I have this huge clipping file on aging now and even though I have "finished" (inasmuch as anyone finishes anything) my book on aging, I am still collecting comments and insights.
Tomorrow I will have completed my 84th year and will start on my 85th. (My father used to point out that distinction.) Next year I will be 85 and I'm going to have a big party. I just hope that enough people I know are still alive and able to attend it.
An American gerontologist, Dr. Robert Butler, who died in 2010, gave an interview less than two weeks before he died and made some astute comments on aging and the efforts old people make to keep up with the Juniors. Quoted in the New York Times, he said, "I think we ought to have a realistic portrait of all different periods of life and not try to romanticize old age as the most wonderful, all these great old wise people. I think that goes too far."
Dr. Anne Basting is the director of the Centre on Age and Community at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, author of Forget Memory: Creating Better Lives for People with Dementia (2009), and founder of the Time Slips Project (look her up; she's fascinating). She says we go from one extreme to another. "It's either the stories of young-onset Alzheimer's, or it's the sky-diving grandmas. We don't hear enough about the huge middle, which is the vast majority of folks." Try getting Jullianne Moore to play a frumpy, dumpy, happy grandmother.
"Anything you do, people are just shocked that your'e alive," Dr. Basting said. "There's no expectations at 90."
Well, I do. I do have expectations but I'm only (almost) 84.