ESRA Magazine
ESRAmagazine categories

Am I Aging?


Soon after the lockdown restrictions were eased and we were finally allowed to venture more than 100 meters from home, I was enjoying a morning walk along Raanana's main street. I was still doing all my shopping online at the time but as I came close to my favorite bread shop, I decided I would join the two-meters-apart line outside and await my turn to be allowed in.

"Savta!" a voice called out behind me. "Please move." I turned to see a yellow-vested man alongside a municipal road-cleaning vehicle that was hosing down the curb near where I was standing. I looked around for the female octogenarian he was presumably addressing, but there was no one apart from a teenage girl, a couple of boys, and a young woman and toddler ahead of me.

I was mortified. It had been bad enough to be among those placed in the at-risk over-sixties box during the pandemic. But now, just as a modicum of freedom was very cautiously beckoning me back to a time when I hadn't felt particularly vulnerable due to my age, a random person called me savta and put me firmly back in that box. I could have sworn that pre-pandemic I was routinely called "mami", the non-ageist Israeli term of endearment meaning sweetie, or "giveret" – miss or madam. Call me over-sensitive, but I saw it as a sign that while I had gone into the pandemic in my mid-sixties, I seemed to have come out of it in my late eighties.

The term "ageism" was coined in 1968 by Dr. Robert N. Butler, a psychiatrist and gerontologist, to describe the process of systematic stereotyping or discrimination against older people, which echoes those of racism and sexism. Dr. Becca Levy, a psychologist and epidemiologist, says in her new book, Breaking the Age Code, that ageism causes more than straightforward irritation or even actual discrimination. Her research proves that negative stereotyping against older people can rob them of the optimism and positive thinking that provide tangible health benefits - and can actually lengthen a senior's life expectancy by seven and a half years.

Another incident that happened to me recently was the response of the chairman of an organization when I answered a call for volunteers to join the committee. "We already have someone your age," was the reason I was given for my offer being turned down. The same organization informed me that it was aware it needed to address my demographic. How positive and life-affirming to know I have become "a demographic", which seems to me precisely the negative stereotype Dr. Levy is addressing.

Dr. Levy spent a semester in Japan studying the reasons why Japanese people have the highest life expectancy in the world. While a low rate of obesity and a diet characterized by a low consumption of red meat and high consumption of fish and plant foods are major factors, so, she says, is the psychological impact of the high level of respect shown to elderly citizens.

Of course we seniors need to eat healthily and exercise sensibly. We need to take advantage of the free or reduced-price activities available to us. One of my favorite activities is my seniors' "10-shekel Tuesday" matinee cinema outing with my friends and fellow movie buffs. On the one hand, we know it labels us as seniors, which is slightly sad, but on the other hand we embrace the freedom we have at our age to enjoy the decadence of going to a matinee.

Society also needs to do its part to help us approach our golden years more positively, and it doesn't need to do too much. Just call us "active", "fun", "full of life" and "wise", rather than "decrepit", "grumpy", "past it" and helpless". And, if you're not my grandchild, don't call me "savta".

Please share with us your (hopefully positive) experiences of aging. Do you have newly-acquired hobbies or skills? Let us know how you are spending your retirement. 

Related Posts



No comments made yet. Be the first to submit a comment
Sunday, 21 July 2024

Captcha Image


MagazineIsrael- 2019-homepage
There are pockets of coexistence
which kindle hope.
Old cities and very new cities with amazing stories
Find out about the Israeli art scene
The best tours in Israel with ESRA members