Have you ever noticed that there are two types of old people?
There are cranky, bitter, sour old people. The Curmudgeons. These are the ones most people dread being around.
Then there is the interesting fun to be with old people that people look at and say “That’s how I want to be when I grow up”. They are the cool old people.
These days it’s harder to categorize when old age starts. Even the scientists are trying to divide them up between the ‘young old’, ‘old’, and ‘old old’. In my guestimate, most people associate 60-65 with the beginning of old. I am a lot closer to that number than I care to admit. However, I am on a mission to be a cool old person. (Seriously, who wants to be uncool?)
As part of my mission, I started examining what made senior citizens curmudgeons and what made the cool ones so cool.
[Please be advised that all my findings are anecdotal and derived from my own observations. Corroboration came from those in my sphere of influence. There are absolutely no scientific findings in this post.]
The Common Characteristics of Curmudgeons
This is what I have observed among the curmudgeons:
** They have selective memories. They are very good at remembering what they worked so hard for but they forget all the foolishness and shenanigans they participated in as young people. They have forgotten what it is like to be young.
**They are unwilling to adapt. They are set in their way of doing things and don’t feel that they should have to evolve at all. Instead of dealing with their frustration regarding the change they are dealing with, they shut down.
**They see the generation gap and are unwilling to cross over to the other side. Many seniors have the same ‘entitlement mentality’ they accuse many young people of. The difference here is that they feel that young people should always seek them out and defer to them. They rarely extend an invitation to the younger generation and complain that they have been forgotten. They don’t put the effort in to maintaining relationships.
**They stop being curious. New ideas are demonized. If it hasn’t happened at least 25 years ago, it must not be a worthy discovery. They stop listening to new music, reading new books, looking at new art, using new technology, or new systems. They don’t want to try anything new.
**They are relentlessly stubborn. On each of the points above, they dig their heels in. Their only response to anyone trying to engage them in any of the above is “I am 65 (or 70 or 75 or…) years old and I don’t have to do it if I don’t want to.” Absolutely true and absolutely their right. And absolutely what makes them a curmudgeon.When you stop being curious you turn into a curmudgeon. Click To Tweet
Why Cool Seniors are Cool
Cool old people also have common characteristics.
**They are empathetic. They may not agree with everything that “kids these days” are doing but they also recognize that 20-year-olds won’t be 20-year-olds forever. They grant them the time and ridiculousness it takes to mature.
**They are willing to ride the wave of change. No, it’s not easy. That technology stuff, those weird ideas- they are not easy to swallow and they are not easy to catch up with. They realize no one is going to reverse time for them.
**They are willing to engage. They will take the time to find out about their younger counterparts and be genuinely interested in what they are doing. They will join in when they can. They aren’t likely to go to the club with them (although, there are exceptions) but they are willing to join them for other activities.
**They try new things. They never stop learning. They are willing to try new activities and explore new interests. They will at least give the latest music a listen to, try a new fashion trend, or get out of their comfort zone.
**They don’t take themselves too seriously. They can laugh at their selves. They can lighten up. They can be silly once in a while.
**They are vigorous in their pursuit of living. No, they aren’t as fast as they used to be and energy is lower than it was 50 years ago but they are not sitting and waiting for the end to come.
So it is pretty clear cut that if you want to be a Curmudgeon there are some pretty easy steps to follow but it is equally clear on how to be cool.
I choose cool.
What “Kids These Days” Can Do to Help Bridge the Gap and Make Cool Seniors Cooler and Curmudgeons Less Curmudgeon-y
Situations don’t happen in a vacuum. Part of the problem with “old people these days” is on us and how we interact. It isn’t all on ‘them’. It is on ‘us’, too. We are part of the “Why can’t we all just get along?” issue. We need to do our best to bridge the gap from our side. In doing so we can facilitate more cool and less curmudgeon.
**We need to be patient. Yes, they move slower. Yes, it can take a minute for them to catch on to the new fangled stuff. Waiting a few seconds to move around them will not make or break your day. Reviewing how to work technology a couple of times is going to help them way more than it will inconvenience you. If you get frustrated just remember how patient they were when they taught you to feed yourself and wipe your own butt.
**We need to listen. They know stuff. Stuff we don’t know. They have stories. Knowing history is important if you want to avoid the mistakes of the past.
**We need to be welcoming. They don’t want to be dismissed. They don’t want to be invisible. They want to be included. Get past the small talk and see what everyone brings to the table.
**We need to consider karma. When you engage with an older person you need to treat them the same way you would treat your parents or your grandparents. Remember, what goes around, comes around. Also, we will be old one day. Younger people will be judging you- deciding if you are cool or a curmudgeon. How do you want to be treated?
So there are choices to make. We choose how we deal with aging. We choose how we deal with the aged. Whatever we choose, it makes a difference.
Photo Credit: Viola Ng
What other characteristics do you see in cool older people? What are your suggestions for bridging the gap?