- Politics and Social Issues
Elderly People Who Inspire Us
How old is old?
As western populations grow older the task of caring for our elderly increasingly becomes a concern. As life expectancies continue to rise along with a general aging of the population one might want to ask exactly what 'old' is in the first place.
As a young child a teenager seems pretty old, and as a teen it becomes painfully apparent that life ends sometime shortly after our thirtieth birthday.
Thus, as we get older our perceptions and perspectives on what constitutes 'old' also changes.What seemed 'old' not that long ago all of a sudden doesn't seem all that old after all.
Does this then mean that the old adage 'you're only as old as you think you are' is true?
As much as we might wish that was all there was to it, the fact still remains that as we age we start to slow down and break down.At the end of the day the maximum amount of. Time we have on this planet, whether by accident or design is ultimately what is written in our genetic code.Just how much of that time we get to use of course is dependent on everything from the choices we make to whether we have luck on our side, but yes indeed our attitudes and how much we are able to engage life and be engaged by life do also play a factor.It affects not only how long we live, but also (and perhaps more to the point) the quality of that life.
Perhaps that there is what is at the root of the question?It is not our ultimate mortality that gives us pause, but is it rather maybe the fear of our creeping and lingering enfeeblement?
Sir Ian McKellen..
Can old people matter in our society?
With all that can go wrong with our minds and bodies, this is a grim future to consider, which makes it of little wonder that many people fear aging, and sometimes fear and shun the elderly as less capable, less competent and less relevant.
The image of the frail, raspy voiced and stooped over old man is engraved firmly in our minds.The only problem is that while yes this is something that does happen, it also like most broad and sweeping notions about any group of people misses the truth.
One of the more famous and indeed poignant displays of elder competency came during the 1992 Academy awards when a then seventy four year old Jack Pallance dropped to the ground and demonstrated to the world his ability to do pushups one handed.
Now of course most thirty year olds are challenged by that kind of physical exertion, much less a seventy year old.The lesson still remains though that while we may draw closer to the end of our life, it does not mean we should stop living.
Here are a few examples of people who best illustrate how even as we age we can remain active, engaged, competent and relevant, and to maybe inspire you a little as well.
Sir Ian McKellen
Portraying a legendary and beloved fictional character for whom millions. Have a strong and often deeply personal understanding and attachment can be an intimidating prospect if not an outright recipe for failure.
Unless of course you are Sir Ian McKellen who portrayed two of the twentieth century’s most iconic characters pretty much at the same time.He is both popular and convincing as comicdom’s arch villain 'Magneto' and as JRR Tolkien's 'Gandalf' his delivery of the "You shall not pass" line has vaulted the seventy two year old into the pop culture stratosphere.
His achievements however are not limited to stage and screen as he is openly and proudly gay and a champion of Gay rights, being one of the founders of U.K. GBLT rights group 'Stonewall' 1n 1989.Today it is the largest Gay rights organization in not only the United Kingdom but also all of Europe.When he says “You shall not pass” it maybe applies to homophobia as much as it does to balrogs.
A twelve time American congressman as well as a veteran and a obstetrician who delivered over four thousand babies during thehis medical career has earned the nickname of 'Dr. No' due to his long held habbit of voting against any and all legislation that is not expressly authorized by the US Constitution.A current contender for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination the seventy XXX year old would if elected be the oldest person assume the Oval Office, and yet the bulk of his support comes not from older established Republicans, but rather from very enthusiastic and loyal students on American University campuses.
When it was suggested to him that he was too old for the job of President he invited his doubters to join him on a twenty mile bike ride. That would be under the Texas sun, in case you thought you could get off easy.
This former star alum of such classic shows as 'Mary Tyler Moore' and ' The Golden Girls' has recently made history as the oldest guest host ever to appear on legendary sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live.This is in addition to filming an anti-abuse PSA with Shaquille O'Neil and recording a rap video.
She is also well known for her active support of animal rights.
All at the age of eighty nine.What have you done lately?
Her Majesty the Queen (Elizibeth II)
In 1952 at the age of 25 Elizabeth became the Queen of England when she learned of her father's death while on a vacation in Kenya. Five decades later and now eighty five years old, the British monarch still keeps an active daily itinerary, including starting her mornings by reading her mail.
That doesn't seem like very much?
Well how much mail do you think the Queen of much of the world gets?
With a career that spans over fifty years this sixty nine year old martial arts enthusiast still keeps an active tour schedule.
Just when you think Reed, who has been proclaimed the ' godfather of punk ' might slow down in his old age, goes and cranks it up a notch and records a new album with heavy metal giants Metallica.
An 'A list' actor who is both respected and popular.This multi-award winning actor has a new movie coming out as we speak, despite having in recent years been in a car accident that.caused him to lose proper use of his hand.
A condition which likely prevents him from piloting his own jet, something this USAF veteran got his public license for at the young age of sixty five.
What happens to us as we age is going to be different for each individual.Much of it is written in our DNA, but as these examples show, our attitudes and how we live our lives has a huge impact on our health and vitality and very much so on our quality of life.
Maybe it is time to reflect on how we view our own aging process and our perspective on the elders in our lives.