Many people have chosen Door County as a place to retire. They, like us, have loved this place in the summer and have now relocated here permanently. Scores of people have done just what we recently have done: said goodbyes to careers and homes, adjusted to life at a new pace without employment, looked for ways to plant new roots and find new interests, made new friends.
So, as I go out and about or attend events, I am surrounded by people older than me. A lot older. They wear clothes that were in style twenty years ago. They drive cautiously and walk slowly. There are health issues. And, in the darkness of my judgmental heart, there lurks, I am embarrassed to say, old-person bigotry. Yuck. I don’t like to see it in myself, and I don’t like to admit it. This prejudice makes no sense to me; some of my best friends for the last several years have been women twenty-five years younger than me. Why am I quick, then, to dismiss women who are twenty-five years older?
Like all other types of prejudice, the best cure is the truth. And the truth is that the outside of a person doesn’t matter.
The second cure is relationships. Just like it is impossible to remain racist or bigoted against any group of people when you begin to have friends who are of color (or that “other” ethnicity, or religion, or sexual persuasion,) so the kindness of people who are older than me is slowly breaking down my prejudice. It was a social week for me. I attended a women’s event at a church, a new book club, and a poetry critique group- all full of people older than I. Thankfully, as their kindness, their wisdom, their humor, their individual characters are becoming more clear, that ugly bigotry inside of me is fading. Here are people who have gone before me; they have aged gracefully and retired well. I am not yet sixty and Dave has just turned it; but we are aging. There are already health concerns. We have choices about our time, and pitfalls to avoid as we navigate this retirement life. All around us, there are people who have walked this way before us. I am sorry I was so slow to see them as who they are, what they are: just one more gift from God to help us in this new place.