I am still here, ensconced in a gated retirement community in Florida, surrounded by many who are twenty or more years older than me. I watch and interact with my parents (who are in their mid-80s) and others who live here; I have time for reflection. Why is it that we, as a society in North America, neglect the elderly? How is it that we have become so youth obsessed that we dread the slightest wrinkle or another grey hair – each an inevitability? As Ezekiel Emanuel says in his The Atlantic article, Why I Hope to Die at 75, “Americans seem to be obsessed with exercising, doing mental puzzles, consuming various juice and protein concoctions, sticking to strict diets, and popping vitamins and supplements, all in a valiant effort to cheat death and prolong life as long as possible. This has become so pervasive that it now defines a cultural type: what I call the American immortal.”
Aging, of course, is a deeply personal experience and, to some, it is very emotional and even frightening. Why do we see it as a disease to fight rather than a stage of life to embrace? Is there a means for us to tolerate and accept this process – particularly within our own families? Can we learn to offer dignity to those who are “growing old” and also face our own decline with grace?
Most people are unwilling to confront aging and mortality. Many are in denial. Some fear losing their independence, becoming frail and/or a shadow of what they may once have been (mentally or physically). Many of us fear death – which is a certainty and comes to all living things.
In my last blog posting I mentioned my desire to learn the stories of some of the people who live in Century Village to see how they face and cope with this process. How do people deal with illness and the loss of partners, family members, their peers? What allows some of us to age with ease and find purpose in our lives while others cannot? In future postings I will present this project/photo essay, as I work on it.
But not today. Instead, today, more background images to this project (almost all of these photographs were taken during my morning, 4.25 mile walks).
Thanks Tamar, its a great touching article and I love the photos, quite varied ranging fem colours and style ranges from Edward Hooper colours to old black-and wide movie photographs. First thought the Saturday walk.. was Gary Grant … They look so authentic.
Its a touching quote and an excellent analysis in this article.
I understand ‘The American Dream’ is really about the potential of growing big out of nothing, but, neither in the US nor in Europe we have an answer about growing ‘smaller’ when growing old.
thank you so much for your kind words, interest, and keen thoughts. the “American Dream” has evolved. it is still about equal opportunity, hard work, and upward mobility but it is also about the possibility to be whoever you want to be and the possibility of remaining youthful-looking. and we are given almost every opportunity to keep on going, even if it is with a much diminished life. i suspect many people would not agree with me about the “much diminished” part but from what i read and observe all too many of us are living longer lives but certainly not with real quality and value – if we are to remember the “old” selves and the ones many are becoming. but there is always the hope that we can out-beat death (for a while), that we can beat the odds and be our vital young selves. some are able to be this although they slow down, too. most cannot turn this dream into reality. it sounds harsh and perhaps morbid. these are just my thoughts and observations with some scientific backing behind me.
Intriguing post,and good questions.Just saw this movie dealing with aging in a beautiful way http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2073086/.
Waiting for your further investigations.
thank you. and thank you so very much for pointing out the movie which i will look for and watch. yes, more to come. the first interview session is in just a little over an hour, as i write this…
I question the words “quality” and “value”,as these words are relative, abstract, can be judgmental and determined by preconceived notions, as well as experience of an individual in his environment. Quality and value may be present even in the changes taking place during the aging process, but taking on different expressions.
you are quite right. sharona. quality and value are relative and abstract ideas. what i was trying to get at is that, on the whole, as we age our capacity to do things becomes more limited. a silly example: in an earlier posting on century village i state that my parents do not get as many visitors and telephone calls as they used to. the truth is, they do not drive any longer and the same holds true for their peers (at least at night). most are not quite as mobile. they tire and do not entertain as much. our lives transform and we accommodate accordingly so that we do what is possible to do; we (mostly) have no choice about it. value is linked to satisfaction and worth. if our world and capabilities become restricted i suspect we have to change the value which, to a lesser or greater degree, follows the quality of our lives as we age. my goal is not to be derisive but to look at the changes that happen to us and attempt to understand how this reflects on us as people, as a society, as a western culture.
Not only American are obsessed w youth. In fact, any modern societies have become like that, may be to a less extent.
Sent from my iPhone
very true. very true. however, as a society, i do not think we know how to deal with aging (and illness and death) head on. most of us do the best we can to avoid these topics.
nice photos, I’m especially liking the color work
thank you, marla. i am doing a lot of experimenting at the moment. just playing around. my next blog posting is going to touch on this.