Growing Old Disgracefully

Sixty Eight Going on Thirty Three

seniorsFor those of you who have read my book Fattitude, you have already ‘met’ one of my favourite people; Jan Frazer. Jan is one of my personal trainers, has worked along side me at Harper’s Personal Training for about fifteen years and is sixty eight years young. She’s a great trainer, gifted teacher, charismatic communicator, completely lovable chick and funny as hell. And no, she’s not great for a sixty eight year-old; she’s just great. Full stop. Her age is irrelevant. As it should be for all of us. She’s fit, strong, intelligent, driven, compassionate and has amazing people skills. She’s an inspired leader, role model and motivator who consistently produces great results with her clients. I’ve always been fascinated with Jan because she simply doesn’t worry about what someone her age is ‘meant to be doing’ (I hate that term) and she’s always doing things which would leave most thirty year-olds exhausted or intimidated. And no, this is not some feel-good, exaggerated, love-fest to make for an interesting article, it is a completely honest and accurate account of a woman nearing seventy who has a biological age of thirty three (yep, thirty three) and consistently produces incredible results in her world.

Mrs. Hard Work

Sometimes when I’m mentoring someone who is hard work, I feel like walking them across the gym floor to meet Jan and saying something like, “Mrs. Hard Work, I’d like you to meet Jan; she’s twice your age, fitter, leaner, stronger, never complains, is tough as nails and has an infinitely better attitude that you’ve ever had… so suck it up, Princess!!”

Too nasty? Perhaps I should do it anyway.

The Rules

Jan is completely unaffected by the rules. You know the rules; the ‘what is and isn’t appropriate for someone of your age’ rules. I hate those rules. Always have. And don’t think that just because the rules aren’t written anywhere (formally), that they don’t exist; they absolutely do. In fact, they pervade every area of our existence; our culture, our language, our corporations and our collective mindset. I find many of these rules to be destructive, disempowering and completely unwarranted. I could give you countless examples of how we disadvantage our more ‘experienced’ citizens with our stupid thinking, rules, expectations and standards but I don’t want this to turn into an epic that you won’t read. If we were to believe some experts, we might be forgiven for thinking that anyone over fifty should have one of those disabled stickers on their car and be wrapped in cotton wool. Personally, I intend to head back to college when I’m in my sixties to do my Masters and possibly a PhD. Not wishful thinking, a plan. I also hope that Jan will work with me for a least another decade or two.

The Psychology of Aging

Neither is it wishful thinking when I tell you that age (as we experience it in our culture) is more about psychology than it is about physiology. It’s about much more than our body or how many years we’ve been here on the big blue ball; it’s about how we think, act, communicate, work, socialise, recreate and love. That’s why we see ‘young’ people in their seventies and ‘old’ people in their fifties or even forties – because years on the planet is only part of the age equation. Of course there is a physical consequence of time but many of us unnecessarily accelerate the aging process via our programmed ageist thinking, our poor choices, our stupid behaviours, our irresponsible diet, our sedentary lifestyle, our lack of exercise and our propensity to listen to the morons who tell us to grow old gracefully.

F*** that. I’ll grow old disgracefully thanks.

Old Before Our Time

Sadly, many of us will get old before we should. I won’t. And not because I’m genetically gifted but I choose not to get ‘old’ (in the way that many people allow themselves to age, that is). Even the term ‘Acting Your Age’ infers that we must fulfill some kind of pre-determined ‘old’ role. “How old am I? Okay, that’s how ‘old’ I should act. Hmm, exactly what is appropriate behaviour for some my age?” It’s ridiculous that we should somehow feel a need to conform to some standardised set of acceptable (and unacceptable) behaviours based on our chronological age.

Of all the mental barriers that we humans create for ourselves, the age thing has gotta be right up there on the ‘stupid list’. The truth is that chronological age isn’t our real problem, how we (the society) think about age (and subsequently behave) is the problem. Of course the years have a physical impact on us (especially when we don’t maximise our genetics) but for the majority of us, age is more of a psychological issue than it is a physiological one.

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