Grown Black Women Speak on Aging: What’s Old #isthatold
This is the first in a series of interviews on Aging with mature black and African American women. It was initially prompted by a HuffPost piece that asked this question to a group of women that some of my friends and I took issue with because we felt the selection of women chosen to share their opinions was too narrow. We decided to conduct our own interviews.
Meet Joyce Ladner, Author, Public Speaker, Sociologist, Wisdom Keeper
Question: How do you feel about the truth of the saying, “age ain’t nuth’n but a number ? True or not true and why?
I endorse this old saying wholeheartedly because aging has to do with a set of factors including the chronological, emotional, physical, and most importantly, one’s perspective on life. I feel very comfortable with young people because I keep abreast of what is important to them. I started this practice when my son was growing up. I engaged him and his friends in conversations about their interests, perspectives, music, etc. I started listening to rap music because I wanted to understand my son’s culture. I have never rejected out of hand the beliefs and values of young people. Instead, I have sought to understand what they are so that I could keep the lines of communication open. I have always surrounded myself with young people because that is the easiest way to keep abreast of what is important to them. I do not try to be young like them but I do want to understand them.
Question: Do you feel old?
No, I do not feel old. I feel mature. I am reminded of how my grandmother dressed when she was only in her fifties. Women of her generation wore lace up shoes, plain dresses and hair nets over their grey hair that often had a “blue rinse” put in it by their hairdressers. They acted old. Their outlooks on life were old. It seemed to me back then that they were fixed in their chronological age group and did not dare get out of it. There were specific things that young people did and things that old people did. Today, the phrase, “You’re as young as you feel” is very appropriate for me because there is a continuum on aging instead of the fixed categories of my grandmother’s generation. Moreover, there are no fixed boundaries in how one dresses or wears one’s hair. Of course, a fifty year old woman isn’t expected to wear a mini dress but she can show her knees.
Question: What makes you feel vital?
I feel vital by interacting with young people I lived in Florida for ten years and what I missed most was being around a lot of young people. I was a college professor for many years and what I enjoyed a lot was being able to learn how each generation of young adults felt about their society, what was important to them, how they approached the world and what they wanted out of life. I was always fascinated by the things they considered to be important, and their popular culture. I keep in touch with some of my former students because it is important that I continue to mentor them. Several of them call me Mama Ladner and I like that.
Question: What is your biggest surprise about aging?
The biggest surprise about aging is how my body insists on getting older when my mind remains young at heart. I wasn’t ready for the slowdown and it is very hard to adjust to having to rest all day after going to a dance the night before. LOL. Even with the limitations, I continue to push myself to do things I enjoy and to have the common sense to not overuse or abuse my body when I do not feel well.
For more more interviews read Sylvia Wong Lewis’ interview here. If you fit the parameters above and would be willing to share your wisdom or if you know someone whose wisdom should be shared, please shoot me a message a email@example.com Tell me, what is your biggest surprise about aging?
We will get it done and share.