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Ageism It Works Both Ways

January, 2023

John Van Horn

When we visit the UK, are we not impressed with the sense of history? This is a place where kings and philosophers walked, thought, and partied for millennia. A place where empires were built and destroyed. A place where we could actually learn a bit about how to prevent disasters, as well as create them.


I was in a pub in the UK a few years ago and a woman of a certain age accosted me. “Young man, American right? What do you like most about England.” I responded “I think it’s the sense of history. Why, in the U.S., there are few buildings more than 150 years old.” “Young man,” she said, “Clive and I (Clive was sitting next to her, sipping his G and T), worship in a church that has had services every Sunday for 1,000 years.”


I get chills every time I tell that story. Think about it. A thousand years. Think of all the successes that were wrought, the failures that were suffered. Think of all we can learn from them and avoid disasters lurking around every corner.


As one ages, certain changes become apparent. There are physical ones, of course, but also the brain often slows down. Things that happened quickly now seem a labor. One of the big frustrations is when the youngsters around you begin to finish your sentences or your thoughts.


When you are young, everything seems so obvious. These issues and problems can be solved quickly if only…Your ideas can be made to work if only… Someone points out a fatal flaw, but hell, they are over 70, so what can they know? Surely, there is a workaround. Look at all the successes I’ve had. What can this old codger know that I don’t?


Similarly, how often does a senior discount the thoughts of the young, simply because they are young? “I tried that 50 years ago and it didn’t work.” Of course, the world does move on, times change. Maybe something that wouldn’t be possible half a century ago, would work today. After all, at one time folks thought the world was flat.


A friend once told me that something was impossible because it went against the laws of physics. I asked him if we knew all the physical laws. His life was built around assuming he knew ‘everything’ that was important.


I shudder to think how horrible the world would be if the young didn’t try to do things I knew were impossible. Would we be living the lives we live? But at the same time, consider what age and experience bring to the party. Does it really slow things down, or does it oil the machinery to make it go smoother and faster?



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