Ageism – It Works Both Ways


Ageism – It Works Both Ways

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 US, 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), Clive and I worship in a church that has had services every Sunday for 1000 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 that 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 brings to the party. Does it really slow things down, or does it oil the machinery to make it go smoother and faster.


Picture of John Van Horn

John Van Horn

One Response

  1. This beautiful John and invites me to look within. Thank you. I think the secret is two fold: two ears and a pause. The former, invites me to listen more. My Dad always used to tell me if you can learn from others’ mistakes, you save time not to make your own. Ideas often are lofty and self indulgent yet, I think in the young people, the fear has not become addictive yet. There is beauty in recklessness yet, then the pause comes in. Is it true? Is it absolutely true? How can I implement it without hearing the ones who have lessons for me in practicality?

    And both of these might might be an antidote for bitterness and arrogance. I have a friend who is very wealthy. In his 80s he is still handsome yet, he absolutely hates getting older. Thus, his bitterness permeates every aspect of his daily life. He resents life and God for the temporary nature of this life. Then I have some young very successful friends be it in movies or technology who think their poo doesn’t stink. Where is the bridge here? Introspection might be missing. Those two ears and gratitude. How awesome is have the place we can sing our gratitude to the Lord for 1000 years. And how awesome it is to be 90 years young and still here to tell the stories, I for one want to here more than anything.

    Last but not least, we are enamored lately with words and labels. Perhaps we don’t know what agism truly is just as we don’t know what mobility truly is? Just a surface word we through around without inner reflection.

    Thank you John for your Grace and your Wisdom.



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