under-50-years-old group have a warped view of aging. A young minister visited a 60-year-old lady who had fallen and broken her hip. As he was preparing to leave, he thanked God that the Christian lady would soon be in the land where broken hips didn’t exist. After he left, the lady called the church and asked for a pastor who would pray that her hip would repair so she could return to the choir that she loved so much.

It is this age group that uses age to determine whether a nursing home resident should live or die. These are the ones who think older people no longer like being called by their first names. So they downgrade them all to “Sweetie.” The under-50s are the ones who make the decision to retire the older workers and replace them with younger ones.

This is not only true in businesses and factories, it is also true in churches. The younger group decides that the older group has served long enough and should step down and go fishing or make quilts. Instead of fishing and sewing, these senior citizens end up serving humanity as volunteers in hospitals, elementary schools, and “Meals on Wheels” organizations. They find ways to serve even if the churches no longer appreciate their continued usefulness.

The younger crowd really thinks being old is bad news. They also think we old guys agree with them. Forty-something women dread the arrival of wrinkles. Older women know that they’re not painful. The thirty-something men hate the day when they will have to walk instead of run. Older men know that one can see more interesting things at a slower pace. Younger men pity the older man with his cane. The older man is determined to learn to use the cane. The younger thinks that, at 60, the older man’s days of usefulness are gone. The older knows that others could learn a lot by observing him.

Apprenticeships, however, in some quarters seem to be out of style. Will Rogers said some people learn by observation. Others have to pee on an electric fence and find out for themselves. Many of the under-50 generation are in the latter group. They would rather face lives shocking experiences uninformed and unequipped than learn from those who have already been to the fence.

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