Are things beginning to change in the way we see older folks in our culture?
Last Sunday, the LA Times served up three articles relating to older people thriving in their very visible professions. Three! and it wasn’t even National Gerontology Month or Hug a Grandparent Day or anything.
Whenever I see such articles, I wonder if the culture is shifting beyond the negation of older people to a place where we’re seen as more relevant to society in general. Wouldn’t it be nice if that pervasive ageism were fading away?
Relevance in TV
Andrea Martin, pictured above, is seventy years old and working harder than ever as an actress. More than four decades into a prolific career in film, TV and theater, she’s productive, professional, and inspiring. I liked her energy and her humor. She’s been curious and brave all her life, and she is not slowing down. You can read more about her here. And by the way, of all the series that have been canceled or not renewed lately, Grace and Frankie is starting its fourth season, streaming on Amazon. Go, older peeps!
Relevance in Politics
Maxine Waters, age 78, may be the most outspoken member of Congress. She’s unhappy about the way things are going in this country, and she’s not afraid to tell you about it. She’s becoming a rock star with the young, who call her Auntie Maxine for her no-shit bluntness. Politicians are so bland, the only thing coming out of their mouths is the chapter and verse designed to help their parties. Not Auntie Maxine. She says, “Some people see me as a rabble-rouser…I often get a feeling most people don’t know who I am, or have a clue, and I live with that. I don’t try to prove anything by talking.” That’s the confidence of maturity. You can read her story here.
Relevance in Music
I have to confess, I’ve never been a great fan of Michael McDonald’s singing, but he is popular and respected. At 65, he’s working more than ever, frequently sitting in with younger acts. The latest was at the just-ended Coachella Music Festival with his friend Thundercat, who says about Michael, “Sometimes these older cats get jaded–they start thinking kids are stupid. But the Michael I’m seeing is the same guy I would’ve seen 30 or 40 years ago if I’d been around.” You can read more about him here.
One More Story about Freakin’ Amazing Old People
John Goodenough is a 94-year-old inventor who is setting “the tech industry abuzz with his blazing creativity.” If his new battery works as well as expected, gas-powered vehicles will disappear. “We tend to assume that creativity wanes with age,” says the writer, Pagan Kennedy. “But Dr. Goodenough’s story suggests that some people actually become more creative as they grow older.”
But we knew that, because we talked about it in an earlier post in which researcher Gene Cohen, who studies the connection between art and neurons, said
The brain’s left and right hemispheres become better integrated during middle age, making way for greater creativity…The neurons themselves may lose some processing speed with age, but they become ever more richly intertwined…”
Such integration led one researcher to say that our higher thinking in older age “approaches the level of art.”
I hope you enjoyed this collection of profiles about inspirational older people. Maybe we’re becoming more positive about the way we see them, and ourselves, in older age. I sure hope so! What do you think?