There is a fine line between fooling yourself and believing in yourself.
(No. 103) No, I'm not a fan of limitations. That's why "A list of amazing accomplishments of old people" videos drive me mad. I want it to be unremarkable to function with vigor throughout our lives.
“27 Amazing Accomplishments of Seniors.” “These 60-something Men Swam Nude Across the Tiber! — and the People on the Shore Applauded.” “92 Year Old Granny Rock Climber Credits Whiskey for Success — Never Drinks Water.” I see headlines like these every day applauding older people who can actually still move their knees and elbows. A whole subset of this genre is devoted to old geezers who walk thousands of miles across many states.
My 22 year daughter sent the above video to me to encourage my idea of walking the Pacific Coast Trail. “You’ve got seven years left!” she wrote. Of course, by the time I read her remark I had already calculated how much older that guy was than me. Plus, I’d already flexed my youth and judged the heck out of him for looking so old. Grubby. Unkempt. Overly exuberant. A singer.
Then a voice inside said: “Wow, you’re almost the same age.”
Ok. I own that. But why did the social media accounts have to fetishize this guy’s age? Often, we olds are objectified by our longevity and health. There are stories like this all the time. Case in point, the Nimblewill Nomad, who is oldest person to hike the 2,000 or so mile long Appalachian trail. True to the form of old, bearded, male hikers, the Nimblewill Nomad offers a doggerel to his fanfollowers. Click on the photo to experience that wonder.
It is fantastic that some older people are able to hike thousands of miles. Or climb boulders. Or walk in fashion shows. Or write novels. Or stop a pipeline from being built. But at what age do your athletic or other feats become amazing (because of your age) rather than accomplishments (because you worked hard to get there)? I think that these days anyone over 70 who does anything more strenuous than walking down the driveway to the mailbox, or more accomplished than reading a book, will soon have a video and followers on social media.
Witness the long suffering 74-year-old mother of Elon Musk, who got nearly 15,000 likes just for being the oldest @hypebae at a clothing photoshoot. Any old person can dress up in Mondrian’s track suit and pose on giant footstool. But because most of us don’t, May Musk got to be a little famous for it.
And finally, in a complex inversion of ageist exploitation, Martha Stewart exploits herself to sell coffee, while at the same time skewering our societal ideas that older women can not be sexy.
I could hike the PCT. I could sit-up my way to washboard abs (actually, I doubt I could). I could run for Mayor of NYC and eventually become President of the United States (I really think I could, if only I had the time). But there is nothing I will ever do that will surpass the three dimensional chess move Martha made with this video. And at age 81, to boot.
Daily breath training might work as well as medicine to reduce high blood pressure.
For geeks who like to click (I write that with total affection), the Boston Globe and MIT’s AgeLab have teamed up to make a website all about longevity.
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Singing beautiful songs like this must be good for a person.
Willie Nelson often reminds me of my father, who was also a singer. That’s nice thing.