No. America doesn't need another war. Here's what we do need and what you and I can do about the single great inevitability, if we're lucky: getting older
We Americans are warlike people. War on drugs, poverty, terror. There are unspoken and horrific wars on Black folks, Brown folks, Asian folks, immigrants and above all, those pesky Indigenous folks who happened to inhabit the land our ancestors wanted. There are unspoken but clear wars on various marginalized folks and even our own Democracy.
War, baby. We love our war metaphor, because it implies a win. Sadly, almost all the social wars claimed against various issues failed badly and like Vietnam, we didn't win them. If anything we fanned them hotter. Kindly witness the fentanyl war on the borders in today's Texas.
As a veteran, I bought into that warlike mentality for a while too. I now see the war on the aged, and in response a growing war on ageism, led by very bright voices like Ashton Applewhite. She doesn't call it a war, but give it time. Some moke is going to do it, because of the massive wave of folks over fifty who are also tired of being marginalized.
Do we really need to declare war against those who have declared war on time itself?
The attacks on those of us who have edged into our fifties are increasing. We hate what we fear, and we fear getting old. Yet nearly half the American population is over fifty. What, we are going to ignore, isolate, mock and demean half the population? How's that going to work for ya?
Those with money to make by shaming us for getting older certainly find ways to encourage us to resist the wrinkles which define us as elders, fight the process which allows us to sage into our later years, and plump up the dumpy face and thin the waistline to chase what is gone forever.
If there's a fight, let's fight back by not fighting aging in the first place.
That's number one. Besides, the options are bleak.
When I say Brawl against ageism, I mean it in the funnest sense. A damned good brawl the way I mean it is like those two kids with the feather pillows, above. Let's make it a mock battle but with a clear winner: us, and as a result of that, society as a whole. So to that:
First and foremost, the single most essential response to aging is to age well. At the risk of repeating all the research (I won't) I will simply list the four legs of the stool:
Move. A LOT. Find something you love to do and just do it. A LOT.
Eat smart for YOUR body. Mostly plants, no ultra-processed, whatever works for your unique body. You already know, just do it. Educate yourself about your changing body and take the necessary steps for functional health and functional fitness. Forget skinny. Be active.
Have real friends. REAL friends who like to move and like to eat well and watch their alcohol intake and like to think and gather and just be in life. Just find your tribe and enjoy the social benefits of being around uplifting people. Above all, find friends who make you laugh, help you make jokes about men growing boobs and women growing facial hair. WTF, right? It IS hilarious.
Have a reason to lace those sneakers every morning. Forget the TV, forget the scrolling. We can't affored hours on line unless that's part of our work. Even if it is, make sure that your life has PLENTY of your Mama: Mother Nature. Read more. Think more. Engage more. Get OUT of the house more.
No matter whose research you read, and there is a lot of it, those four things ( and each has subsets, natch) are THE gold standard. No shortcuts. And they are easy, and mostly inexpensive if you disregard inflationary pressures on food, and they result in such untrammeled joy.
But wait, there's more.
Just ignore the haters. Ignore the ads. Forget the messaging. And while yes, we face ageism everywhere, you and I get to set boundaries. For example, if some nurse calls you honey or sweetie, stop her dead in her tracks and call her on it. Do NOT suffer that shit. Just don't. Stop it there. I don't care what her reaction is. Same with store clerks or anyone else. Call people on it.
It likely doesn't even occur to them what they're doing, so let them know. It's infantilizing to someone whose life has vast value, and....
We. Are. Not. Having. It.
We are immensely fortunate to make it another day, year, decade. I turn 70 in three weeks. I can't WAIT to see what this decade will bring. How lucky we are to be alive and kicking. We owe our bodies, our friends, our kids, our society our gifts.
We owe OURSELVES our gifts, a life lived fully, not apologizing for being old, when we are indeed older, the one great and abiding gift for which each of us strives.
We should not have to wage a war on Ageism in order to be able to express and enjoy our later years.
We also do not need a war on us simply because we are the proof of life after fifty, and we look it. Sorry that scares you, American public, but you won't get where we are unless you are lucky, and take better care of yourself.
Looking older is the whole point. We earned how we look, including the mistakes, the poor decisions, the good disciplines we've developed, the habits we've ingrained, all of it is written into and onto our skin suits and into our eyes.
We look like our habits.
So if our habits don't serve, don't set a resolution. Just start taking small steps to make positive changes in those habits. There is always time to be what we always wanted to be, until there isn't, which is largely unknown to us.
Most of the time you and I will end up feeling and acting younger when we improve our habits. The wrinkles won't disappear, but being embarrassed about our age, our bodies or our greying hair can and will disappear when we stop attending to societal messaging about what we simply cannot stop.
We don't need another "war" on the one aspect of life which is intractable: Time. No matter how rich Jeff Bezos is, he will decay and die. No matter how bloody rich Elon Musk is, he will decay and die.
There is no winning a war on age. There is riding into our older years yelling Cowabunga, and happily brawling our way forward with a healthy body, a sense of humor and the tremendous gratitude that we did, in fact, get yet another day.
I will end here with a tribute to lovely Nurit, who is such an inspiration around healthy aging at 75:
Where will you go today?
Wherever it is, go there with a light heart, laughter and much, much love.
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