Pat Blythe – Ageism….agism…..aging…..and music

Last week music. This week a new topic. No…..not COVID. There’s enough written about that already and it’s a subject I’m starting to grow weary of. We’re in the middle of a worldwide “situation” that requires diligence, clean hands, keeping a distance of 6.5 feet (when did two metres becomes six feet…..that’s a fail in math class?!) and a disguise when showing your face (or 1/3 of it) in public.

If you don’t know any of this already then you need to get out from under that rock and educate yourself. Just remember to take the avalanche of memes on social media (and everywhere else) with a grain of salt. Be smart, be aware, be courteous, ask questions, don’t judge, don’t assume, respect others, stay connected and support each other and get on with your life as best you can. Sound cavalier? Maybe. But in reality, there’s nothing much else we can do. We’re all in this together…..a once-in-a-lifetime shitstorm with a huge learning curve. We’re on the defense, slowly moving to offence. Patience grasshopper, we’ll get there.

Today’s soliloquy……age

A friend recently wrote a piece on ageism and the language that accompanies it. The post got me thinking and inspired my particular take on it. I’ve had many conversations about the aging process with both men and women and if TBT on FB is any indication, we have more appreciation (and clouded visions/versions) of our youth than we should. We need to respect and recognize the value of ourselves now, more than ever. If we don’t, what are we teaching our kids? ….and by the way, your kids are watching you with your own parent(s)…..

Age. I know, I know, many of us have far fewer years ahead of us than behind us.

Age. It’s the next taboo subject after sex and money, and I’m not referring to ladies of the night.

Age. We spend billions trying to slow it down, alter it, change it….even reverse it! We avoid embracing it at all costs. We try to ignore it.

Age. It’s just a number. Who’s counting? We joke about it, “don’t trust anyone over (insert number here)”. We are desperate to stop the clock. But is it really about age or is it about change? They are in lock step with each other. Both are inevitable. Both are in this dance together. As we age, we change…..physically, mentally and emotionally.

Yep, I’ll be 64 in a few days. I can’t actually believe I’m old enough to say that! I don’t feel it and apparently I don’t “act” it. But then, what are 64 incredible years supposed to look or feel like? We think of our mothers/fathers and grandmothers/grandfathers and compare our lives to theirs. I try really hard to envision my mom hanging around nightclubs at 2am or replacing the dining room table with a drum kit. Nope…..not happening no matter how hard I try.

When I’m Sixty-Four – The Beatles

Personally I feel privileged to have friends ranging in age from mid-twenties to mid-80s. From where I sit there is always something to discuss, interesting and varied viewpoints to share, loads of laughs and great music to listen to. We all learn from each other, share information and stories and generally have a pretty good time. I have my feet in many “camps”. There are no barriers, no walls, no “OMG, you’re too old/young for that!” Music erases all that. Yes, “ageism” exists, but so far I haven’t been confronted with overt age discrimination or treated like I belong in one of the rooms at Shady Pines.

Golden Girls

We come by aging our stereotypes honestly. Aging seemed to come with certain perceptions and expectations that have been ingrained in us since, well…..the dark ages. Fast forward to the 21st century. Science has increased our lifespan so we are living longer, healthier lives; technology has given us worldwide connections never dreamed of; travelling to distant corners of the planet and experiencing different cultures has become easily accessible; making drastic changes or starting new careers in our 50s or 60s is becoming more common. We should be enjoying our lives and the fruit of our labours, not trying to go backwards!

The Best Days of Our Life – Right the Stars

All those euphemisms collected over the years…..ancient (Stonehenge maybe), golden years (first used in 1959 to describe a retirement community in the “golden” Arizona sunshine), retiree (from what?), in (or past) your prime (sounds like a steak), no spring chicken (is there an summer or fall chicken?), antique (fine for furniture but not for people), well seasoned (steak again), like fine wine (I’m allergic), well tested (in reference to what I’m afraid to ask), middle-aged (in the middle of what? At this point I was middle-aged at 32!!), elderly (don’t get me started)…..the list goes on. There’s a constant debate on what to call “old” people. Don’t even think of the word “senior”.

So consider us, the boomer generation, as experienced, mature, knowledgeable, skilled, erudite, informed, cultured, educated, accepting, conversant, open…. I like this one…..up to date! ….and yes, we still enjoy sex!! (get that visual out of your head) We are nothing remotely like our parents or grandparents. We are, in fact, radically changing and redefining the face of aging

It’s all in the attitude…..

Professional dancer and legendary club owner Britt Kanja (age 65-70), and her husband former chef Günther Krabbenhöft (age 75), are a couple from Berlin who have gone viral with their sense of occasion and fashion. Photographer Joanna Toto, who first captured the stylish couple for Vogue at Berlin Fashion Week stated, “we are all getting older despite the quest for youth that is thrust upon us…everyone wants to be Britt and Günther when they are their age. Actually, everyone wants to be them now!” Toto continues, “They have obliterated the notion that people become invisible as they age… I instantly felt better after spotting and capturing them, it was suddenly OK to proudly be your age whatever it may be.”

Britt Kanja and Günther Krabbenhöft photographed by Joanna Toto

Mick Jagger, Bono, Sting, Rod Stewart et al are still prancing around on stage, touring the world and banging out their familiar tunes. Point is they’re still out there going strong. Musician friends who many would consider well past “retirement” age are still out-performing many musicians half their age. Not just with experience and strength, but with skill and passion and a deep love for their craft.

“The other day a man asked me what I thought was the best time of life. ‘Why,’ I answered without a thought, ‘now.’ – David Grayson

We are our children’s history. We are the memories they will carry forward. We are the teachers of the world’s future. It’s up to us to show our kids and grandkids there is much to enjoy and a life to live, no matter your age. You can learn a new instrument or start a crazy new career or sell your home and wander the world at 64 (or any age). The question is not “why” but “why not”? The only way we will turn the tables on ageism is by changing the way we think and address aging ourselves, head on. Stand up for yourself, be heard, refuse to put up with condescending attitudes, and walk away if you’re not treated with respect…..and definitely dance as if no one is looking!

Whether we admit it to ourselves or not, there is nothing we can do to decelerate the aging process. Our bodies will gradually start to tell us when we need to reduce speed.  We walk instead of run, elevators look pretty good, it’s not the sitting down….it’s the getting up and naps that suddenly overtake us (although I have not reached the napping stage yet).

There is also “reverse ageism” and I’m guilty as charged. When someone under 40 shares their age with me, sometimes the first thing out of my mouth is, “oh, you’re just a baby”. Not fair to them or me. I’m not ancient and they have already lived at least a quarter of a century. I’ve had more intelligent and fascinating conversations with twentysomethings than I’ve had with some members in the “over the hill gang”. I love looking at the world through their eyes. I’m always learning something new.

So how old are you…..really?

Think of all those B&W photographs of the past…..we hold these pictures in our minds of family members down through the years and to be fair, that’s all many have to compare with.  So when someone tells me I look great for my age, I understand their comparators and am familiar with the images in their mind’s eye.

I don’t want to kick ageism to the curb or over the cliff. It’s not trivial. We can’t control people’s responses and attitudes but we can control how we respond and our own attitude. So all those so-called “backhanded” compliments…… When someone says “you look great (for your age)”, “wow, you can’t possibly be (54, 64, 74 or even 84)” or “I hope I’m just like you (when I’m your age)”, be gracious, smile and say thank you. What they’ve picked up on is your aura. What they feel is your joie de vivre…..the energy you exude. They have just told you they actually admire you, your vitality and your chutzpah.

“There are three periods in life: youth, middle age and ‘how well you look.’” 

– Nelson Rockefeller

Each generation will age on their terms and in their own way. No two will look or act the same. It’s our choice (and in our DNA) how we progress through the years, and up to us to show the next generation that anything goes. Remember that bucket list and how it turned into a “fucket list”? Do what feels right…..listen to your heart, follow your gut and go with your ebb and flow…..and don’t forget the sex.

Mom at her 90th birthday lunch November 2019

Every time I’m in the company of my 90-year-old mother I say to myself, “there but for the grace of God go I” and I am thankful for every minute I have her here on earth. She still has that sparkle in her eye!

These Are the Days of Our Lives – Queen

Circle Game – Joni Mitchell

Sugar Mountain – Neil Young

Golden Years – David Bowie

First of May – Bee Gees

Where Do the Children Play – Cat Stevens

Days Aren’t Long Enough – Thomas Dybdahl and Lera Lynn

In The Living Years – Mike & The Mechanics

Landslide – Fleetwood Mac

Times Like These – Florence and The Machine

Teach Your Children – Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

Don’t Stop Me Now – Queen

…..and in closing


Photograph of Mom ©2019-2020 Pat Blythe A Girl With A Camera


Pat’s column appears every Wednesday.

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dbawis-button7“Music and photography….my heart, my passions.” After an extended absence —  33 years as a consultant and design specialist in the telecommunications industry — Pat has turned her focus back to the music scene. Immersing herself in the local club circuit, attending the many diverse music festivals, listening to some great music, photographing and writing once again, she is eager to spread the word about this great Music City of ours…..Toronto. Together for 34 years, Pat little-red-headed-dancing-girlalso worked alongside her late husband Christopher Blythe, The PictureTaker©, who, beginning in the early 70s, photographed much of the local talent (think Goddo, Frank Soda and the Imps, BB Gabor, the first Police Picnic, Buzzsaw, Hellfield, Shooter, The Segarini Band….) as well as national and international acts. Pat is currently making her way through 40 years of Chris’s archives, 20 of which are a photographic history of the local GTA music scene beginning in 1974. It continues to be a work in progress. Oh…..and she LOVES to dance! 

One Response to “Pat Blythe – Ageism….agism…..aging…..and music”

  1. BRAVO Pat and Happy Birthday! May your light continue to shine. My question to you is are you supposed to watch when you are dancing like nobody is watching?

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