As most folks know, I’m a huge Harry Potter fan. Even though I read all of the books as an adult, with each new chapter in Harry’s life I could feel how his story empowered kids reading it also to believe in themselves and the power we all have within to take a stand in the name of all that’s good.
One of the many gadgets and props from the story that I loved was the Invisibility Cloak. This allowed Harry and his friends to become invisible so that they could carry out their youthful investigations. At the time I first read it, some 20+ years ago (can you believe the books have been out that long?), I thought it would be neat to own one of those cloaks so that I could go about my business without being seen. How free I would feel not to have to pass inspection by the rest of the world for how I looked, how I acted, and what I was doing. Little did I know at the time that I would eventually reach the age where being invisible was one of the gifts we received along with grey hair and wrinkles.
Gifts, you say? Being treated as if we’re invisible once we reach “senior status” is a gift? You bet it is as long as we don’t get invisible mixed up with irrelevant. As I thought it would when I was envious of Harry and his cloak, being invisible does indeed free one from the worry of being judged on how you look and what you do. I can take a notebook and sit in the coffee shop at Barnes and Noble for hours watching people, creating stories about this person or that one, sharpening my character building skills for a future story or book without anyone even acknowledging my presence. I can linger in stores and shops examining goods and reading labels without being approached by some overzealous salesperson. I can sit peacefully on a bench in a park or along the riverwalk and not be disturbed in my meditations. I have carte blanche to view the world in peace.
On the other hand, being treated as if we’re irrelevant is a completely different thing, and one of the cultural norms about aging in this country that needs to be shattered. There is a perfect example of this in a scene from the wonderfully funny and poignant Netflix series “Grace and Franky” starring Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin. The two women are in a convenience store trying to buy a pack of cigarettes (they are planning an evening of debauchery and bad habits), but the convenience store clerk keeps ignoring them as if there weren’t there, giving all his attention to the pretty young girl who pushed ahead of them at the counter. Jane Fonda’s character starts yelling at the clerk about his treatment of them: “I AM NOT IRRELEVANT!” No, Jane, you’re not, and neither is anyone else over the age of 50 or 60. When the world starts to treat you like that, it’s time to rip off that invisibility cloak and make yourself heard.
The so-called “civilized countries” in western culture are the only ones who treat their older folks this way. In cultures much older than ours, elders are revered and cared for, the keepers of the history and wisdom of their people. Growing up in such a culture, they are also more likely to live longer, healthier and more productive lives than their western counterparts.
The authentic life that I am creating must include a commitment to the growth and evolution of new beliefs about aging. Ours is the largest growing demographic in the country, maybe even the world. That’s a lot of people power! Maybe it’s time we took off those cloaks and started waving our magic wands around. That’ll get their attention!
Over on the Home Page, our writing assignment is going to put a magic wand in your hand, a.k.a. a pen, to reveal your own experiences or grievances about the aging practices in our culture and how you want your wisdom years to look. As always, have lots of fun with this and remember to just keep writing.
Peace and blessings.