Vignettes on Aging – Elder Admiration

Ask Google to identify the most dynamic senior citizens of our time and you’ll get a detailed list, with pictures, of seniors who are weightlifting, 80-year-olds who are water skiing, and septuagenarians successfully scaling Mt. Fuji.

In addition to these power houses, each community has its elder movers and shakers who are admired for non-physical traits. These are people who write, talk, organize, fund-raise, and create with a long list of talents and credits, and there is nary a barbell, boogie board, or snowshoe in sight. We don’t hear about these super-achievers nearly as much.

Why is it that we are in awe of and mainly admire only those elders, from 70 to over 100, who can physically surpass others by being strong, super fit, and living the cleanest life possible? Yes, these folks can be admired by many even though they only represent a small segment of the older adult population that is contributing significantly to the well-being of everyone and everything in our world. Most seniors are not endowed with the kind of physical health as they age to gain this kind of fame. 

The unfortunate thing about turning the spotlights predominantly on the physically fit elders as the ultimate representation of the best of our group is that we ignore all those who are behind the scenes, plugging along, perhaps even doing their work in less than physically fit bodies, but nonetheless contributing gobs to improve the lives of many.

What about the likes of Betty White, Queen Elizabeth II, Morgan Freeman, Tony Bennett, Dr. J. Craig Venter, or Bill Gates? We’re not out on a Saturday cheering them on as they complete a marathon run. We don’t evaluate their contributions to society by how they maintain their physical prowess. We admire the work they do, the work to help the world be a better place. These are the elders to admire.

By only acknowledging those who are physically superior in their age group, we’re reducing the overall value to society to a limited few representatives. Each of us contributes something, either large or small, not just those endowed with good health and strong bodies.

Let’s admire and celebrate contributions of all participating seniors.