“Why would I come back to a place where maybe I’m lucky I didn’t die before? The answer is that it’s a longtime dream that I’ve been unwilling to give up.”
(Words of 64 year old Diana Nyad who is attempting to swim through the Florida Strait –with no shark cage. She made several attempts before –and then quit swimming for many years. Then, at age 60, she knew she wanted to pursue her dream once more, so she began training and is now in the best shape of her life).
As I head toward the end of my year-long adventure, I relate with Ms. Nyad in her quest to challenge herself, pursue a dream–and not give up. Mostly, I feel aligned with her motivation to look at defeat and age square in the eye–and to once again draw upon her strength and gifts to achieve her dream.
This is similar to what I feel I’ve accomplished this past year: picked myself up from defeat, committed to achieving a goal, navigated uncharted and unpredictable waters, dealt with adversity and fear, been unwilling to quit –and defied age and, with it, the requisite societal perceptions of ability.
Although I usually had the luxury of hand-picking the jobs I worked at this past year, and, thus, felt accepted and valued despite my age, I, nevertheless, was often all-too-aware that I was the oldest worker (sometimes by far) in each job. I have not forgotten my experience applying for jobs in recent years and clearly being shunned because of my age. Age discrimination is simply a reality.
“Older adults can be more of an asset than a liability if we learn to harvest their experience and wisdom. Enlightened private, public and nonprofit employers are increasingly recognizing that they will need older individuals to remain in the workforce for their skills, experience, work ethic and networks of relationships.” (Jay Bloom, president of Bloom Anew and author of the Multnomah County Task Force on Vital Aging report)
This is good news. I’m glad to know that there is some–and maybe increasing– recognition of the worth of older workers. In addition, because baby boomers are needing to work longer (and many not able to retire), I believe older workers will, hopefully, become more accepted and valued. But we have to defy stereotypes and encourage each other to think outside the box.
I hope that my adventure as an older woman venturing into a number of jobs will serve as an inspiration to workers and employers alike to embrace the experience, wisdom and skills and community roots that so many of us have. Besides, us older broads are indefatigable.
Just ask Diana Nyad, who, at the time of this writing, is swimming with sharks and poisonous jellyfish, inspiring many to defy age and never give up.