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).