53 and Able

Coach Liz PNGJust think about ability for a moment. You’re able to open a book and read or pick up a pencil and write because, at some time in your life, you had the necessary ingredients; opportunity, teachers, encouragement, a functioning mind and body, desire and determination. Are you ever to old to learn to read and write? No.

Speaking of age, I flipped to the other side of 50 a few birthdays ago. Naturally, I see age a bit differently these days and I’ve decided our society has it all wrong. Ability matters more than age.

When I was 15, 53 seemed old. It doesn’t now. I believe I’m in the prime of life and able to do just about anything I set my mind to; like weight training and bodybuilding. One of my mentors, Ernestine Shepherd, started training with weights at 56. In March of 2010, on stage in Rome, Italy she was granted the title of World’s Oldest Performing Female BodyBuilder (by Guinness World Records). Yes, she still trains today at age 77.

Being referred to as a “senior citizen” in America is tied to the social security system which declares 67 to be the retirement age. The implication is downright dangerous, suggesting that at 67 a person’s ability to actively contribute to society has diminished or is about to. The message has seeped into society’s psyche; there are groups, clubs, agencies and programs specific to every aspect of an older person’s life. Their common denominator? Assuming dis and/or inability.

Human beings (and those over 67 are no exception) gravitate towards the expectations set before them, by others or by themselves, and either rise or lower their sights to meet them. It’s a largely unconscious decision making process for the average person. The following two videos demonstrate extremely different mindsets that we as individuals and subsequently as a society can assume about older people.

Then there’s 80 year old Guy Pistone. His story is not an exception; the internet is flooded with folks his age, and older, doing incredible things; physically and otherwise. Meet Guy…

YES! Some people need gentler activity, but not necessarily because of their age; because of their ability or disability. Take the age factor out of our expectation mindset. Take the word senior out of our vocabulary. Can you imagine a world where people are categorized on their abilities, interests and talents instead of their age? I can.

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