I’ve about had it up to here with all the “amazing old people” stories I see in the news. Old folks doing heroic things; sprightly elders still working; ancient ones who are being thoroughly and surprisingly with-it. At first glance, the stories seem complimentary or appreciative. Older adults who do amazing things deserve admiration.
On the other hand—here’s where I get steamed—much of what I hear and read is more than a little bit patronizing. As in, “Normally, these geezers would be sucking air; but look at them playing basketball like teenagers—aren’t they cute?” The litany of elder-praise then ends with the required response: AMAZING!!
Why does this bother me? Two reasons:
• If someone is amazing, they might also be thought of as out-of-whack, odd, strange, abnormal—deserving of exclamations more fitting for zoo-visitors.
• These peculiar-old-people stories rarely feature what’s truly amazing about those of us who are old.
Let me mitigate my madness with these suggestions:
• Fill in details so we see the whole person—not just their abnormal, age-defying characteristics.
• Hear from people around the Amazing One–how they are affected by this person.
• Feature stories of older persons doing remarkable things that would otherwise go unnoticed. Tell about how elders remain kind or humble, living dutifully and faithfully. How they surmount difficult circumstances, persisting as examples of godly living. Or how they are surrounded by generations of progeny who have followed in their footsteps.
• Listen to older persons when they talk about the marvelous people they know.
I’ll give you this: When something astounding happens, it’s worth knowing about. We may need reminders that old people can surprise us with capabilities that our stereotypes don’t normally allow. But could we stop bleating “AMAZING!” about elderly folks?
How about ADMIRABLE, SATISFYING, INSPIRING or LOVELY instead…?