“While many cultures celebrate the aging process and venerate their elders, in Western cultures — where youth is fetishized...aging can become a shameful experience. Physical signs of human aging tend to be regarded with distaste, and aging is often depicted in a negative light, if it is even depicted at all. In aging, people feel that there’s something wrong with them, that they’re losing value” (HuffingtonPost, 2014)…or ability, skill, or even worth as individuals.
American and other western societies today are so youth driven that it has forgotten that Elders also have a contribution to every day life. I’ve read comments of young people saying they’d rather die than ever “get old”, a.k.a. have wrinkles, less than defined abs, or anything remotely “saggy”. You have those who are “aging” who’ll do anything to keep the appearance of pseudo-youth. They’re obsessed with beauty, fitness, idolizing celebrities or movie stars they see as perfect because of their looks and criticizing or minimizing others who don’t share their lifestyle and mindset. Sure, its great to be healthy as well, but despising others or making that an obsession too, can be detrimental to society and self as we see all around us.
News media covers accidental deaths of young people on the front page, while making endnotes of an older persons dying, as if their deaths are less significant, less important or saddening. In actuality, losing their store of history, of memory, of experience is priceless.
Only once in my 44 years of life have I celebrated a western style birthday at the insistence of a German friend… Fun in its way, and I like cooking for other people, but I found being the center of attention uncomfortable and excessive although I know it was meant in good will. Certainly celebrating life, and the one who gave birth to you is respectful (Thanks!), but as an individual I wish to be regarded for the things I do for others, not what they give me. My deeds, my work, my accomplishments and having a honorable name associated with loyalty and hard work is my aim. These are things traditionally celebrated by natives. Everyone has a birthdate, not everyone does good deeds or put others ahead of their own needs and wants.
I do not at all mind getting older because the alternative would mean I was dead. I hope to keep gaining wisdom, learning and remembering the stories and histories, our cultures, traditions and beliefs so that I can pass them on to the next generations and keep healing and hope and the spirit of helping others alive.
BTW I’m just a bit old, NOT an elder, but keep hugging and appreciating the older ones. That’s my wish.