The real gray power

How would you like to get to age 108–and be in good physical and mental health almost to the end? It’s possible: Gin Kanie of Japan did that before she passed away last month.
Her twin sister, Kin Narita, lived to 107. Both “fascinated the viewing public with their sharp wit and enthusiasm for life” (Globe & Mail) on talk shows until early 2000.
We, too, have more seniors and they live longer. Health care agencies are concerned while the retail industry considers them as economic units.
Picture ads include them. Stores cater with seniors’ discounts. “Elderhostel” is a going concern; other travel and entertainment schemes for the 55-plus population do well, too.
While some elderly are poor and not well cared for, a substantial number are independent and help their families financially.
“Gray Power” has much more than economic implications.
Recently, an 82-year-old lady was interviewed on the radio. She had just golfed two holes-in-one in a row–a feat virtually unheard-of even by the pros. As I listened, her enjoyment of the prize and celebration came through.
She is a model of good health and spirits.
A few days later, I heard another amazing radio interview. Betty Krawczyk, 73, of Vancouver was jailed for a year for protesting against the decimation of old-growth trees. Whatever she did, it was too much for the authorities and they locked her up.
She got out early after effectively publicizing her concern by writing books and making speeches from her cell.
During the CBC interview, she demonstrated great energy, wisdom, and humour. At one point, she chuckled that her youngest grandson had told his peers, “Yes, that’s my grandma in jail, but I have a normal grandmother, too!”
She had this to say about how we should regard the different elements of our population, “When old people are cast aside, young people are set adrift.” What a powerful thought to reflect on!
The interviewer asked Ms. Krawczyk whether she thought she could win her environmental battle; and if not, why she would spend her well-earned retirement on it. To that, she said poor decisions and various calamities are not discrete events, they happen all the time.
“Putting things right is a process, and each person chooses to or refrains from participating in it.”
It’s the year of the volunteer, and I see older people contributing strongly. They do various community service, spearhead fundraising for good causes, sit on boards of non-profit corporations, and even take service trips to help the less fortunate.
While many younger people are busy raising a family, building careers, and “making a living”–as is fine–many older people are sharing the accumulation of their life.
To me, that’s the real “Gray Power.” I hope I will be privileged to join it in the future.

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