“If Millennials can have opportunities to see the good in seniors and celebrate it, we can use our talents to help a generation who truly need our support and conviction for change. And by doing so, we can showcase our power to create a new reality for senior life and perhaps, overcome our fear of being one. ”
It is not surprising that people in their 50’s & 60’s have greater interest in senior issues as they inch closer to old age themselves and conversely, that 20/30-somethings barely pay attention to anything to do with seniors. (This is, of course, generally-speaking). And the concept of tension from a generation gap is certainly not new. However, what IS alarming is the fear of the “other” that exists between today’s Millennials & today’s seniors (“The Silent Generation”) and how this disconnect is not helping the senior plight.
Where’s The Beef?
A 2014 Forbes article explored this “beef” that Millennials have with seniors and why it may exist. To summarize, Millennials fear the aging process, do not believe in age-driven special treatment, have a disdain for traditional institutions and moral bindings, and are plain bitter against seniors because they interfere with fast-paced life (being irritated at seniors for driving the exact speed limit and slowing down the Whole Foods line is the norm). How could this attitude not negatively impact what is already a sad society for seniors? Seniors are already quietly “tucked away” in nursing homes, forgotten, and undervalued. This intergenerational disdain certainly is not going to lead to an improvement for them.
How We Can Spur Change
Let me say that I am a Millennial, and I don’t think we are a “bad generation” because of our ageist views; we possess wonderful and unique qualities. And we, too, get knocked by older generations (i.e. “Snowflakes”). But the irony that we are so committed to social justice and yet seemingly okay with ageism is both contradictory and concerning. Sure, the general truth is that seniors are slower-moving. They are more attached to their religious traditions and they do have the oh-so-dreaded wrinkles. But the crucial point here is that we must recognize that this is not ALL they are. This is not WHO they are. And this is what we must show to ignite change and to create a movement of celebration instead of denigration.
The Key is Soul Connection
The way that Love of Gray seeks to do this is to take action in a positive way — to connect the generations, and by doing so, connect the souls of the people “behind the age.” Souls transcend generational gaps. I had the opportunity to connect with my grandfather on this deeper level, a special bond that moved me to care for seniors at a young age. But not all of us have that advantage. If Millennials can have opportunities to see the good in seniors and celebrate it, we can use our talents to help a generation who truly need our support and conviction for change. And by doing so, we showcase our power to create a new reality for senior life and perhaps, overcome our fear of being one.
I still think this is one of the greatest SNL skits of all time. In case you didn’t watch SNL in the 90’s, the Spartan Cheerleaders (with the great Will Ferrell) were the most enthusiastic, pumped full of cheer, totally crazed fans ever….as in “they had the spirit, yeeeeeeeeah!”
And you guessed it, I was a cheerleader too, just a few years before dance team stole my heart. However, my love for cheering on my fav team at games has remained strong over the years. For a number of years I have been a very proud PITTSBURGH STILLERS FAN (that’s how true Steelers fans say it if yinz didn’t know). I do love the Redskins too because we live in the DC Area and that’s my husband’s prized team, but any trip to Heinz Field is a treat for the both of us. In fact, I go there about every other year to celebrate my birfffday. This year the game fell on the actual day of my birth (October 28- mark your calendar for next year ;o)) and so my family and I went. OF COURSE it was a win (don’t hate the players hate the game), but it was epic for many reasons. Just to give you a black & yellow feel of what it was like that day:
The excitement is palpable. No? And honestly, this is how it is every single game. But why? Are we all crazy? Had too much coffee? Perhaps, but it’s really because being a fan is SO MUCH FUN. It makes you feel like you’re a part of something big, something to smile for, something mindless to relax with and get some energy out.
By the way, did you notice how great our seats are? Buuuuut, the field wasn’t the best view I had all day. No sir. *Get ready for this* bumbumbum:
Ya’ll know I was staring at her the whole game and while everyone had their eye on the ball— I had my eye on this lovely lady. I WISHED I had more video to share, but man this woman was a BEAST. The whole game she was attentive, cheering her team on, and to boot—- it was darn cold outside and even poured the last part of the game. Did she leave with some other fans?! NAH MAN. She threw on her poncho and toughed it out, because, well she’s a true Pittsburgh Steelers fan. She’s tough. She’s resilient. A little rain and cold air isn’t going to scare away Mr. Gray!
Made me think…I wonder how long she’s been a fan and how many games she’s attended? If she’s lived in the Burgh all her life, and the Steelers were founded in 1933, I can assume this wasn’t her 1st or even 20th rodeo. And then I thought, why not stay at home and watch the game from the comfort of her couch? Well, like many of us, Mr. Gray wants to be right where the action is too—- smell the crisp air, feed off of the energy of other crazed fans, and just to get the full experience.
And why does age have to get in the way of being a super fan? Get in the WAY?!! NO WAY. In fact, it’s what gives you the street cred to BE a super fan. And if you’re one long enough, you might even get your own bobblehead:
Go ‘head Sister Jean! Can you imagine saying you’ve watched almost all of the games of your team for 50+ years?! I can’t even do the math on how many games that is- let’s see here…1, 2, ALOT. Mr. Gray has the years of experience to watch a team go through decades of ups and downs, transition through numerous coaches, and make it to and even win multiple big time games like the NCAA Tournament and Superbowl.
The Mr. Grays in the stands are hands-down, the biggest fans of the game because true fans, win or lose, are forever.
Raise your hand if you ever thought to yourself: “Ya know, I should write a book about that.” I’m pretty sure everyone should have 2 hands off of their keyboard right now.
Okay, well if YOU haven’t at least dabbled with the idea personally, you definitely know someone who has. Everyone wants to write a book because, well, every person knows a lot about something. The difference is, most people just don’t.
LOL……Or they begin it, and give it up out of frustration.
Disclaimer: I do intend on writing a Love of Gray book. YAAAAY THE CROWD GOES WILD!! But if I actually complete this momentous feat, I’ll be very impressed with myself. In fact, I picture myself walking down the street with my newfound hubris being like this:
This is a yuuuuuuugeee (yes I mean to say “yuge” lol) accomplishment for any person—-taking up a lot of time & requiring confidence, persistence and gusto. So guess who’s out there straight killin’ the writing game? Oh yeah. Mr. Gray.
My husband shared with me a super cool thing yesterday about a meeting he had with Mr. Gray. She entered retirement a number of years ago and while there are those whose approach is “time to just kick up my feet and relax”, she basically said: “Time to write more books and share more of my experiences with the world!”
She had already published a book or two while working full-time (YOU GO GIRL), but now is taking full advantage of this hobby. At age 70, she has written several books, 2 so far in retirement. One is a collection of stories about her husband, called Touchstone, (uuumm I apparently need to step it up a notch in the wifey game) and the other shares 12 life lessons from her dear step-father and her adoption experience, entitled Thank You Daddy.
PROOF! See, I don’t lie. I mean, these are legit books by legit publishers.
Both demonstrate Mr. Gray’s devout Christian faith and reflect the respect and gratitude she has for these wonderful men in her life. But at the same time, it demonstrates that Mr. Gray can do an-y-thang he/she wants! Just because Mr. Gray is retired, doesn’t mean the talent retires too and that now it’s time to sit on a comfy recliner and watch Seinfeld re-runs (not that I’m gonna hate on those who choose to do that! ;o)). The “gray part of life” can be the time that skills are honed and refined and more importantly, shared with the world in a new way.
Let me be clear that I’m not saying if Mr. Gray was a left tackle that age 75 is going to be the peak of his career BUT, there are many skills, like writing, that only ripen with age like a fine wine. More wisdom, more experience, and to quote Bruno Mars latest hit: “dripping with finesse.” So as you can see, all that’s required Mr. Gray to be a force in later life, is something as simple as knitting needles, an instrument, or a pen and paper.
[Cue 80’s Montage] I need a Heeee-RO! I’m holding out for a hero till the end of the niiiiight. He’s gotta be strong and he’s gotta be fast and he’s gotta BUCKLE UP FOR SAFETY.
I mean YAS Mr. Hardware Everywhere.
Anyone else relate to this fine gentleman? Cuz I do.
I definitely was the one child always wearing her helmet AND kneepads, elbowpads, shinpads, or whatever pads I could get my hands on. As a teenager this was my typical reaction to things— “What do you mean the middle seatbelt’s broken? Get me out of this car PRONTO!!!” And as an adult— at any given opportunity I will 100% declare the dangers of the chemicals in perfumes and colognes and how they disrupt hormones and other illnesses.
Yes. I would give Smokey the Bear a run for his money.
But who woulda thought that Mr. Gray does not always agree with me i.e. that boring, run-of-the-mill, you can’t be too careful lifestyle? Well, this might be a shock to everyone, but seniors are actually just people who have simply gotten older. Let me repeat that. Seniors are actually just people who have simply gotten older.
What does this all meeeeeean?!!?! Well, Mr. Gray is not defined by his grayness and you can’t put him into a box and wrap him up with a little silver bow. NOW: Do people tend to get more careful as they age…. yessiryBob. But, not always. Who’s to say it can’t go in the opposite direction? Well, this Mr. Gray went far in the opposite direction. In fact, he went up, down, sideways, and all around.
One Hundred and Six Years Old Zipliner breaking world records! Holy cow. I mean come on man I don’t even go in the ocean past my waist anymore! My favorite part, if you’re wondering, is the way he takes calculated inhales of the fresh air as he’s zippin’ along. It’s like he’s totally taking in the whole experience.
This Mr. Gray is totally living his best life. And in case you didn’t know, this is only one of his adventures. Every year he does something, like get a tattoo, etc. What’s important to note is young people do this stuff alll the time and no one pays any attention. So why is this Mr. Gray so unique? Well, my guess is that he’s been given the opportunity and encouragement to be himself. And when seniors are tucked away neatly in nursing homes and assisted livings— with occasionally trips to a shopping center for “fun”—-are we really giving them the opportunity and access to be who they are beneath the gray? I don’t think so.
In general, we certainly don’t make it easy and often discourage Mr. Gray from doing “risky” things. But maybe, that’s just what he needs.
Like a wise middle-aged sage, my husband dropped this metaphor on me last night when I was having a rough day.
My initial thoughts were: 1. Damn, that’s a helpful metaphor (I’ll explain). and 2. Is he feeling okay? Who stole my husband and who is this guy? While my always husband tries, he’s usually having a love affair with his cell phone and robotically responding “yeah, yeah” to my woes. Ladies I know you feel me. So this reply was not only shocking, but also everything I needed to hear to put a smile on my face.
Lemme explain: I was crying, frustrated and sad, venting bout the fact that I don’t care for the fact that I can be so moody and up & down based on what I ate for lunch, which way the wind is blowing, and all these physical drivers. To make me feel better (and it did), my husband told me he was the trunk and that I’m the branches…and that it’s okay to be the branches. What he essentially explained is that he is the stable rock that never wavers in the relationship (which he very much is) and I am the one who sways a bit with the wind, BUT I’m the one who blooms the flowers and makes the tree beautiful.
Yeah. He Ryan Gosling’d me SO hard.
Of course then, I cried so hard at my new poet Don Juan of a husband.
On to today….I was thinking of this trunk/branch metaphor a little deeper. Abe had mentioned that day that I was the “trunk” of the house. So I started to think in terms of roles in different areas of our lives. And of course, thought about Mr. Gray and how he’s the trunk of the family, and how important a role that is.
How is Mr. Gray is “the trunk”? Here are just a few examples:
Which pie are you going to slap on your overstuffed plate at Thanksgiving? The one freshly picked up from Wegman’s OR the blueberry one your Grandma used to make. I mean DUH. Is it all about taste though? Mostly. But it’s the feeling you get too when you eat it. There’s just something about eating Grandma’s cooking/recipes, using the special “china” she had at the table, and placing the handmade crochet ornaments on the tree that make the Holidays feel like the Holidays. It’s just not the same without it because she’s the root of the family.
You know those times when you’re really upset, and your Grandma or Grandfather’s advice pops into your mind like an Ed Sheeran song and suddenly, you feel a little better about things? (My grandpa’s favorite was: “Don’t worry. It’ll all turn out in the wash.”) There’s nothing like Mr. Gray’s simplistic, yet wise advice, to ground you and make you see life a new way.
Like branches flow from the trunk, traditions, values, and sayings, all flow from the Mr. Gray of the family. I mean, I reuse aluminum foil sometimes…Why? We certainly don’t have a shortage…but because I saw my grandmother flatten out the wrinkled aluminum foil and reuse it from years when she couldn’t afford not to. It just stuck with me (and actually makes sense anyway— Waste not, want not! Oh, there’s another Mr. Gray saying again ;o)
Without the trunk, there are no branches. Without the branches, a tree has no fruit or beauty. Both pieces are important in our relationships and our lives. Unfortunately, our society is focused on and most values the “branches” (i.e. non-seniors) because they directly produce the fruit and provide youthful beauty. They’re the showy part, ya know?
BUTBUTBUT (But cubed), how can we forget that without our dearest seniors, our Mr. Grays, that none of it would exist or have any meaning? Well, we have forgotten; our seniors are hidden and disregarded. This makes me a sad sap :o(((( (Pun intended). So I encourage you to bark up (ooo I’m on a roll) and express your gratitude for a trunk in your life today!
This post is in honor of my grandpa, Leonard Rusnak, an amazing man and the source of inspiration for this blog! He would have been 106 this month (Sept 9)! Born 1912.
Here’s how you can show the seniors in your life some love, and get others thinking about their “trunks” too! It only takes a few minutes, but a little love goes a long way!
1. Share! Share! Share!
One way to help Mr. Gray is by helping us young’uns to be more aware of him! Share this post with your friends!
Got some great pictures of a beloved Mr. or Mrs. Gray? Post a picture in honor of them on Instagram or Facebook, and if they’re still living and on social media, tag them in it! Put that Gray Pledge into action. Use #LoveOfGray and see how others are honoring their seniors too. I’ll share as many as I can find in my next post!