Aging gracefully or staying shamefully young?

Tyler Murphy

Whatever happened to respecting the elderly? Age is supposed to be nearly sacred in meaning. I’m reminded of words like venerable, experienced, vintage, classic, veteran and time-honored.


Yet when I look around at how our society reacts to age and how we deal with the elderly, a more appropriate vocabulary might be — dilapidated, broken-down, ramshackle, decaying and of course inconvenient.


Media marketing and culture are geared to ‘staying young forever’ and cast a sense of shame upon the fact that we all have to grow old eventually. (Some of us will even lose our minds). Snake oil youth treatments of skin cream, hair color, cosmetic surgery and even injections of botulism (Botox) are all taken to stem the tide of only appearing old.


Our cultural obsession for youth has apparently generated the unfortunate attitude that age just isn’t aesthetically undesirable, but also a curse. A curse that in the minds of some automatically makes one no longer useful.


I’m reminded of Ponce de Leon and his Fountain of Youth — countless lives spent in a desperate attempt to find true immortality with but a sip. No one ever found it and the fountain claimed much more from those that sought it than it ever gave; the same is true today.


The Evening Sun recently ran a story of an elderly man who was basically tossed in jail because no one wanted him- no one wanted to accept responsibility. Not the state, not the medical profession, not even his family. Maybe he is old and maybe he’s even dangerous too, but the only reason he’s in jail right now and not in treatment is because nobody cared.


He was just some ‘crazy’ old man who wouldn’t stop bothering the rest of us, so we put him in jail. It’s pathetic.


People read the article and think this poor man must be so embarrassed, but really… he’s not the one who should be embarrassed.