It is a poignant time of year and a poignant time of life.
One aspect of aging is that we have opportunities to become aware of what we may have previously taken for granted. For me, the recent “holiday” season has highlighted relationships, has made me more aware of the possibilities of connection.
Last week I found myself sitting at the fireplace with my daughter, in the glow of the flame and the nearby tree ornaments. The light was soft and shimmery around the edges. In that quiet time, I was pondering my recent road trip with wife and daughter. Driving along easily, over six days and five cities, we visited family and friends, siblings and niblings and contemporaries (I just learned the word niblings, a gender-neutral reference to nieces and nephews). We took COVID precautions with each new grouping, each step of the way — masks, distancing, home tests, PCR tests, etc.
Within each group of family and friends, I appreciated the years I’ve known the individuals, the changes they’ve been through and the dependability, if not the consistency, of our relationship.
During the road trip, I noticed I was usually, numerically, the oldest person in the room. As I am aging, I haven’t thought of myself very differently, no matter what number years I’ve been alive. Indeed, our collective idea of what “old” means seems to keep shifting as we keep aging. I recall acknowledging respectfully people in the room who appeared to be the oldest chronologically. If my role in the room is indeed changing, I really haven’t done anything to deserve it, except to just keep breathing.
Along with being more tuned into relationships this “holiday” season, my recent road trip highlighted stiffness in my body, my difficulty bending over — indeed, my mortality. During a driving break, sitting in the back seat for hours, browsing my cellphone, I came across a picture that I took 2 years ago, on Jan 3, 2020. That was about one month pre-COVID, back when I worked out daily at the local fitness center, back when I traveled around the country. As I snapped that picture, I had no idea of how things were about to change.
Today, I appreciate the resources I had which enabled me to travel, I appreciate the resources I have at this poignant time and I appreciate the resources I’ve had to get me through the last two years.
Also, I acknowledge that not all of us share in the benefits of resources. One unavoidable current fact about resources is that two multibillionaires (Bezos and Musk) own more wealth than the bottom 40% of all Americans. Incredibly, the top 1% of our population owns more wealth than the bottom 92%. This is outrageous. Stop and think about this fact for just a moment (20 second pause).
By 2030, 54% of middle-income people over 60 will not be able to afford senior housing. If you were creating a cultural system, it would not be perfect. Inevitably, it would be flawed. But would it be this skewed? One percent has more than 92%. Not only outrageous, this is unsustainable.
Aging is both wholeness and brokenness, both loss and opportunity, a poignant and unfolding re-balancing. Now is the time for us to join, or to help initiate, local efforts that address economic inequities, such as the Leaders Network Community Credit Union. Those of us in the third third of life have an opportunity to enable balance, and in doing so step toward becoming much-needed role models.