Because we live in a youth-centric culture, it is not surprising that we are constantly bombarded with negative messages about getting older. If we accept ageist messages about being less competent as we age, it can become like a self-fulfilling prophecy. When we haven’t done certain things for a long period of time, we may convince ourselves that we no longer have the ability to do what we could once do. When we cannot quickly learn something such as new technology, we may want to give up and believe that we are no longer capable of learning something new. Or, we can choose a different approach; we can refuse to internalize ageist messages by continuing to challenge ourselves and to keep expanding. Recently, I was invited to an interview in downtown Portland for an Oregon Humanities Conversation Project. I’d proposed facilitating a conversation around the topic of intergenerational communication and school funding.
Yes, I Believe I CanBecause I live about 170 miles from Portland, I was given the option to meet virtually by using Zoom video conferencing or I could drive up to Portland. I decided I would make the drive for a couple of reasons. First, I prefer to meet face-to-face when I have that option. Second, I needed to remind myself that I could still navigate ‘big’ city traffic. Just a little over two decades ago, I traveled all over the United States and drove around big cities, frozen Alaskan highways, and Midwest rural communities. I was able to negotiate my way around unfamiliar places long before the WAZE app or GPS devices were available. At the time, my office was located in downtown Portland, Oregon; I was used to driving in traffic. About 16 years ago, my husband and I moved to a rural community in Southern Oregon after I accepted a teaching position at a community college. I don’t deal with much traffic anymore (other than when I make a bee-line traveling I-5 to see family in Portland or further up North). The thought of driving around downtown Portland—especially during heavy rain—created some feelings of uncertainty; that is one of the reasons why I wanted to remind myself that driving in the city was no big deal.
Yes, I Am Willing to LearnI did pull up Google Maps and actual street images before I took my trip. I knew where I was going, I knew what it would look like, I had a picture of the building where I was going, and I could even see the actual picture of a parking lot across the street. I do appreciate the available technology we have today. Much to my surprise, when I was close to my destination, there was a lot of heavy construction, some roads were closed, and the parking lot where I’d planned to leave my car had been demolished. I drove around until I found another parking lot ($18 for two hours). My actual interview was scheduled for a half-hour. (Yes, I drove about 2 1/2hours in the rain for a half-hour interview!) When it was time for my interview, three millennial individuals welcomed me. I believe I was between three and four decades older than they were and was about to have my first role-reversal experience. It was quickly apparent that these younger individuals deserved my respect and knew a lot. When introducing themselves, each interviewer stated their preferred pronouns such as “My preferred pronouns are ‘he/she’ or ‘she/her.” I knew I could learn something from people who grew up in a different time and had different insights and experiences than I did. I don’t know if I’ll be invited to be part of an upcoming conversation cohort. I don’t think my age will be a factor; I had indicated my age (68) in my proposal and shared why it was relevant. Either way, my road trip to downtown Portland was a good experience. It not only reminded me that I can still negotiate my way around a bigger city in the rain, but it gave me an increased sense of appreciation for ever-improving technology (I used the WAZE app to direct me back to I-5). The experience also helped me recognize that a new generation of professionals now has roles of responsibility and decision-making; these younger people can no doubt teach all of us ‘olders’ a few things. This morning I had a video conference (using Zoom) with someone located in Boston. I am glad that new technologies are available to enhance connections when appropriate.
Yes, I Choose to Live My Life as a Confident, Competent Older PersonI refuse to internalize ageist views about myself as an older person. I want to live my life as a confident, competent aging individual. That’s why I believe it is important to continue challenging myself and to keep learning. Each time I learn something new, I feel a new sense of confidence and competence. Sometimes learning something new or pushing myself can create a bit of uncertainty. Yet, I think uncertainty is a natural part of growth.
Yes, You Can Too!If you’ve chosen to teach yourself new technology or challenged yourself to do something that created a bit of uncertainty, I’d love to hear about your experiences. We’ve got this. Yes, we can do it!