serene ambition™

transforming the culture of aging

The Challenge

Posted by Jim Selman on 10/31/06

man-in-ba_26oct06.jpgThis is probably the last post before heading North and another change of season. The hardest thing about this kind of long-distance travel is trying to balance winter/summer wardrobes. Thank goodness for big suitcases. I am coming to the conclusion that an “Urban Lifestyle” is my preferred option in coming years.

I already mentioned that there doesn’t seem to be much of a conversation in Argentina about age at all. I used to share with my students that human beings are different from the rest of the animal world, in part because we have language and can observe ourselves and have an unending commentary on everything. Obviously animals get older, but I don’t think they have conversations about ‘how it is to get older’. Two old dogs sitting on the porch are just dogging, I don’t think they are wishing they could go for a prowl the way they used to. That’s the way it seems here … folks are just living their lives and there isn’t much conversation about wishing they could do something they can’t. The tango halls are filled with folks of all ages and those with gray hair seem to have the most style and grace.

Here is my challenge to anyone 55 or older.

For one week, pay attention to any conversation you are in with someone your own age or older. See how often the conversation turns to something about age—health, employment, “ageism”, midlife issues, and so forth. Try to resist the temptation to initiate these yourself. As you listen, observe the context or background for the conversation. See if it isn’t something like “age is a circumstance that I/we have to deal with and it is a circumstance that has the power to affect (in what is probably an adverse way) the quality of my life.”

I think what you will see is the power of culture to ‘suck us in’ to a pre-interpretation of ‘the
way it is’, what age means and how it is larger than we are. We can delay it, but in the end, it is held to be pretty much right up there with hurricanes and taxes—you just gotta put up with it.

If you find the exercise interesting, here is another challenge.

Segment your conversations into age categories: people in their 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. Count not only the numbers of age-related conversations, but try to estimate the total time spent in them. My hypothesis is that the older we get, the more prone we are to talk about age.

Finally, ask yourself or your friends, “What would we talk about if we didn’t talk about age?”

Might be some interesting conversations.

© 2006 Jim Selman. All rights reserved.

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