Age is just a number

Published 12:27 pm Friday, October 7, 2011

“Age is something that doesn’t matter, unless you’re a cheese,” –Billie Burke.

Billie Burke was an actress whose career spanned six decades and who starred in over 80 films, including “Father of the Bride” and “The Wizard of Oz.”

In the latter she played Glinda the Good Witch of the North, the pretty red-head dressed in pink from head to toe who arrived in a bubble, waved her wand and sent Dorothy on her way down the yellow brick road to the Wizard.

A small fact not many may know is that the youthful looking Burke was 55 at the time of playing Glinda.

As a society we often recognize racism, sexism and other intolerant acts as problems, but we never address ageism.

There’s always been this misconception that if you’re an older person you’re somehow supposed to be inept. You’re not supposed to be independent, strong, or show any sign of vibrancy.

Our culture tells seniors, especially women, that it’s not acceptable to be old or look old.

If you don’t think so just take a look around at the media or phenomena of plastic surgery.

It’s a youth’s world; everyone is trying their hardest to scrub out any signs of aging, from acid peels to brow lifts to Botox. The world is slowly becoming a population of expressionless plastic faces.

Pretty soon your neighbor will have to tell you she’s smiling instead of seeing it on her face.

All we would need to do is install a microchip and then we’d have a robot.

Older characters are practically non-existent and if they are represented on television or in the movies only a trite example exists.

In the media, older characters are often seen as the decrepit old woman or man who is helpless, delusional and typically gets killed off in the first few moments of a program or later wither away from an illness.

They are typecast as a victim on crime shows, a grumpy old man that provides comic relief on sitcom, the Nan who takes care of everyone in dramas or the mysterious wise elder who seemingly knows all on fantastical shows.

As with many sub-cultures in the United States, what seniors and others see in the media they believe that’s what they are. And when this happens depression and the feeling of insignificance sets in.

This is reflected in society with the lack of respect for older individuals by others. That’s why clubs and organizations that get seniors involved with each other are so important now days, whether it be a chapter of the Red Hat Society or a local senior center.

It’s important that seniors be in contact with each other as much as they can. It builds community, a sense of identity and worth for them.

Communicating and staying active helps them still be productive and helps them realize that just because they’re older doesn’t mean their life is over.

I hope some day when I’m older there will be programs for me to get involved with. I can never imagine myself at 65 without a wrinkle and hanging out with 25 year olds.

Aging is a part of life and as some say the older years are the best times of your life and if that’s true, count me in.

Amanda VanDerBroek is a Staff Writer for the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald. For comments and column suggestions email: or call (252) 332-7209.