Column: When are you too old?

Bob Ramsey

By Guest Columnist Bob Ramsey

Our society has ridiculously low expectations for its older citizens, and our culture is quick to rush to judgment on what seniors are not capable of doing.

In this youth-centered environment, there are more limitations, boundaries and ceilings in place for restraining and constraining elder behavior than at any other time and place in history. Many of these inhibitors have been established with good intentions, but that doesn’t necessarily make them valid.

If you’re 50, 60, 70, 80 or beyond, there are choruses of voices telling you you’re too old – too old to continue living independently in your own home; too old to start over; too old to go back to school; too old to start your own business; too old to take a chance; too old to wear bright colors or get a tattoo or drive a Ferrari.

I’m sure some people told Jimmy Carter he was too old to build houses for Habitat for Humanity. And people certainly told Grandma Moses she was too old to take up painting and told Ronald Reagan he was too old to run for president and told my friend, the late Elliott Royce, that he was too old to work out on the trampoline multiple times each week at the age of 96.

The voices carrying the “you’re too old” message come from all sides. The government may tell you you’re too old to work. (Think mandatory retirement). The media uses a variety of images to tell you you’re too old to be active or attractive, too old to wear the latest fashions or too old to be popular or “cool.” Even your own kids may tell you you’re too old to do what you want to do. So when are you too old?

The truth is we don’t have to ask permission to do life our way. If we listen to all the can’ts, don’ts and shouldn’ts as we age, we eventually lose our will, and we won’t.

I don’t believe you’re too old to do something just because someone else told you so. You’re too old when you tell yourself you are. You can be the arbiter of your own aging.

Old age shouldn’t be determined by plebiscites. It’s good to listen to feedback, advice and opinion from others, but it’s also important to listen to your own inner voice. Elvis Presley told us to trust our gut because it doesn’t know how to lie. He may have been talking about growing older.

Health permitting, if you want to do something, and you know you can do it, do it. And do it your way. It’s called “vital aging.”

St. Louis Park resident Bob Ramsey is a lifelong educator, freelance writer and advocate for vital aging. He can be reached at 952-922-9558 or by email at [email protected]