My sister is turning 40 today. It is so difficult for me to think of my sister who used to braid my hair as a child as being 40 years old. The phrase “over the hill” comes to mind.
In a year and a half from now, I will be turning 30. My in-laws both turned 60 last summer. My dad turned 70 last December.
Obsession with age is central to so many people’s lives in Western society that it makes me wonder what kind of world it would be if a person’s age was unknown and irrelevant. I can only imagine that it would be a vastly improved world. So much of our opinions about other people, and ourselves, are based on age.
You can be the smartest, most capable, person in the world for a job – but you’re over 65? Sorry, we are looking for someone younger (who is more exploitable and doesn’t demand such a high salary). Statistics reveal that US firms are 40% more likely to interview a younger job applicant than an older job applicant. It doesn’t matter that your intelligence and vast experience makes you a far superior candidate. Age rears its ugly head on your resume, and you’re suddenly rendered useless and irrelevant.
Another scenario: You’re a beautiful woman, you’re vivacious, you’re smart and perceptive – you’re over 30? No can do. I’m looking for a woman in her twenties. Yes, I know that you and I would make a great couple, but you are older than me, and I really can’t date a woman in her thirties.
Superficial judgements such as the ones described above sound so pathetic and lame that it is hard to believe that society attaches such importance to a number. But it does. We all do.
A member of my extended family – who shall remain nameless if I value my life – is convinced that now she has turned 60, she may as well start preparing her last will and testament. She is too old to look after her grandchildren, too old to have fun, too old to have dreams…. And why? Because two digits are controlling her life.
We live out our fears, and as a result, age defines us. I really believe that if we were unaware of our age, we would live longer, we would look better, we would be HAPPIER, and we would be free from the shackles of prejudice and discrimination. The mind is extremely powerful and our deep-seated fears about our age color our perception about our abilities. Age makes us think old, act old, and diminishes our pleasure. How many times have we heard doctors tell older patients, “What can you expect at your age”? I rest my case. Old age becomes a curse rather than a blessing.
Adultism, jeunism, aldutocracy, gerontocracy, chronocentrism, pedophobia, ephebiphobia (try wrapping your tongue around that one on a Monday morning), gerentophobia – these are all terms that have seeped into the English language as a way to describe the many different types of discrimination towards age.
The answer? I’m not sure. But it wouldn’t be such a bad thing if we were to revert to the customs of biblical times when not only were the elders tolerated, but revered.