First, I need to say that I consider myself to be an old person.
I think we need to quit avoiding calling people "old." Sure, it's OK to call old people seniors, but when I do shows for kids in the 12th grade, what do I call them?
We need to let the word "old" become a badge of achievement that it deserves to be. When you are old, you have a history to your life, but you still have a future too.
When you are really young, you have no history at all. Middle-aged people have a short history, but they usually deceive themselves into thinking that their history is still the present decade. I know I did.
I think we need to embrace our history and our age. We need to be able to say, "I'm old," with pride.
I do lots of shows for old people in retirement homes, nursing homes, and assisted living apartments; and they are the best audiences specifically because they are old and because they are proud of it.
As I speak of 1950 and show pictures of elm trees that lined the country side and peddlers that traveled the narrow country roads, they nod their heads and grin. Sometimes, during my 45 minute program, I see an old man in the front row with his eyes closed, but I know he is listening because he is grinning. I wonder what memories my stories are bringing back to him. If I am lucky, he will tell me after the show.
I see an old lady in a wheel chair who cannot hold her head upright, but she stares at me with her sidelong glance, giving me a wide, toothy smile. Her face is thin and fragile, but her genuine smile makes me feel like a really lucky guy.
These people are old and I love them for it. When they talk to me after the show, they proudly state their ages:
"I'm 92 and grew up on a farm in ____."
"I'm 88 and I knew your relatives."
"I grew up on a small farm in Iowa and I was born in 1922."
"Our farm was about as far north as you can get and still be in Minnesota."
"We lived in North Dakota when I was real little."
You cannot hear these stories from the young.
These people are not ashamed of being old and they shouldn't be.
The question is, "Why are we so afraid of using the word, 'old'?"
If you know somebody who is old, encourage them to tell their stories.
I always say, "A story not told is lost forever."
And, yes, that 50-year-old parent or grandparent you know who thinks he or she isn't old is old enough to have an interesting history. Help them discover it by listening to their stories.
I'll say it again. A Story not told is lost forever.