Are We Invisible?
I sometimes walk down the streets of New York and I count people, actually count. 1, 2 people my age, over 60! 8, 9 people 20 to 35 years old. Then I compute fractions, 2/10, sometimes I think in percentages, 20%. In my exercise class, I work through the burn by discreetly scanning the group and discerning who is above 50. I start my computations again, you’d think I was a mathematician.
But, contrary to what my small experiment in counting seems to indicate, we are out there and our numbers are significant.
In the years leading up to retirement and after, making the decisions to downsize, older adults are deciding they want to be near culture, access to mobility and communities of other people their age.
I have always lived in an urban center as an adult, be it Chicago, Jerusalem or New York. My mantra is “I don’t need to take advantage of every single cultural opportunity, but take it away from me and I am very unhappy”. It appears I am not alone.
On the Upper West Side of Manhattan the amount of individuals over 60 is exceedingly high and growing. The number of baby boomers living in the city will soon outnumber school children.
So, if our numbers are significant, and our populations in urban areas are growing, where are we? Why don’t I see us? I am taking attendance. Are we invisible?
In some ways we are. I sometimes see all men’s heads turn, like the flip books we used to make as kids, as a pretty girl passes. There goes one, the next, next and on down the line, on the street. No matter how great or lovely the older lady appears, she’s not turning heads. It just doesn’t happen like that. It’s more like this, someone in pantyhose with the top of the stockings changing from opaque to more opaque as they do right below the mini skirt, bulges protruding from the upper thighs and tummy, cleavage spilling over from the deep v neck in the chest and all the heads are turning, mainly to stare.
Out at lunch, do you ever see a couple of middle aged men gawking, googly eyed, at the young ladies? The young ladies are not staring back no matter how distinguished and sophisticated the gentlemen look.
Many years ago, when my mom was in her early 80’s she was hospitalized for very high blood pressure. She shared with me that when the professionals came in, doctors, nurses and even maintenance staff, they spoke to the younger person in the room. In her inimitable way she said, “no one pays attention to old people”. Just a note about my mother, she felt that way, but those of us who knew her felt that you could not be in the same room with her and not feel her presence. She always stood out.
As we age we may become less noticeable, but we can still be relevant. Here’s how:
- Be authentic. There is no right way or wrong way, but you must be yourself, just better, nicer and more interesting. It is easier to be authentic than faking it. We finally know who we are and we like ourselves. This does not mean that you can say everything that you feel. FILTER! But show your true self, just be sure it’s your most pleasant side. Note: I think being authentic includes spending only what one can afford.
- We don’t have to make ourselves get noticed by speaking loudly or poking fun at others. If there’s a joke to be had, we can be the butt of it. No laughs at the expense of those around us. Cutting people down does not lift us up.
- Be Kind.
- Be beautiful inside and out. As petty as it sounds people do pay attention to others who look attractive. Be well groomed on the outside, but more importantly start to make your mark on the world today by setting the right, more dignified example. Use your nice voice even when you are annoyed, but don’t be sarcastic and biting. People today are very savvy about communication and passive aggressive is quickly perceived.
- Pay attention to the small things people do and compliment others when it’s warranted. Don’t overdo it because it appears phony and not genuine (See number 1.).
- My mother never used profanity. I mean never, at least not in English. I instinctively have the mouth of a sailor but am trying to change that. Profanity is considered less classy. There is an inverse relationship between how intelligent person seems and how much profanity they use.
- Do not repeat stories. Telling the same stories over and over is boring, and my children ridicule me for it. The eyes roll and “here she goes again” faces comes out.
- This is the most important point: Drumroll! It is not too late. We all want to be remembered as being on the right side of history. You can still change if you have to and do things differently.
I know that some of my list sounds old fashioned, but I don’t care. No. 1!