Friday, August 19, 2011

Old? Old! Maybe. So What?

There's a discussion going on at DorothyL about older women and how they're portrayed in books.

Including some suggestions about how to refer to those of us who might fall into this category.

I'm 62.  I guess I'm now one of those women in this category.

A woman of a certain age.

Whatever - I kinda like that phrase, actually.

Here's a thought.

Refer to us as "women."

Or perhaps even, "Penelope So&So is a 78 year old woman."

Whatever.  Does there really need to be further elucidation? 

All I know is that I've met some women who, at the grand ol' age of 30-something, manage to convey the stereotypical image of "old woman," while I also know some women my age and older who do not convey that image in the least.  

I can truthfully say that at the age of 62, I am happier, more content, more fulfilled than I've been at any other time in my life.  I have joked that I was born to be a retired person.  In reality, that may not be a joke.  I seem to have fallen into retirement with a gusto that has surprised me.  I'm doing things that interest me and having a ball discovering new things that interest me.

Since I turned 60 I've had two essays published in two separate regional anthologies.  I didn't even start writing until I was 60.  I didn't even think I wanted to write until I was 60.

I've treated myself (as a retirement gift) to a new camera.  A Canon G12 which is not an SLR, but a step in that direction.  I'm still learning about the camera, but am having a ball going out on shoots with it, and plan on taking some lessons.  Going for a drive by myself in these gorgeous North Carolina mountains looking for the "perfect" shot is just huge fun for me.  It's lovely having the time now to be able to do this.

And I've joined a gym.  The name of it is The Gym.  (I love that).

I was never an exerciser.  I don't recall running when I was a child.  I vividly recall rolling my eyes and shaking my head when the subject of exercise even came up.  

I am known for eating my words.

And on occasion, that is fine fine fine. 

Now I wish people who might dare call me elderly would eat theirs.  For real.

(I don't even know where I'm going with this.  Pffffttttt.)

Lemme try this.

Some of us are older.  So????

Does that make us less vibrant?  Less interesting?

When it comes to novels, do people really prefer reading about a younger woman than an older woman?  Why?  Is it because she's sexier?  Does that make her more interesting?  Seriously - I'm very interested in hearing how you all feel about this.

But this IS the perfect opportunity for me to squeal about my gym.  The Gym.  Which I love, so thanks!

(me.  Senior Citizen Gym Rat)

What's next for me?

No idea.

But stay tuned!

It could be fun!


LJ Roberts said...

Old? No, Kaye, as one who turns 61 next Wednesday, I wish to categorically state that we are not old.

We have years and experience which have given us both wisdom and a sense of the absurd. We are less inclined to suffer fools gladly, but have tender hearts to those in need. We understand the importance of commitment, keeping your word, being moral and ethical and having a sense of humor.

We may not move as fast or as easily as we once did, be we still like to learn and are curious.

I would much prefer to be known a mature, experienced, even eccentric (my particular favorite). Perhaps, when I'm 80, I'll be old. Then again, maybe not. Old is a state of mind. Can't see myself going there, or you either.

Patricia Stoltey said...

You ladies are way younger than I am, and I only feel old when my knees are aching. :)

Kathleen Hickey said...

I'm 64 and retired, and I'm more active and busier than ever. Also in better shape than I was at 40. I'm looking forward to staying active and interested in life for many years to come - for the rest of my days is the plan. The body may age, but "old" is a state of mind.

Vicki Lane said...

Oh, yes! I know what you mean. My first novel came out when I was 62; I'm 68 now and the sixth one is coming out. I must be old -- I'm certainly neither young nor middle-aged -- but I'd prefer being called 'a 68 year old woman' to elderly, geezer, senior, all those. And no one should EVER say I'm __ years young if they don't want me to beat them about the head with my walker. (When I have a walker, that is.)

Shirley Wetzel said...

Dear young Kaye, I will be 65 next month, but I know it's not the same 65 my mother was, much less my grandmother, who looked elderly in her 40's. One of my cousin's daughters wrote on FB that her "elderly mother", who is a postal worker, was attacked by a dog. Beth knew what to do and wasn't hurt, but we all got a lot of mileage out of referring to her as "elderly." She's 60, and very fit from all the walking she does.

You will be forever young, no matter what the calendar says.

kay Elam said...

You ladies are my heros. At 56, I'm just getting started with my writing "career." It's nice to hear of your writing successes.

As far as exercise--I've always thought it was WAY overrated. Last year, I joined a group of women aged 55-75 called the Tap N Dolls. We have an annual recital (right beside the little kiddies) and we dance at county fairs, mall events, retirement centers, etc. Our teacher is a former Rockette.

Keep up the good work, ladies!
Another Kay

Beth Anderson said...

Kay, I'm older than you are and whenever anyone says 'elderly' around me I look around, wondering who they're talking about. I feel better than I have in years, exercise more, watch my diet more, and I'm having more fun. I'm also smarter and more active than ever, and I'm starting my eighth book any day now. So much for 'elderly', huh?.

Carol N Wong said...

Yes, I am 65 yeara old but I am not "elderly'. In one of the books that I read recently, it referred to one of the characters as elderly and later in the book,I learned that she was only 62!

I hate being called elderly, senior or old! I think those words should be banished!

Also, I didn't like it when a teenager working in the Discovery Store walked up to me and wanted to show me their juke box like when I was young. He got the wrong era. I can remember some at White castles at the tables but I was too young to be in the "juke box age"!!

I also don't want to live in a "Senior Retirement Home". I think of them as "age ghetto's. Why should we be separated or have to live apart from others at different ages. I talked to one woman at a ice cream place who under th advice of her children moved to one. She was miserable. She missed seeing children!!!! She walked to get ice cream a couple times a week just to see children.

Jill said...

While walking down the hall in the hospital with MA yesterday...she brought up the fact that the person writing about her accident referred to her as being elderly. She said that she also hated that term. Why not just say "women". Maybe it garners sympathy or something. I don't know...but I don't like it either. Actually the word "old" seems better to me. The word "elderly" just brings kind of a sad mental picture.

N. J. Lindquist said...

Count me as one of the young gang, too. I'm 63 but feel better in so many ways than when I was 50 - possibly 40. Isn't 60 the new 20? I'm much more fit physically, at ease with who I am emotionally, and content in the knowledge that I can still make a difference. I agree with what several have said. Old is a state of mind.

Now if the people who make clothes could only make more appropriate clothing for those of us who want to look smart (as opposed to dowdy) without having to dress like 16-year-olds, that would really help. :)

Lesa said...

Love all of your comments! And, I agree with N.J.'s comments about clothes, too. OK, I'll admit, I'm probably the youngster out of the group that has answered. But, I'm not particularly interested in reading about a perky 20 year old in my books. I'd like to read about a woman with some maturity; a woman who has lived a life and had some experiences rather than just the number of men she dated or slept with. Women with some life experiences are much more fascinating, in real life, and in books. My 40s were good. Fifties have been fabulous so far. And, you all make the 60s sound great! Thanks for being great role models. And, Kaye? You're the best role model I've seen, other than my mother, who is 75. She goes to Curves 6 days a week, volunteers, travels, spends hours on the phone with her best friend, SKYPEs with her granddaughter in South Korea, and her grandkids still spend nights at her house in their 20s. She's my role model. Give me characters like Mom.

cathy said...

What a great blog article, Kaye. I really enjoyed it, and agree with ya'll, especially Lesa since we're similar in age - and her mom sounds young in mind just as mine is too. You gals are all an inspiration.

Alice Duncan said...

Oh, man, you guys are kids. I'm 65. And, Patricia, I only feel old when my back aches. Which, come to think of it, is all the time :-(

Don Barley said...

I was hiking one of the many Grandfather Mountain trails several months back. I had my daypack and a walking stick/staff in my hand. Someone came up behind me and yelled "out of the way old man". Several things crossed my mind as he was about to pass me at 200ft drop off. I could trip him and he would never be found. I could say something to him about that which was in my hand was not a cane but a staff. That my staff and I were about to beat his punk ass to a pulp. Another thought that it was such a beautiful day it would be a shame to ruin it. I sure have mellowed out. I wonder if his body will ever be found. Hmmm.

Leslie Budewitz said...

When my mother was 80 - a few years back - her doctor sent her to a specialist and gave her her medical records to deliver. Naturally, she looked at them -- and saw herself described as "a pleasant elderly woman." "Hmmph, well, maybe," she said, begrudgingly. "At least he said I was pleasant."

One thing I notice about many women -- and some men -- in their 60s is that they seem to have reached a new level of comfort with themselves, which is very appealing.

Beth Groundwater said...

Having just turned 55, and still thinking of myself as middle-aged, I don't think anyone in their fifties or sixties should be called a senior citizen. Many of us are still fit and active. I think middle-age now goes to 69, at least!

Coco Ihle said...

Kaye, as usual, you are a jewel! I just had my first book published and I'm 68! I love to walk, travel, read, write and I'm dating a wonderful man 9 years my junior! I feel absolutely great and my neice says I'm beautiful. How's that for being a "senior?!"

Anonymous said...

Love your blog and love the photos!You can call me decrepit. "Elderly" sounds so pathetic and the last thing I ever want to be is pathetic!
Keep on truckin' Miz Kaye! And good luck with your writing. You picked the right time to start -- when you have something to say.
Pat Browning

Mary Welk said...

I'll turn 65 in two weeks. The only thing that's grown old for me is all the junk mail from insurance companies wanting to sell me Medicare supplementary insurance! Yeah, my knees sometimes remind me that physically I'm not as young as I used to be -- especially after I've been out gardening for a few hours -- but I still feel 21 in my head. Sure, I'm a lot wiser than I was at 21, but isn't that the way it should be? I'm 75% retired -- still work a few days each month -- and loving it. I don't consider myself "old" in any way, and would resent someone calling me that. (Don, you have my vote if you want to push that guy off the mountain!)Now my aunt was old, but heck, it's hard to call a 106-year-old woman anything but old! But the year she died, she was still putting in her vegetable garden and waiting for her cataracts to 'mature' so they could be removed. Yeah, her mind was still locked on 21 too. I'd love to see someone like her portrayed in a novel!

Vickie said...

Old is as old does. I will get older, but I won't get old.
I loved my 40s and embracing my 50s and I imagine to feel the same with all ages as they come.

I don't think I suffer from ageism when it comes to characters in my books. I don't like characters written as stereotypes, though. Like 'dumb blondes' or old older people. If they are infirm, hobble, but don't make the character hobble just because the writer thinks that's how a person of a 'certain age' is supposed to act.

I believe I will embrace retirement, too. Full on gusto when I retire retire. I am in second career now having retired from the Air Force after 22 years in 2004. I'll likely have some kind of part time job after I retire retire, but a job at a bookstore or somewhere fun like that.
DH says phhhhhht to that, he's going fishing, hunting, motorcycling, whatever suits his fancy when he retire retires.

Eve Barbeau said...

Yay for 60+ year olds!

Peggy Burdick said...

I, too, have only recently begun to experience age issues. Turned 64 in April but in June I experienced the first reference to me and age. It was mild and undirected, so I only registered it as odd. Then one or two other remarks were made later and I began to get a tad miffed. Children and teens are pretty much the same as us mature folks. We're new to a certain kind of culture, one which we haven't experienced before and one to which we must become acclimated. However, unlike adolescents, we have immeasurable experience from which to draw to assist us in learning and adapting. Forgetting that is the biggest mistake mature humans make. American society tends to discount people who have lived 2/3s their lives as disposable goods, sometimes a topic of ridicule, and much to be ignored. We are, in fact, a huge resource (we're the only ones who learned and know how to speak, write and compose our language - just one example); in more cases than not, we're the wisdom-keepers who can honestly look at youth with knowing and compassion (something they have yet to learn); and since we're in the majority (numbers if not finance), we have the power of the biggest kid on the block, if we choose to use it. We're mistaken to buy into the hype that we are no longer productive members of society. My ass. Every dollar we live on (i.e., retirement), we earned. Every benefit we get, we bought. We're not lesser beings, we're superior beings who aren't diminished because we've lived longer -- we're survivors. One day I may be weaker, more forgetful, and less sharp -- like a child. But I will deserve no less respect or care than a child with the same issues; only I will have earned it, not because I'm cute and cuddly, but because I've contributed to the world in a way that only I could. Value is value, folks. I don't think jokes and cartoons about the decline of the physical body or mind is funny or worthy of any race.

By the way, I've always thought this way, even when I was very young. Don't understand assigning weak, belittling language to any stage of life.

Whew. Glad I got that out! Cheers, y'all.

Sandra Parshall said...

What I hate is the tendency of younger people to dismiss anybody over 50 as irrelevant and totally out of touch with the present-day world. They ought to realize that older people are the ones who know the most, have experienced the most, and have the wisest perspective on events.

I've been seeing ads lately for a computer made especially for "senior citizens" -- it's stripped down to the essentials so old brains won't be totally befuddled. Most of the "senior citizens" (gad, I hate that term) I know have been using computers since they first came on the market and consider them a normal part of everyday life.