I'm not sure when I began thinking of myself as old. Retirement certainly contributes, and people asking what it's like in that tone of "You're done being useful, so what do you do now to occupy the time until you die?" Salespeople calling me "ma'am" instead of "miss" was a big clue. And a group of elementary school kids I worked with recently pronounced me Grandma, even though I haven't yet earned that title. So yeah, I guess I'm in the "old" category if we're choosing up sides.

What's sad is that we so often don't appreciate each other. I'm saddened and/or irritated by the tendency each group has to malign the other. The young are a tiny bit more forgiveable, because they haven't walked a mile in our sensible shoes, but still, it isn't fair to sneer at what you don't understand. And we who have been there shouldn't jibe at the innocence of those who still believe that what they do matters to anyone but themselves and their eternal souls.

Hey, Young People (aka Teenyboppers, whippersnappers, kids, babies, tyros and know-nothings): the old have reasons for what they do, usually based on long experience. Expanding waistbands allow room so that acid reflux doesn't plague us all afternoon. Flip-up sunglasses were purchased after the zillionth pair of the other kind was lost, causing expense and deep frown lines. And we don't care if we look five years younger after that facial you recommend: after a certain age, five years doesn't make enough difference to justify the effort and expense.
Don't make fun. Let us have our comforts.

Old people (aka codgers, seniors, golden-agers, coots, and biddies): the young haven't yet tired of things labeled "current," "modern," or "new." That movie they insist you'll love is fresh to them, even though the plot's been done to death in years past. They haven't yet heard so many celebrity secrets, political scandals, and true confessions of twisted souls that they turn off the TV in disgust. And they still believe that if they find just the right diet, or exercise plan, or life coach, or whatever, they will not end up old, homely, and out of shape like you.
Don't make fun. Let them have their dreams.

The best cultures draw on the enthusiasm of their young and the experience of their old. The best people recognize that though youth may be impulsive and inexperienced, age can make us sedentary and resistant. And in the best of all worlds, we'd recognize each other's strengths and stop seeing each other as clueless clowns.

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