By Theresa Reid, PHD
Host of CTN’s “Aging for Life”
How Many Years of Life Experience Do You Have?
At the biennial conference of Sage-ing International last fall, I heard this life-changing question: How many years of life experience do you have?
Not, “How old are you?” Or (shudder), “How many years young are you?”
How many years of life experience do you have?
Just a few years ago, when a girlfriend (older than me) asked me my age, I said, “I’d rather tell you how much I weigh.” She still laughs about that, and often repeats it to friends.
I’m only a little embarrassed that I refused to tell my age. Such is the toll of epidemic ageism. In a culture that hates the old, none of us wants to own our years.
The question, “How many years of life experience do you have?” turns this situation on its head — where it belongs. I’ve asked it of many people now, and always see a light go on.
I haven’t had the opportunity yet, but I like to imagine saying to someone younger who’s patronizing me, “Excuse me, but how many years of life experience do you have?” When they tell me they’re in their 30s or 40s or 50s, I’ll say, “I see. Well, I have 65 years of life experience, so please listen up!”
Never before have I hoped someone would condescend to me because of my wrinkles! But I find myself looking forward to using this new strategy in a teachable moment. I hope you’ll try it and let me know how it goes.
Theresa Reid, PhD, is Executive Producer and Host of Aging for Life, a podcast and television show she’s developing with Community Television Network in Ann Arbor. Dr. Reid is a Certified IONS Conscious Aging facilitator. This is the first of a series of occasional columns by Dr. Reid. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.