Recently I watched videos of women in their nineties who are yoga masters. One woman, Ida Herbert, 93, started practicing yoga at age fifty. Watch her video . . .
Comments made about the video include:**This is beyond awesome! Go, Ida!!!
**She’s adorable and she’s kinda hot!? lol
**Inspiration for all of? us who are no longer very young!!! WOW!
**Ugh. . .
Yes, Ida is a great role model and an inspiration. But adorable? It makes me crazy when competent older women are called “adorable” or “cute.” (My sister, a runner in her seventies, was called “cute” by neighbors – those with nothing better to do than sit by the window and watch the world–and my sister race by.)
And please notice one comment was simply a disgusted “ugh”. In our “enlightened” culture, being “chronologically advanced” is the ultimate sin deserving either derision or condescension.
Calling old people “adorable” is offensive. Kittens and puppies are adorable. Babies are cute and adorable. Women in their nineties demonstrating an accomplishment are not “adorable.” They are competent. If they were age forty showing what they could do it would not be news. Unfortunately it is an ignorant cultural norm to poke fun at or diminish those who make the effort to achieve more than what the culture expects at an advanced age.
Another woman whose video I watched, Tao Porchon-Lynch is a 90-year-old former screenwriter turned yogi and competitive ballroom dancer.
“I’ve never thought about age in my life,” she said. “In fact, it’s only when I had a hip replacement that somebody said, ‘You won’t be able to do this anymore.’ So I sent the doctor a photograph lifting off the ground in lotus, and he was amazed I could do it.”
The statement “I’ve never thought about age in my life” is the ultimate secret to “stay young” forever. Women allow themselves to “get old” when they buy into the cultural obsession with chronological age and accept the outdated meaning and expectations the culture attaches to advanced chronological age.
Most any woman who demonstrates unexpected skill or competence later in life will tell you she did not allow awareness of her chronological age or cultural norms to control her thinking. She ignored subliminal cultural cues that tell women “you are too old” or “it’s not done at your age.”
Here is the reality. You can’t wait for the culture to support your intention to grow and be productive regardless of (in spite of) your age. Ida Herbert and Tao Porchon-Lynch didn’t become yoga teachers by watching YouTube videos of other women who mastered what they wanted to accomplish. Those who waste their life watching others achieve what is unexpected at an advanced age don’t get it: Youth is a short term loan. If you want to keep the best parts of the “youth loan” it takes effort and determination, not wishful thinking.
Traditional retirement works against keeping the “youth loan”. Even though the lifespan has increased by 30 years in the past century, the American dream is still traditional retirement as early in life as possible. That works well for some, but for most retirees, after the retirement honeymoon wears off in a couple of years, the mind and body are well on the way to serious decline for lack of challenge.
I don’t expect the retirement age to change significantly any time soon. It’s an entitlement politicians hate to deal with and not only that, from a money perspective, “retirement decline” is big business. However, helping older people maintain vitality and purpose could be even bigger business but few would-be entrepreneurs seem to have that figured out.
I hope to see the time when we don’t have to endure “cute” or “adorable” labels attached to productive mature women because we will have reached a state where it is the norm for healthy individuals in their ninth decade to be just as vital and productive as they were at age fifty. I hope to see the time when the age of an accomplished woman is revealed the reaction will be, “So what?” because what she can do at her advanced age will have become the norm.