The Tao of Grizabella
Click to "Sign the Petition" to Help Stamp Out Ageism!
by Successful Aging in Action! | 2.12.20
By: Dr. Roger Landry, MD, MPH
Most of us have heard Grizabella’s poignant lament and walked away unchanged. How can we be so hard? How can we not be moved by what she’s telling us?
OK, in all fairness, you may not know what I'm referring to. In the Broadway musical CATS, Grizabella is the old cat, and she sings the song Memory at the climax of the show. This is a soulful, nostalgic recollection of her youthful beauty and vitality and a plea to be seen, heard, touched and accepted. Memory is based on two poems by TS Eliot, Preludes, and Rhapsody on a Windy Night. The song was written by Andrew Lloyd Webber with lyrics by Trevor Nunn.
Pied Pipers Against Ageism
Memory, along with Mike Greely and Grant Maloy Smith’s song, I See You, give us two musical calls to arms. They are wake-up calls to begin to see the treasures among us: the survivors, the heroes, the pioneers who came before us and still walk among us, but are far too often, invisible, ignored, shunned and even sometimes ridiculed. In what altered universe would those who have navigated life’s curve balls, displayed the resilience we all seek, and who have “seen it all” be marginalized? What would be the rationale for pushing aside, those who have weathered what we too, will ultimately experience? Why would we demean what we will ultimately become? When did wisdom become obsolete?
A New and Destructive Bias
Ageism is, at its core, a bias against older adults. A belief that later life is invariably associated with lowered expectations, possibilities or potential. Although more disguised, ageism is still a significant cultural component of our current society. This should not be a surprise since most of us have grown up hearing the jokes, reading the greeting cards or watching the television commercials which reinforce the stereotype of older adults as broken humans. We have been conditioned to see older adults through a lens of decline which, even if subconscious and non-malevolent, is a destructive view for our entire society as well as for the individuals themselves.
And it’s a view which is new to us as a species. Nearly every pre-industrial society valued older adults for their experience, wisdom, and resilience. Elders were the go-to people in times of trouble. They were held in high esteem and consequently felt a responsibility to contribute to the community. There was no concept of “retirement” as we know it today, where older adults retreat or are pushed to the margins of society, spend their days recreating or “doing their thing” and all the while disengaged from the society they helped build. It is indeed ironic that in a society which values capital, we ignore and squander the treasure trove of human capital in our midst.
I See You
The campaign launched by Masterpiece, alongside the musical herald, I See You, is an acknowledgment that we have “gone off the rails” in our view of older adults. We have departed from our historic view of elders as seasoned and successful sages and consequently they walk among us as ghosts. This view is not sustainable as a society and certainly not for us as individuals who will soon enough be ghosts ourselves if we don’t change course.
I encourage you, reader, to sign the #IseeYou petition and heed the words of Grizabella:
“Touch me. It's so easy to leave me
All alone with my memory
Of my days in the sun.
If you touch me
You'll understand what happiness is.
Look, a new day has begun.”
CLICK HERE to listen to "I See You" from award-winning songwriters Grant Maloy Smith and Mike Greenly.
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