“For your age…”
I’ve been hearing versions of this comment more often during the last six months or so than in recent years. Or at least it seems that way to me.
The comment isn’t always negative, either. For example, in 2005 after experiencing some pain in my left knee, my doctor in Texas ran an MRI of both knees and told me I had bone on bone osteoarthritis in both knees. He prescribed six weeks of physical therapy and no running–ever. Last month a member at the church I serve asked me to join he and a couple of mutual friends in a sprint triathlon in Chicago in August. Since we already cycle together, I reminded him of the 2005 diagnosis. But after hearing from family members who “tri” that I could walk the 5K portion of the triathlon, I decided to check in with our new doctor here in the Chicago area; who, as it so happens, has a speciality in sports medicine.
The doctor here examined my knees and asked who told me I have bone on bone arthritis. I relayed the 2005 story, and she recommended X-rays as much cheaper and more reliable than an MRI. Three days after the X-rays I received her verdict: “There is no reason you cannot begin training for this sprint triathlon. Your knees are fine…
…for your age.” (I start training in February).
Another positive example of this qualifying comment relates to my YMCA employment (I teach two indoor cycling classes per week). Since I am required to have Continuing Education Credits as a Y employee, last fall I chose to be certified as a Strength and Conditioning Trainer. I enjoyed the training experience so much I am now in the process of becoming an NASM-certified Personal Trainer. For me, this certification training is a healthy use of my time; it is an area which interests me; and it gets my head out of “church world.”
At the Y training event, I asked one of the trainers what she thought of my becoming certified as an NASM Personal Trainer. Her response: “For your age, you are in good shape and have a lot to offer your peers as they retire and look for healthy retirement activities. Plus, as a pastor, you have a natural empathy for people and their needs.”
I didn’t tell her Pastoral Care was #5 on my list of Spiritual Gifts.
I decided to seek counsel from a younger colleague (and one of my strength class instructors) at our local Y. She said, “There’s a whole new market of people your age who need trainers who understand they aren’t trying to win body building contests or win the Tour de France. For your age, you’re reasonably fit and you get it. I think you’re an excellent candidate to be a Personal Trainer.” We’ve worked together long enough that I trust her; so I’m off and running.
Then there are those other examples, too (which apply to all of us of “a certain age”):
“Wow, you look great for your age.”
“We really appreciate hearing the perspectives of people your age as we start our visioning process.”
You get the point…
I will admit that perhaps–OK, probably–I’m a bit more sensitive to the “age issue” because during the last year my sister and I have entered “Elder Parent Care World” (see “Honor Thy Father and Mother” from January 2012). Mom entered a nursing home this month; and even though she is doing much better than we expected, it is a reminder of our possible future. My husband Richard and I now discuss our “final destination”–and we’re not talking eternity here, folks–a lot more often than we did even in the last five years. Richard has worked hard and earned his retirement. I’m several years away from retirement. How do we negotiate this “in between” time?
Personal examples aside, here’s something to consider. When addressing people of any age, what if we tried saying, “Wow! You look great!” “We appreciate hearing what you have to say as we begin our visioning process.” Again, you get the point.
This suggestion has a two-fold purpose, by the way. One, by not emphasizing age, we are simply appreciating folks for who they are–period. Everyone–young, middle-aged, old–is important. Two, when we overcompensate for age, I believe we allow otherwise healthy people to adopt a “victim” mentality. That is, “I’m too old (or too young); so I can’t do (fill in the blank). Yes, sometimes we can’t do certain things. Other times, however, we can–if we’re allowed to do so and encouraged to do so, that is. So as not only the bible, but other holy scriptures as well teach us, let’s lift one another up. Let’s encourage one another to live into our highest potentials.
After all, age is just a number. Attitude is a state of mind.
Blessings on your journeys!