The razor blade of life

The razor blade of life

December 13, 2020 0 By Rick

One of the more colorful expressions I’ve heard is “passing yet another notch in your slide down the razor blade of life.” Just the image of this makes me cringe. I’m often reminded that part of the razor slide involves age discrimination. Age discrimination is nothing new. It’s been around for a long time. Young people are frequently told they don’t have enough experience or that they’re too young to understand. But what about the other side of the coin? Do older people experience age-discrimination, too? Based on my personal experience – you bet! It happens to me all the time. Are senior citizens looked upon as having nothing to contribute once they’ve passed 65 or 70? It seems our western cultures don’t value older people as much as in eastern cultures. In this day and age where people are free to identify as the opposite sex (which I’m OK with), why can’t an older person feel that he or she is a young person trapped in an old person’s body? And while we’re on the subject of change, should you be allowed to change your legal age? A recent article in Creative Commons got me thinking about this.

What if you feel and act much younger than your chronological age? What if you’re physically and mentally more active than other people your age? What if you feel that you still have a great deal to contribute despite your age? What if you want to share your wisdom and life experience with others? What if, according to medical assessments, your biological age is 20 years younger than your chronological age, as was my case at my most recent comprehensive physical examination? What if you can’t get a job despite your qualifications because of your age? What if you do land a job but get paid much less than your colleagues because of your age? Can you do anything about it? Should you be allowed to change your legal age to better match how you identify and feel?

What is age?
First, we should take a close look at age. Age simply measures how long someone or something has existed. Second, you can’t simply change your age. To do that, you’d have to be a time-traveler or be willing to alter official documents, which would be tantamount to giving false information. OK, you’re probably wondering what this Boomer is on about? Well, for one, age doesn’t always refer to how long something has existed. Take whiskey, for example. We say that whiskey is 25 years old despite the fact that it’s probably been in a bottle for a decade. That would make it 35 years old in reality. But a whiskey’s age is calculated according to the time between distillation and bottling and doesn’t take into account how long it’s been in the bottle. Consequently, the chronological age of the whiskey is irrelevant. In reality, people age at different rates, too. A popular website for extras in films asks you to list two ages: your chronological age and usually a 10-year range (older or younger) that you can portray without extensive make-up.

While your chronological age records the passage of time, your biological age records what’s happening inside you. So, what is one’s biological age, and how is it different from the chronological kind? Our biological age is how our bodily tissues, systems, and organs grow older. Your biological age is a far better indicator of your health than your age in years. Genetics, epigenetics, diet and exercise, among other factors, affect how fast we lose our physical and mental functions and how rapidly our cells deteriorate. In fact, geriatric medicine uses biological age frequently. So, if we accept the fact that people of the same chronological age can age at varying rates biologically, why can’t these individuals use their biological age instead of their chronological age? The only time your date of birth is interesting is when someone wants to find out whether a person is old enough chronologically to do something or buy something, especially alcohol. But the chronological age doesn’t mean that the person’s mental age is sufficient to drink in a mature manner.

Three conditions
There’s a consensus among researchers in this field that an individual should be able to change his/her legal or official age as long as they can meet three conditions. “First, the person is being discriminated against because of age. Second, the person’s body and mind are in better shape than would be expected based on the person’s chronological age (that is, the person is biologically younger than he or she is chronologically). Third, the person does not feel that his legal age is befitting.” Age discrimination is real. 

My case
I’m 73 and still eager to work. Despite my extensive work experience, when I send in CVs, I NEVER get called to an interview. I can only assume that it’s because they already have a view of what a 73-year-old can do physically and mentally. They aren’t willing to consider this on a case-by-case basis. It’s easier to make a sweeping generalization. As I wrote earlier, I pick up work as an extra now and then. I’m a grandfather, but when I apply for roles as a grandparent, I get no response. I have photographs on my profile page with the company, so maybe I should take this as a compliment. I feel I’m a 53-year-old trapped in the body of a 73-year-old. And unfortunately, I’m not terribly optimistic that attitudes about age will change. Maybe it’s just easier to lie about your age?  Maybe that’s just part and parcel of my slide down the razor blade of life?