On Old People

Written by Mike Parish, Illustrated by Dan Tarnowski, Video by Jack Wilson
On Old People

Believe it or not, I’ve actually been accused of being an agist before. I never knew such an -ist existed, that someone could be anti-old people, could look down on a segment of the population because they are old and can’t do something as well as the young. Who came up with this terminology? Who in their right mind could despise the elderly?

If “agism” actually does exist, it is the old who look down upon the young. Some professions seem reserved for individuals of a certain age, such as the presidency or bus driving. I’ve often heard and seen (and been the victim of) children’s dreams being shattered and scattered across the sidewalk like so many pieces of broken glass, all because they were told they were not old enough to be a fireman, that they must be “this tall” to ride the roller coaster.

But I still think old people are great, shortcomings aside. They tend to support younger people financially, are a wellspring of knowledge and are a great help when it comes to fixing things or cooking meals or providing sound advice. Though generational gaps exist, these can be bridged through warm conversation and working toward a shared goal, such as building a tool shed.

But when people get really old, society does not know what to do with them. “Yeah! You’ve won! You’ve lived a long life. Sorry, though. Your programming and model are obsolete. We can’t fix you anymore, don’t have the parts, can’t use you. Either junk yourself or run yourself into the ground.” So we stick the really old in old people homes and wait for them to cash out.

Just like an iPod or a new car, we will eventually be outdated. Everything expires. It is too bad there is not a way to preserve our minds. If our brains were some sort of technology that could be built upon and saved, we would be able to live forever, but in a way we already will, through the generations of minds that come after us.

So, yeah, old people are great. What can any of us do but continue getting older? We will someday be the people that younger people forget about, forget to call, don’t want to see, are too busy to care for. It is our fate. Just as we are doing it to the generation before us, the next generation that comes after will ignore us. We won’t be able to blame them. They will have assimilated our best ideas into their own and will continue pushing forward, to their own unknown finish lines we will never see called the future.

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