I've spent 45 years working in the field of aging and I actually worked for Robert Butler, who invented the term "ageism." Naturally, I always thought I was immune from this disorder. I was wrong.
I woke up this morning having a dream. I dreamed that I was trying to get into medical school (at age 71!). I kept arguing with medical school officials, but they refused to take me: I was too old. During the night, I had other dreams and thoughts about the vanishing of the past. Was my dream a struggle against ageism or a sign of ageism in myself?
It turns out that today (July 6) is my wife's birthday. A coincidence? Another coincidence. When I woke up I looked out the window and saw, on the open space behind our house, a visitor: a mother deer and her young faun, coming up to our fence to give a greeting. Remembering our new (and first) granddaughter born just last week, I appreciated their greeting. Generations succeed each other, indeed.
Our opening keynote speaker for the Positive Aging Conference will be Ashton Applewhite, who I have never met in person. We've spoken by phone and I know her book, This Chair Rocks, a manifesto against ageism.
But where is ageism, actually? I remember that after I turned 65 I went to a movie theater and decided to get the senior discount. At the ticket window, I was reaching for my wallet (being "carded" again, just like at age 21!) when the clerk quickly said, "Oh no, you don't need that. You clearly qualify." I felt a pang of disappointment at her words. Wasn't I the immortal youth?
I was wrong about that, and wrong about ageism, too. It's inside my head.
I can hardly wait to meet Ashton Applewhite in person.
- By H. Rick Moody