Aging gracefully? How about *realistically*?

Last week I accidentally discovered that once upon a time, a brand shared an ageist meme on one of their social channels. Now, The Brand isn’t a household name, so I won’t mention them. Quite frankly, I have no interest in exposing anyone today. Doing such a thing would be pointless, and I have a greater point.

Actually, the meme I’m referring to was a social post about Biden. It featured a snide comment about his supposed mental decline.

Why was I bothered? Although I’m not a senior, I’m older than some people think. And like most of us, I’m also related to people who actually are senior citizens.

Looking over the border at American politics, Biden’s neither my most loved or despised president. Yet reading the post’s comments about him losing his faculties, I wondered if The Brand had considered the type of messaging that they were sending their customers–especially their older ones. More broadly, I caught myself speculating about how The Brand’s founders–and people in general–perceive aging.

ProTip: When you share a piece of media, even if you didn’t author it, sans disclaimer, the understanding usually is that you approve of what it has to say.

Other than that image, The Brand seemed to have a progressive stance. And so do I. That’s why it surprised me that they shared something that would leave me so annoyed.

And then, another thought took hold: Considering popular media narratives about what’s supposedly in store for us, it’s hard for me not to think of the young (and not-so-young) who are in for a very rude awakening as they start to age in real time.

Personally, I need to make a few adjustments to ensure that I continue to age well. And degenerative diseases are a very real thing.

But as I said, some of you are in for a surprise. I wonder what will happen when you wake up at 40, 50, 60, and beyond, and the most noticeable thing that’s changed about you is that your hair is greyer and you’ve gained a few pounds and/or wrinkles.

Getting older doesn’t automatically guarantee complete physical or mental disintegration.

The media’s 30-Under-30 lists won’t prepare you for this. And honestly, it can be a little stupefying to wake up past A Certain Age and not feel nearly as awful as folks say you should. And even when you’re not That Old, sometimes you might find yourself wondering “Wait. People aren’t talking that much about…This.” Whatever this is.

Quite honestly, I feel like our push for diversity and equity in representation ought to include age. Some outlets could do a better job of representing realities of getting older, instead of perpetuating myths that feed into audiences’ insecurities.

The truth is, aging is a huge gamble.

The main thing that bothers me these days is how unpredictable aging can be. Sure, as the years go by, your parents could need an assisted living facility. They could also be on the verge of being An Age that I’m Contractually Obligated Not to Mention, still taking care of their own lawn and snow, and threatening to climb trees in the summer.

But you didn’t hear that from me.

Seriously, though. It’s hard not to look at the variations in older folks’ realities–even within your own family–and wonder what’s in store.

In the meantime, here’s to telling the truth. Especially about things like getting older. It’s not always as awful as some like to claim.

Photos by Vladimir Soares and Logan Weaver – Unsplash

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