Know what the cool kids are doing these days? They’re aging. From 81-year-old Gloria Steinem to 71-year-old Keith Richards, some of the most influential bad-asses from back in the day are still showing us how to do it right. In fact, a lot of well-known older people are doing what they’ve always done. They play music. They write. They speak about things that matter to how society functions. They have great senses of humor.
Which is why the whole ageist thing that’s happening in the United States is baseless. It’s wrong to discount a group of people just because they may be less tech-savvy or because they have really thick toenails.
A lot of those twirling hippies from Woodstock, Vietnam War survivors and protesters, Civil Rights and Women’s Liberation activists, LSD pioneers, and creators of some of the most evergreen and influential rock music in the genre’s history are upwards of 70. Those cats were blowing up the news back then.
Lately, young adults who get the majority of media praise are the billionaire upstarts or those who show the most skin while singing crappy pop songs.
Certainly there are some amazing young people trying to do positive things for society, like the leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement for example, but many young adults are just living at their parents’ house, playing video games and taking Facebook quizzes. It’s ironic that a lot of today’s aging population are still cooler than many of today’s college-aged rapists, I mean kids.
But rather than lament about the superficiality of the youth, let’s focus on how it’s inspiring to know that if we start out cool, we too can stay cool until we die.
Lily Tomlin, 76, maintains her edgy wit in productions like Neflix’s Grace and Frankie, and her upcoming movie, Grandma, in which she takes her granddaughter to get an abortion. These roles remind us that older people can stay progressive and open-minded. We don’t have to grow old and become finger-wagging, Fox News-watching haters of hooligans on our lawns.
Willie Nelson, 81, still travels for concert tours and is outspoken about his love for marijuana. Since 1969 he has only played one guitar, called Trigger. Trigger looks like it was dug out from a pile of rubble these days, but Willie says he loves the guitar for its distinct tone. So what if he wore a hole in it from playing it so much? He doesn’t want a shiny new one.
Sometimes older things are the best things, because their wear and their history shape them into something completely unique and irreplaceable. Much like people.
Youth and old age are both part of life’s journey. If we’re lucky we get to experience both. If we’re smart, we appreciate those who have made it further along the journey and what they can teach us, like the importance of driving at a snail’s pace over speed-bumps.