Am I still me — now, in my seventies? Does our identity mature as our bodies and minds grow old?
I’m Rachel McAlpine, a writer living in Wellington, New Zealand, born in Christchurch in 1940.
My age is of special fascination to me at present, I’m not sure why. In February 2016 I turned 76, although I don’t look it in my photo, do I?
I used to think of life after 70 as a sort of misty holiday.
And then the penny dropped. What if we live well into our 90s, as predicted? That changes everything. A huge chunk of time still lies ahead, waiting to be lived, used, and relished. Do I fancy 20 years in a rocking chair? Blimey, I’ve still got enough time to qualify as a neurosurgeon! But I don’t want to be a neurosurgeon… so what shape do I want these precious years to take?
How to prepare intelligently for the bonus years? How to make them a blessing instead of a curse? I undertook a self-inflicted year of self-improvement, a Boot camp for the bonus years. In the process I learned a great deal about the weird ways in which old age looms in our minds, dreaded and unexamined, and I became super-sensitive to the plague of ageism.
My inner Sergeant-Major has permitted me to stop all that self-examination and self-improvement. But I’m full-on committed to understanding ageism, and if possible stamping it out — for all our sakes, young and old. Wish me luck?
Image from “Una and the Red Cross Knight, and other tales from Spenser’s Faery Queene” 1905, public domain