Every time we go into a restaurant or an entertainment venue, Douglas ask a question that I absolutely wish to avoid, “Is there a senior discount?” I would rather pay the regular price and not be viewed as an elderly woman, for people start to treat you differently, as though you are right at death’s door. People talk louder and ask if you need help to your seat, like all of a sudden you qualify for AARP and your ability to navigate the world declines.
I do like paying less for meals, but I was shocked to find that in one national chain of pancake houses, paying less also means getting a lot less food. It seems people think that older people need less to eat, and I refuse to go along with it. So, I order the food for the under-55 age groups, so that I can get the full complement of pancakes or whatever I have ordered.
The waitress feels obligated to tell this renegade woman about the 55+ menu, and I assure her that I am well aware of it but that I need more food than what is offered. I want to inspire them to offer cheaper prices but for the same amount of food, as that is the real definition of getting a great deal.
I think that I react to the changes in treatment so fiercely because I don’t feel like I have changed at all. Yes, my hair is gray, but not the inside of my brain! I can still do nearly everything I did before I crossed into Social Security territory. I have always been a little forgetful, so sending myself emails to remember what I have to do at home has been part of my routine for at least twenty years. Yet, now it seems to take on a greater significance to my family and friends, regardless to my denials to the opposite.
It is funny that while Douglas enjoys the perks of senior citizenship, he, too, does not like to be viewed as elderly. He constantly tells people of his escapades, such as kayaking long distances, playing 18 holes of disc golf, or hiking up to 20 miles a day on vacation. He proudly shows off his bruises and scars, as proof that he is not ready to be fitted with a wheelchair.
Growing older is a blessing from God, and certainly I understand that I am closer to the grave than to the cradle. Yet, I would just like to encourage people to treat everyone according to the ways they act. If I walk in a restaurant, full of vigor and with no visible need for assistance, don’t offer to help me just because you learn that I am over age 60.
I understand why so many elderly men and women dye their hair and try to look as young as possible. They want to continue to be treated as regular human beings. I will not dye my hair, for I have earned every one of my gray hairs throughout this amazing journey that I am awed to still be on. There was a time when elderly people were revered and the fear of aging was none practically existent.
So, let us keep our dignity. Stop raising your voice like I cannot hear and, on the other end of the spectrum, don’t talk down to me like I am a child who cannot understand the basics of life. Listen to your elders and let us teach you some things, for there is nothing new under the sun, just different names for the same activity. I used to laugh at my children using the same old tired excuses for being late that I had used 25 years earlier.
As we are living longer today, with increasing numbers of people living into their 8th and 9th decade, we need to rethink how we view age. I will continue to protest against how older people are viewed and treated. After all, I am a member of the Baby Boomer generation that turned the world upside down in the 1960s and 1970s. We will rewrite what it means to age, refusing to be seen as of lesser value because of a number.