We Celebrate Baby Boomers -- Why Not 90-Year-Olds?
All the news these days is about Baby Boomers and about how they're changing the face of aging with an in-your-face attitude. And since we’re Boomers, we love to hear about all the changes we're making.
But it seems to me that all this Boomer hype is seriously detracting from another group of women and men; those over 90 years old, a population that is expected to more than quadruple over the next four decades. Living to be over 90 is an accomplishment not recognizedmuch outside of family and friends of the older person celebrating her longevity. Living to be over 100 does get some recognition, a letter from the president for example, but there's rarely such acknowledgement awarded for a 90 birthday.
I think that any kind of longevity, say over 80 or maybe even 70, needs to be recognized and celebrated. Celebrations -- unlike fine wine -- do not improve with age.
Doug and I recently had the pleasure of celebrating the 90thbirthday of a dear client and her family. An age which, unfortunately, none of our relatives have yet achieved.
There are approximately two million people over 90 in the United States. Two million! So wouldn't a number like that influence the rest of us to start appreciating those 90+ people we know? If it's not a relative, couldn't we find an older neighbor, maybe at the library? Wouldn't we make sure that we give them all the respect that they've earned? In all other countries, the older the person, the more he or she is revered.
In North America, there's what I call an ice floe frame of mind. Many years ago, Inuits were rumored to have put their aging relatives on ice floes and wave goodbye to them as they floated off, never to return. Of course there is no literal ice floe now, although there is a predominant parallel in putting Mom or Dad in a retirement home or a nursing home.
The knowledge that our older population possesses is nearly untapped. Before the time of retirement homes and nursing homes, old parents moved in often with one of their children, where they could easily share some of their knowledge with their grandchildren and their own children too.
The chance of that happening in current times is remote. We no longer care to revel in our parents' stories, their recollections, their treasures, their wisdom. We seldom miss their smile or their laughter. We don't treasure all they still have, in whatever way, to give to us. We don't always acknowledge their love for us and for our children.
I'd like to see all of us taking the time to sit down with a person over 90 to learn even the tiniest bit that they'd love to give to us. I'd like to see us welcoming older relatives into our homes as part of our family. I'd like to see all of us knowing that having people over 90 in our lives is a gift to be cherished.