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- Diane

What we've learned from the life we've lived. A conversation about ageing

What we've learned from the life we've lived. A conversation about ageing

I got lots of messages following on from the post I did on the conversation I had with my lovely friend Malcolm about ageing and potential (read it here) asking to see the stuff we talked about that I didn’t include. So, as your wish is absolutely my command, here it is, starting with Malcolm explaining about something he does when he’s on the tube. Don’t worry, it’s entirely legal and proper!

Oh and I know that the pics of the two of us are clearly from completely different places and times, but when we were talking, I managed to remember to take some shots of Malcolm, but completely forgot to take any of us together. Duh!

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Malcolm:  When I go on the tube I play this game where I look around and try and figure out who I think is my sort of age. What that’s about, I think, is an element of looking around and asking ‘where are we all’?

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Diane:  I know what you mean. And I think underlying that is that sense, or fear, of becoming invisible. We know there are lots of us and that we still matter and have a place and a contribution to make, but  we’re looking for reassurance.

My sense is we’re finding some of that reassurance and community through technology with things like social media.  Although we didn’t grow up with technology the way our children did and certainly their children will, we haven’t been bad at figuring it out and specifically figuring out how to slot it into our lives. 

Because that’s what we do, we don’t simply run blindly after the newest thing, we go ‘OK, what is this newest thing? Does it serve me in any way? If it does, I’ll give it some time and figure it out. If it doesn’t, then actually I don’t want to know’. To me, that’s key - we fit it into our lives.

Malcolm: I actually think social media is the cocaine of our generation and that there’s a surprisingly high rate of addiction to it. And as with any addiction you have to look at what the reasons for it are. I think some of it is because many of us can feel quite lonely, even when we’re surrounded by other people.

In terms of technology, we’re the generation who invented technology. It’s our internet. We created it. Good and bad. There are some aspects I wish we hadn’t pushed so far, especially with digital communication. But we’re actually really good at it in spite of the fact that we’re too often portrayed as being clueless. The reason we’re an age group that can take full advantage of technology, and social media, is because we’re a generation that know how to talk to people. We grew up talking to each other. If there’s one thing we’re got to teach the next generation, it’s to talk to each other, in real time. To step out from behind their screens.

Diane: Yes. We may have chosen to be behind our screens more now, but we understand the art of face to face conversation like we’re having. Also we don’t just understand the art of it, we understand the need for it and what it adds to your life that a texted, email, or social media ‘conversation’ can’t ever do.

Malcolm: Totally. Person-to-person communication comes very naturally to us because we were brought up on it. Also, we were the first generation who were allowed to talk to anybody we wanted to. Whether they were richer or poorer, from a different persuasion religiously or culturally, with no prejudice and almost no barriers. That’s an incredible privilege to have had that, and what it’s left us with in terms of communication skills is amazing. 

Diane: That’s also really interesting in relation to engagement levels when we’re talking to each other on line. When I look at social media numbers, it seems that it’s relatively easy for young people to build big numbers of followers very quickly, because young people love to jump on the different social media band wagons. But the way they follow someone on social media is entirely different from the way someone of our generation does. If someone of our generation chooses to engage with you - that’s what they do, engage. They have a conversation. They will give you time and attention which is far more valuable. 

Malcolm: If there’s one thing I’m really interested in at the moment it’s my belief that we all have the capacity to do things far bigger than we ever imagined. And that can be negatively and positively. I just made a film about an 85 year old female Holocaust survivor [you’ll be able to see the film on Malcolm’s website, but for now there’s a trailer for it]

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But what it’s about really is what human beings are capable of. The dreadful stuff she experienced when she was a child. That is the depth of resource that we have to survive. She was also the beneficiary of somebody’s incredibly brave kindness. That is something we’re also capable of  - being so generous and kind to each other, and so loving. And yet we don’t often do that either. 

Because she’s a Holocaust survivor she’s asked to go into schools and tell her story. But actually, she doesn’t really talk a lot about her experiences during the Holocaust, she talks about life. She talks about what you can do with life. And sometimes when I’ve seen her do that, I’ve thought, isn’t it a shame that had she not been a Holocaust survivor, she wouldn’t have been invited to talk to these young people.

Diane: I can’t say I agree with you about being kind and generous to each other. I actually think we do that more as we get older. But know what you mean about her life experience. That wisdom hasn’t just been gained from being a Holocaust survivor, it’s been gained from living a life that’s lasted 85 years.

Malcolm: Totally. Here’s an 85 year old woman who young people are entranced by when they listen to her. Not just because she’s a Holocaust survivor, but because she has such a way of communicating and sharing what her life has taught her. That’s what I mean about the potential we all have. 

Diane: And it’s a potential that in previous generations wasn’t really given the space or place to be explored and used. There used to be a much clearer expectation about how people’s lives would ‘schedule’ out. And previous generations were much more obedient about slotting into those expected stages. We may be in our sixties (nearly!), seventies or eighties, but that doesn’t mean we want to be sitting meekly by the fire. We want to be out actually starting the fires thank you very much.

What are the lessons you’ve learnt from life so far? And how do you use social media to communicate and stay in touch? If at all. What do you think your strengths are now? Let’s keep this conversation going!

Other posts you’ll enjoy

The first part of this conversation

How my remarkable mum is still using her legal expertise at 86

The art of ageing and a unique dance group

This much I know (so far)

This much I know (so far)

Why can't we be more proud of our bodies?

Why can't we be more proud of our bodies?