It is the one reliable date we have in our lives, our birthdays. Children eagerly counted down to the day. Adults try to forget or warp their age. Recently I turned 9 for I no longer count the front digit. This makes me forever young. I live between 0 – 9 years old, in my manipulation of reality.
“You are only as young as you feel!”
“I think there should be double beds in medical wards – its ageist to have them just in maternity!”
The ageism of the healthcare system did not cater for my parents needs when Dad was hospitalised. There is an institutionalized prejudice regarding what is age appropriate, which can have negative consequences on mental and physical health. People stress levels, willingness to live healthily and recover can be impaired when they are greeted by such ageist bias as “its an old persons condition”. Age is the one social group all of us will join – if blessed to age. Ageism can be seen in arbitrary lore that does not always cater to the individual. Such as swings are “only for children” I am one adult who benefits from this soothing motion.
Birthday messages present older as bad. Though if you don’t stick to the age allotted stereotype you benefit in wellbeing. Fortunately my grandparents and parents in their active lifestyle provide dynamic aging examples. When society shifts from viewing older people as dependent and weak to viewing them as proficient and resourceful it is a win for everyone. People can honor the skills and knowledge they have gathered and be encouraged to share this. There is a human library of possibilities to learn from – with skills such as languages ending as a person does. I love the term “Elder” as it places reverence and resource with the ones lucky to age gracefully or grumpily.
As a midwife I witness birth is a not a quick event. The media can depict birth like the cricket highlights without showing the training and innings that came before the win. Birth takes time as the rhythm of labour is interrupted, there are false starts but eventually a new soul comes forth. Birthing festivals reflect this slow journey to earth as a birthday is spread beyond 24 hours of merriment, involving friends and family.
Thank God you’re here
Birthdays are the opportunity to show gratitude to the individual who joined us on that day. The world is a little richer for having this being come to life.
Around my birthday I find myself reflecting on the previous year what happened, what I am grateful for and what I intend for the next 12 months god willing. No longer do I take it for grant. The luxury of being alive is a blessing. So every days a birthday. A new opportunity to give life to.