Living the dream?

Sarah Jackson
Sarah Jackson. Photo by Tracy Walsh

Age really is just a number, isn’t it? 

If you think I’m blowing smoke, guess what: I recently, at age 45, joined AARP.

Why not? I enjoy the magazine, which is already relevant to my middle-age life and work. The benefits, such as hotel discounts, were attractive. And I believe we’re as young as our health and our mindset allow us to be! 

Let’s embrace every stage of life. And not deny that life is a precious journey made special by its limitations. Despite living in a youth-obsessed culture, we still get to define aging as we see fit. 

Take for example this month’s cover star, Liz Dodson, who we’ve dubbed The Dazzling Mrs. Dodson. 

Doesn’t she just sparkle?

This world traveler and longtime artist has aged well, despite life’s challenges, and she’s right now trotting the globe, all at age 90. (I’m literally half her age and I’m pretty sure I can’t match her energy level.)

And yet, aging is no picnic. Older adults are only occasionally honored and revered for going beyond the typical life expectancy. Longevity isn’t always rewarded.

Another 90-year-old in this issue, Jesse Watkins of Minneapolis, writes about the unfortunate phenomenon of feeling invisible — because of his elder status — in our Real Aging department.

But demographics in the U.S. could change things in the near future. 

Watkins notes: One out of every 5 U.S. residents will be retirement age by 2030. By 2034, there will be 77 million folks 65 years old or older. 

“That’s a lot of voices,” he writes. “Being ignored — not seen, invisible — will be more unlikely. We seniors are likely to be seen as more inside the mainstream. More admiring smiles may come our way from those younger than ourselves, followed more often by strangers voluntarily picking up a cane for us after it’s been dropped on the floor.”

What do you think? Is it a foolish dream or an inevitable outcome?

For the sake of all of us, I hope it’s the latter. 

Revering older adults — respecting our elders in all stages of the aging journey — benefits everyone.