Tuesday, February 09, 2010

The age thing

One of my circle of acquaintances in the blogging world has been wrestling with the issue of age and ageism. Jon Lebkowsky said in an email to others, "I've learned that over 60 in the U.S., you're pretty much out to pasture. And the pasture is bare, up to you to turn the soil and plant the seeds."

While I find myself agreeing with Jon, I do so with reservations.

The age thing is based in cultural stickiness. Decade after decade of improvements to our health and safety, we are still basing our measurements of human productivity on the mortality of our antecedents. Women frequently died in childbirth, men died more frequently of heart disease and fatal work injuries acquired from physically demanding labor, yet these have now become much more infrequent factors and our life spans are increasing rapidly. But our cultural notions of age and productivity are still stuck in the past and haven't kept up with us.

(One example: how many employers still have concerns about women of childbearing age and how much work they will produce? It's bias based on a past which is long gone, and may never have been accurate in the first place.)

What has been personally liberating is the internet; it acts as a screen or filter which removes the judgment of my age and sometimes even my gender from the equation. As long as I'm productive, the recipient at the other end doesn't care if I'm a dog. Unless, of course, they're a cat or squirrel or they have a bias against dogs...but that's the point, a bias may be more obvious than it is in a face-to-face working environment.

At a certain age, we have to build the road ahead. There's only a few stray footprints to follow, but as our longevity increases, there must be something more and better for those behind us. I say, Build the road, Jon; the youngsters are watching you.

So are we really out to pasture? or are we liberated from expectations as we get older?

Are we really faced with a barren pasture to till, or are we offered a clean slate to start the next phase of our lives?

I guess since there is no guidebook, no rules, no groove worn for us to follow, what happens as we reach this open and new stretch of road is up to us.

[photo: CaptPiper via Flickr]

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