Blog Post

Column: Age is relative

“Everything is relative in this world, where change alone endures.”
~ Leon Trotsky

As a member of Generation X, I am contemplating what it means to be 43. Am I young-ish? Am I middle-aged? Am I getting old?

I watched “Mary Poppins Returns” recently and marveled at the superb performances of Angela Lansbury and Dick Van Dyke – acting, singing and the latter even tap dancing – at 93!

And, here I am, struggling to get off the floor after my best friend’s 5-year-old easily coaxed me to play with Legos. My knees ache, my memory is not as sharp as it was just a few years ago, and I’m always tired. All of this may be due to stress, my medications, lack of sleep and/or weight gain. However, the result is that I feel less energetic and limber as I once used to. I have several years to go before I’m considered senior-aged, which by various accounts starts anywhere from 50-65. But I am definitely past the youthful stage.

What is a senior?

Merriam-Webster defines a “senior citizen” as “an elderly or aged person, especially one who has retired.” Personally, I feel it’s rather antiquated to base “senior” status on whether or not one still works! Lansbury and Van Dyke are prime examples of staying active and vital at any age.

The language we use to describe seniors is often replete with ageism and negative connotations – elderly, old, frail, senile, feisty, cute … just to name a few. Then, there’s the amorphous term “older adult,” which begs the question: Older than who or what?

Let’s consider the many positive connotations of the word senior. Merriam-Webster describes a “senior” as a “person with higher standing or rank.” In other words, we’re referring to someone with wisdom and experience who is to be honored and respected, right? In the case of students, seniors are preparing to graduate and start the next phase of their lives. Through my 20-plus years of working with seniors at Philadelphia Corporation for Aging, it is the positive qualities of seniors that I’ve cherished the most – wisdom, experience, strength and determination.

I challenge you to think about your age and how you can defy the typical stereotypes. When I consider the words of a former colleague, I immediately feel youthful: “Remember, you’re only as old as you act.”

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Alicia Colombo is the editor of Milestones newspaper.