The New Age of Not-So-Old Age

by Kerry Cue

Sacha Nauta (The New Age of Longevity, The Economist, 6 JUL 2017) commented that the aging population should be seen as a boon not some Doomsday scenario for the economy. While increasing numbers of 60-plus population still work, even if part-time, the stereotype of the retiree has not shifted since Simone De Beavoir’s day. Retirees were either sponging off society or of no use to it.

Nauta claims that a new definition for the 60-plus age group is long over due. Childhood, she explained, was reclaimed in the 18OOs. (The 1833 Factory Act, UK, banned children under 9 years of age from working.) Teenagers did not exist by name until the 1940s. In 1944 Life magazine insisted that teen-agers made up ‘a big and special market’.

So now it is time to rename and reclaim the 60-plus years. Nauta suggests NYPPIES (Not Yet Past It) or OWLS (Older, Working Less, Still earning). Whatever name eventually gets taken up by the culture, let’s make it positive, a name that makes growing old look ‘cool’ to the young.

I suggest ROCrRs. (Really Old. Can Really Rock.)

A feisty, 70-something GRANDMA hits the big screen. Mature age feminism. Bring it on!

by Kerry Cue

Sibylesque fool quote

There are two reasons to get excited about this film. (New York Times Review) Firstly, it’s called Grandma and Ellie, the lead character, is a feisty, take-no-prisoners 70-something and a long way from the doddering little old lady stereotype.

Secondly, Ellie is played by Lily Tomlin, a comedian I’ve admired since she first hit our screens in Laugh In in the sixties. What’s not to like about a hard-hitting comic feminist who says:

“We have reason to believe that man first walked upright to free his hands for masturbation.”

Lily Tomlin as Grandma Ellie

Lily Tomlin as Grandma Ellie

Grandma Ellie, according to Tomlin, has attitude. ‘If somebody is lying or fudging an issue, she just can’t take it and she is just gonna rail against it.’ That’s an attitude many of us will recognise. Significantly, Lily Tomlin turns 76 on the 1st September this year. Tomlin is smart, sassy, uncompromising and funny.

We need to see vibrant older women on screen as they make growing old look interesting.

Photo Source: Film Website

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Chemo Journal I

by Sibyl Jules

Sibylesque Chemo Quote

How do you describe the old chemo trip which, incidentally, I finished 2 weeks ago after 6 months of 2 weekly cycles? This is only my experience- everyone has different sorts of chemo and some are much worse than others. My side effects were horrible on one drug, which I was spared after 4 cycles because of weird stuff happening. I never wanted to know what the side effects might be beforehand- then I’d only get them! A useful tip shared by an oncology nurse friend was to keep the literature they gave me as a reference if something did feel unusual or bad, and just read it as you need to. This helped me avoid worrying about things that might happen and to respond appropriately to them if they did.

chemo art

I can’t say chemo was easy, but when I meet with any of my ‘cancer club’ as my partner calls them, he always comments how happy we all are. We are, after all, alive, and eating, drinking (albeit a modified beverage of choice) and laughing with friends. I think that the last 6 months of chemo has taught me to enjoy and savour every tiny joy- cooking and sharing food and wine with good friends and family has always been an important part of our lives- so when chemo flattens me for a week, being able to eat and drink and meet friends again- or go to WOMAD, the happiest 4 days of the year as I know it- gives me much to be happy about. Every tiny joy helps…Look for them- they make you feel safe and help to stave off the anxiety and fear.

Sibylesque Apparition of the Visage of Aphrodite of Cnidos in a Landscape, 1981

Oddly, chemo has also reminded me how much I love my work. I’ve been able to work two or three days a week, throughout chemo. I found that focusing on thinking and working, surrounded by busy people doing interesting things has helped me to avoid the pitfalls of the ‘poor-me-illness-behaviour mode’, which I might be prone to without the focus! I’m lucky I can choose when I go to work and if I feel too bad I crash and burn, but usually I get some days in each week. I’m also fortunate I love my work. And having a supportive and loving family and partner has helped too of course. I’ve loved having old friends call up out of the blue, and have been overwhelmed by the incredible generosity and thoughtfulness of people around me. Totally unexpected and humbling.

On grumbling about chemo prior to treatment starting, a surgeon reminded me that I am very lucky to be offered chemo- a treatment that may help keep me alive. For some things there is no such treatment and for that reason I knew I’d just have to go with it, knowing that every 2 weeks, just as I’m beginning to feel a bit ‘normal’ again, another bus will run me over.

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 Picture 1Jules is a perceptive observer and an irrepressible, positive force as well as director and publisher for the Neuro Orthopaedic Institute, Adelaide, SA. And here is the Chemo Fashionista post of the fabulous Jules at WOMAD, Adelaide.

These are the best years of your life. What? Middle school? That’s it!

The Sibyls

Radical Age quote

We Sibyls are concerned with the impact negative attitudes to aging have on our health. Toxic stereotypes of ‘the little old lady’ are prevalent in the medical world, At my age doctor John Glen was an astronaut, in the media, If you think you are old guess what? You are aging fast and in our own conversations, Why you should avoid geriatric talk.

Anarchists knitting Club 1

Sometimes, however, we don’t realise just how ingrained these attitudes are in the culture. In this fascinating lecture Sheila Roher, founder of Radical Age Lab, University of Columbia, asks the audience ‘how many of you were told when you were a child or a teenager that these are the best years of your life?’. ‘That’s a terrifiying statement!’ exclaims Roher. ‘Like I peaked at nine … middle school is it?’

Watch the video for some profound philosophical thinking on aging.

You will find more discussion on this topic at Radical Age Movement Blog.

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How to avoid despair in a negative world

By Kerry Cue 

Sibylesque quote F. Scott Fitzgerald

The author of the quote above remains unnamed to give you a moment to reflect on the significance of these words. It strikes me that too many people I know – so it could be my choice of friends – have become cynical and negative as they have aged. Aging is a war where new battles are fought and won daily or, hopefully, where graceful surrender is negotiated. A bitter and twisted demeanor, no matter how tempting, is a debilitating mindset.

So how do we remain positive, not only in a negative world, but at an age when struggle is the only option? Perhaps, the author of the quote is setting down an alternative view, one that also embraces wisdom. Life, after all, dumps on each of us a bucket full of slippery and barbed contradictions: joy and sorrow, blessings and tragedies, pain and relief, certainty and confusion.

Sibylesque Anyone for tennis

So this is how we counter despair. We juggle it with the possibility of doing good, of making some small contribution.

Who wrote the above quote? F. Scott Fitzgerald. The quote comes from an article titled The Crack-Up published in April, 1936, in which he is brutally honest about his breakdown. He was tired of life. Any reader today would realise he was suffering from depression. He was 39 years old at the time of publication. Fitzgerald died in December 1940 from a heart attack when he was 44.

Other posts on this issue of aging with a postive mindset include At My Age, Doctor, John Glen was an Astronaut and Why you should avoid geriatric talk.

 Photo Source: 1930s tennis women tumblr

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If you think you are old, guess what? You ARE aging fast.

by Kerry Cue

Sibylesque Gloria Steinem quote

We, The Sibyls, do not deny age its journey. Nevertheless, many studies have shown that the toxic stereotype of the stooped ‘little old lady’ not only limits your outlook on aging, it can actually reduce your life span. We have noted before that this stereotype is reinforced by Geriatric Self-Talk and assumptions of the medical profession. Now two recent publications support this view.

What if age is nothing but a mind set? by Bruce Greirson (New York Times, 22 OCT 2014) reports on a study conducted by Ellen Langer, Professor of Psychology at Harvard, conducted in 1981. Eight men in their 70s stepped into a monastery retro-fitted for 1959. Perry Como crooned on a vintage radio. Ed Sullivan appeared on a black-and-white TV. After 5 days, the men significantly improved on many ‘age related’ tests.

Sibylesque Go Wild

Our aging brain pinkMeanwhile, in his book, Our Ageing Brain: How our mental capacities develop as we grow older (SCRIBE, 2014) André Aleman cites similar studies including the study that showed:

*those with a more positive view of aging lived 7.5 years longer.

*when older people are asked to read a list of negative words associated with aging (eg. Senile) their performance in memory tests reduces.

*men who become prematurely bald present with earlier onset of age related deceases.

*older people in rural China suffer less from memory problems that we do. Professor Langer, who also conducted this study, put this down to their lack of exposure to the negative stereotyping of age we experience in the West.

According to Aleman:

A positive attitude – often perfectly justified, since many older people are in good health – keeps you young.

Photo Source: NYC, 1966, Airbus, Medialapie09 Blog

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I will not be a stereotype when I grow old

Sibylesque Paul Coelho QuoteChange is a Beautiful Thing is a part of The Beauty Project by New York director Kathryn Ferguson. This short  film does not whitewash aging. It is full of the foibles, doubts and uncertainties of growing old. Yet it also bubbles with individuality, vitality and the honesty age, hopefully, brings.

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Why you should avoid geriatric talk

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dark red quote 1

                                                     

I’m not senile… If I burn the house down it will be on purpose.dark red quote 2

…………………………………..Margaret Attwood, The Blind Assassin

Sibylesque Signature dark redRoman border  dark red …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Age makes weary, but words condemn.

senior hippies wrinkleOld age creeps up on us all, but we can stay lively all our lives. Old Age, however, has had a long history of bad press. As a consequence, it is very easy to develop a ‘geriatric’ mindset and start using geriatric language. This is how it works. One day, without realising it, you say ‘I had a fall’ rather than ‘I fell over’, ‘I had a funny turn’ instead of ‘I felt dizzy’ and ‘My mind is going’ or ‘I can’t remember a thing’ in stead of ‘I forgot’.

This is important. Research shows that immersing yourself in ‘debilitating’ language slows you  down. Scientists have actually measured the walking pace of subjects. Young and old. The reverse is also true. Using ‘energetic’ language will speed you up.

What more can I say? Go wild. It’ll do you some good.

Reference: How to Age, Anne Karpf,  The School of Life (2014), p48

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