Baseball player Satchel Paige, with his incisive wit, said a number of great things about getting older worth remembering. One of the best is “Old age is a question of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”
Truth? How we think about growing old is ever more important. And Paige’s prescient personal perspective on old age applies equally to our aging society. We’ve long minded. We’re seemingly bothered by old age tough we all hope to live to see a healthy old age.
We live in an aging society where, by mid-century, more than 1 out of 5 Americans will be over the age of 65. Our average life expectancy is quickly coming on 80 years. Thinking about ages like 65 or 70 as old is counter-intuitive if the age of 80 is soon to be average. Ours is soon to be an aged society.
Ageism – discrimination against older people – and unfriendly attitudes toward our elders – is everywhere in our persistently youth-oriented society. We can see ageism in everything from signage that is unreadable to the aging eye to poor quality nursing homes. Minding, being bothered about aging isn’t practical and soon won’t be tenable in our rapidly aging society.
Lesson learned: As we become an aged and then a super-aged society where 20 or even 30% of our communities’ populations are over the age of 65, we’ll come to recognize that minding being old isn’t good, useful, or even practical. In truth, denying aging in an aged society is counterproductive.
Our aging future begins in our own minds. Let’s follow Satchel Paige’s example and start with “mind over matter”. We’ve got to think differently about aging and being old. Examining our aphorisms about growing old offers unexpected lessons. These lessons might help us change our thinking and, in turn, our lives in our aging communities.