worth of human life

There has been so much conversation, all around the world, about the value of life once a person reaches 65. Ultimately, this begs the question: what is lacking within us that we can so casually discuss the disposability of our elders?

It is so incredibly sad that there are people out there who think that being older would dictate whether a life is worth saving.

At 77, this has made me take a huge step back to ponder how we ever came to even have this discussion.

I Am Older, Not Extinct

I had a friend of many years tell me last week that if anything happened to me it would be ok because I have lived a full and productive life. I would of course agree about the life part, but who is that person to tell me that it would be ok if my life was suddenly over?

This issue had me publish two books that specifically address what happens to our presence as individuals as we age.

Basically, it is assumed by society that when we retire, our life and social value are somehow over, and as older adults we are immediately compartmentalized from the rest of the world.

What we did in our profession, who we were as people, what we contributed to society suddenly disappears as we utter the word “retired.” I have come to the realization that being dismissed as obsolete as we age is a national sport unto itself.

What happened to us? When did we stop appreciating our elders?

The Men I Will Always Remember

As a child, I could sit at my grandfather’s feet and listen to his stories for hours. He was from Poland, and 27 members of his family perished in the Holocaust.

The sadness of this was carried on his shoulders his whole life because he left before the Nazi invasion and blamed himself for leaving too soon. When he talked of his life and theirs, it was with humor, love, pride, and of course, sadness. He was a tender, loving man, and his stories live deep in my heart.

My father-in-law, a retired Navy Petty Officer and over the road trucker after WWII, was one of the most fascinating men I have ever met. His stories were riveting about where he came from and the choices he made.

At the age of 65, John Wayne, big, with a huge heart, and wise beyond words, was smarter than most of the younger and more educated men I knew.

I learned so much from these two that helped shaped me as an individual. Their counsel, wisdom, and life lessons were invaluable.

The Elders Know What Community Means

The 55+ community I live in is vibrant and filled with people who are making a difference. The average age is around 70, but you would not know it.

When Covid-19 hit, out came the stored away sewing machines, old pieces of fabric, and elastic as thousands of face masks were produced on their own time and at their own expense. The masks were donated to the surrounding community and any hospital, medical personnel, or store clerk that needed them.

No one asked for their help, but they worked around the clock in shifts to make someone else’s life a bit safer. That’s what senior citizens are capable of. We rallied for a crisis because that is how we were raised.

Everyone stood up and those that could not wrote checks to help out. It was empowering, awesome, and electric! Nora Ephron said, “Above all be the heroine of your life, not the victim.” There were no victims here, just heroes!

We’ve Seen It All

As we all know, this health crisis has brought out the best in people and the worst. Like all of you, I have seen both sides. I ponder what is the purpose of life if we do not see the humanity in everyone.

The media has constantly expressed “the problem” of what to do with the elderly. Really? Are they talking about their own grandmothers or grandfathers – or just everyone else’s in general?

These past two months have certainly been eye opening in so many ways. I don’t know about you, but I am definitely following Erma Bombeck’s advice, “Light the tulip candle.”

I am now using my grandmother’s beautiful crystal glasses, my lovely “company” dinner plates, drinking wine I have been saving for that special occasion, and burning the candle I was holding onto for another time. Because this is the time, this is our time, no more waiting.

Have you been made to feel invisible because of your age? How often does this happen? Why do you think society doesn’t see value in older people? What are you doing to break this stereotype? Please share your thoughts and let’s have an enriching conversation.