At town hall meetings and in media interviews, a continuing question for Senator Bernie Sanders has been whether he is too old to be President. So far Bernie has yet to directly answer the question.
The discussion of Bernie Sanders’ age will only accelerate as the presidential campaign goes on. This question provides an opportunity to confront society’s last major “…ism”: Ageism and the complex web of negative stereotypes that is internalized in each of us, reinforced socially and provides yet another kind of glass ceiling.
In order to take hold, all the liberation movements of our lifetime –such as women and civil and gay rights– have had to challenge the internalization of negative self-images that feed disempowerment and injustice.
Like every other marginalized group in society, elders need to be liberated to fully realize our purpose and potential. Denial of our aging and our potential in the second half of life stifles our potential at a time when society desperately needs the emergence of a generation of empowered, loving, wise and committed elders.
I just turned 73 and my passion is to join with others to build a movement to restore the role of elder to our culture. Now is the time when the generation that set out to change the world in the sixties is for the most part entering the last third of our life’s journey. And now is the time when our lives, the continuity between generations and perhaps the future of humanity on the earth are calling on us to co-actualize a new vision of what it means to be an elder of the people.
So, frequently when people my age ask me what the Elders’ Guild is about, I tell them that our mission is to create the communities where we re-imagine our old age, look after one another and embody the wisdom that will enable us to help heal the future.
And I am continually blown away by the frequent response that “maybe my mother will be interested in this.” The river of denial of aging runs deep in the culture. It is fed by an obsession with staying young and avoiding aging. Ironically, it is the unwillingness to engage the process of our own aging with consciousness and commitment to our legacy, that will increase the likelihood of isolation, disconnection from the narrative of our lives and lack of meaning as the years go on.
As we kick off 2016 (which seems to have come upon us more quickly than in previous years) the Elders’ Guild will look at how each of us has internalized society’s view of “too old”. Then we will turn our attention to what Bernie might say the next time he is asked if he isn’t too old to be President.
The pioneering of an empowered, joyful, juicy and socially engage role for elders is the ultimate antidote to the crushing impact of negative stereotypes of aging.
Jack van Dijk says
Why not here in Cary, NC?
Leah Frohnmayer says
Some say the best defense is a good offense. Bernie could say, only once, at a major rally knowing the media is going to pick it up, with the right timing, “I’m 74 and I could hardly wait to get here this morning to greet you all . . . . Your support of the political revolution promotes tremendous energy in us all, . . . .”
I am 71 and fortunate to look younger, but part of that impression is fostered by sound health, unlimited curiosity, tremendous energy, good humor, and many interests. It’s great fun to hear, “No, [you’re not] . . . .” We elders can be an inspiration to each other and those younger, but that inspiration likely does not come from thinking about age.
Yvonne Mendenhall says
For me a far more pertinent question is what does Bernie (or any candidate) have to say about the issues facing our country as worldwide age demographics change. Our population is rapidly changing to one where the numbers of older adults are increasing at the same time the age of those older adults is increasing longer into elderhood. That is a good thing, that is a gift. However it is a gift that comes with some conditions.
This is not a blip on the census charts, this is here to stay through many “administrations.” Our age group has voters who vote! We, and our issues, cannot even attract their attention when we have something they want (our votes)–even from a distinguished elder candidate (Bernie Sanders). How will we convince those vying to run the country that the issues of elderhood are not the same issues as those of adulthood. And, that what we have and what we know and what we offer is of high value. We have votes, they want votes–why can’t we make something happen “to save the world?”
Can the Age of Disruption help and truly change aging? And, if we ARE invisible, at least we should figure out how to make magic out of that invisibility!
Always enlightening Barry. Thank you.
rosemary weston says
i have mixed feelings here…i am 74 1/2 and most of my problems are because a don’t have anything constructive to do…i live alone in the country since i retired and had never driven…thought i could learn, but now rely on council on aging and others to go anywhere. i think if i could volunteer and in other ways be more active in a community environment, i would be able to contribute so much more than i am and would be quite able to contribute for many years as well, if not better as someone much younger. bernie has been active and contributing for many years and seems to be in good healthy physically and mentally. if he responds to questions about his age, it should be well thought out, and stated matter of factly and then he should not continue to respond once he has answered and he should never respond emotionally. i don’t think he has spoken out about aging…maybe this would be a good place for him to write an article about his thoughts on aging?
Elva Roy says
Per Jama 12/7/2011 article U.S. Presidents live longer than average life expectancy for men. Trump isn’t far behind Bernie in age (5 yrs, which is nothing). Age doesn’t mean much when candidates support the correct principles. Bernie is attracting young voters. He should just keep on keeping on (exactly as he’s doing), ignoring the age question because it doesn’t matter.