Ageing in America is the big, bad evil. We are continuously marketed to with how to stay young or ELSE! Lines on one’s face, grey hair, a little slower walking pace and all of sudden it’s like you are a walking ghost, irrelevant.
However ageing is something that happens to all of us. There is no getting away from it and yet we have created a nation afraid of its seniors. Have you ever seen an older person in a cell phone store or at a computer store? No one talks to them, the service folks avoid them, and yet they are probably the ones who actually have enough money to buy the products from them.
One interesting dynamic that occurs as a person ages and starts to be seen less and less (or just simply avoided), is that they start believing that life should be slower, that they can’t do certain things any more, that if they did, people would stare. All of it creates a lot of isolation and loneliness for us all.
On a recent yoga retreat a woman in her late 70s, 78 to be precise, joined us. In the opening session, as participants shared their reasons for coming on the retreat, she explained, “I wanted to see if I could still do it”. There were times in the classes that she paused and rested, but she attended all the sessions. One night when we let loose and were all dancing around to the latest pop-tunes, she let loose just like the 23 year old next to her; shaking her hips, smiling ear to ear (who doesn’t love a good dance party?). At the end of the week she confessed, that after the first full day of two yoga sessions, she almost jumped in a cab to head home; believing for a moment that her age mattered, that she was just too old for this experience. But in that moment she made a different choice. She chose to live a little more, and stayed.
Her presence on the retreat contributed to each person’s experience. We heard about her travels to India and Thailand, the love she shared with her husband, and about her walks with her dog, Sita. Our experience of the week was richer because of her presence. So next time you run into an older neighbor in the elevator or sit down to someone with a little grey hair, see if you can see yourself in them and smile.