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Human Resources

Getting Older







I’ve been thinking a lot lately about getting older. I’m 58 years old; I’ve written before that I started working here at CWU when I was 26 years old. Maybe it was the death of Edwin Torres-Pagan unexpectedly last week; he worked with my husband for over thirty years. Maybe it’s because I’m reading a book called The Last Gift of Time: Life Beyond Sixty, by Carolyn G. Heilbrun. (I’m not 60 yet but I’m certainly working on it and want to be prepared.) Maybe it’s because there are days, actually moments when I feel a bit irrelevant. Or maybe it’s just the time of year…the trees are moving from life to dormancy for the winter. Maybe it’s just got me thinking…

        Although the old, as we are daily warned, are growing in numbers while the population of the young yearly declines, it is the young who influence the world we live in. Everyone from actors to tennis players to writers are getting younger. Except in advertisements of dentifrices designed for the wearers of false teeth or laxatives to rescue the aging from their constipation, the young dominate the airwaves, television, the fashion ads, the Internet (and the technology to access it), and the movies. The aging, while nervous about HMOs, Medicare, and Social Security, do not seem to play a very large role in this country’s affairs – aging women even less than men. If, therefore, we wish to keep up with at least some part of what is going in the world, it is the young to whom we must turn.

        So if those who are younger talk, and those who are older listen, and if, as I believe, the young like to talk to or anyway “at” those older, for the very same satisfaction the difference in generation offers each, isn’t it pretty much a one-way street? Do we who are getting on serve only to listen to the young? Have we nothing to tell them that is worth their hearing, even if they may feel a little bored hearing it? I do not mean that we sit silent and judgmental…we speak, we respond, we question.

        But as I pondered this a good while I came only recently to understand that it is our very presence that is important to the young. They want us to be there: not in their homes, perhaps, not watching them with a baleful eye as they go about their daily work, but there. We reassure them that it matters to us that it continues. If we do not tiresomely insist that the past was better, that the present is without morals or good habits or healthy living or (heaven help us) family values, whatever they are; if we do not insist on recounting ancient anecdotes as original as a tape recording and as easily rendered audible; if we do not recount adventures in the past, even if requested to do so, then the young will sometimes actually seek…for something we are equipped to give them. What to call it? It is the essence of having lived long, it is the unstated assurance that most disasters pass, it is the survival of deprivation and earth and rejection that renders our sympathy of value.

        Perhaps the young can sense what I now know: that I may look like some of those ancient beings, but inside of me I can still partake of all the spontaneous joy of youth… (The Last Gift of Time: Life Beyond Sixty, page 163-4)


So, this week, regardless of age:

Find some joy! Cheer for the Cubs! Celebrate life! Kick some leaves!


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