How Older Folks Expose Our Weirdness Around Aging And Death

Beloved American actress and national treasure, Betty White is trending, but don’t be alarmed! She hasn’t “croaked,” as a user on Twitter eagerly confirmed. We go through this interesting ritual around this time every year. And while birthdays are typically a joyous occasion and the perfect opportunity to shower love and praises, things can get downright ornery when you’re a culturally-renowned celebrity of a certain age.

Betty White just turned 98, which is an amazing feat when you consider the grim statistics that confirm how the United States lags far behind in average life expectancy compared to other western countries.

There’s also the personal take of how our only surviving “Golden Girl” was born the same year as my late maternal grandfather who sadly passed away almost forty years ago.

I often imagine what it would’ve been like if he had stuck around a lot longer, but as I get older, I have come to respect the very straightforward analogy of how we’re all born to die.

Some of us are lucky enough to reach the age bracket that places us on never-ending death watch, and others are unfortunately denied the honor of maturing past prime years of youthful vigor, which assigns the romanticized status of “forever young.”

Truth be told, I absolutely don’t predict that my golden years will be extended or that I will even make it to that illustrious stage. And that’s coming from a place of spiritual nourishment and complete awareness of how being alive means so much more than the reliance on worldly reinforcements.

I have lived long enough to appreciate my journey thus far, and the accumulation of knowledge combined with the reduced fear for the unknown, is empowering me for the next phase of my earthly visitation, that will feature the continued loss of people I love, and the possibility of my demise.

But when all else fails, we have the reassuring presence of Betty White, who is inching closer to being the most adored centenarian of our time, and that’s definitely worth a toast or a cute birthday serenade, organized by her faithful co-stars from the 2009 romantic comedy, Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds.

While skimming through the played out memes that are generically applied to convey the emotions that Denzel Washington perfectly nailed in the film that finally got him the Oscar,, I was curious enough to check if the trending celebrant has an active Twitter account.

This is just one of MANY

Yes, Betty White is verified! And her last entry wasn’t that long ago, where she publicly thanked Netflix for an early birthday shoutout. But when you further examine her page, you’ll discover that like most cautious users of any age, her engagement is sporadic with long breaks that last for months.

But that hasn’t prevented well-wishers from recognizing her 98th birthday with sweet messages attached to her most recent tweets.

The weirdness around aging and death is demonstrated in the vast landscape of social interactions that breed the yearning for monolithic tribalism,

And more often than not, it can often veer off into hostile territory due to the blinders of insensitivity.

The over-population of jokes about how an elderly person’s “trending” status could mean the worst, is even more distasteful and distressful on her birthday.

Imagine being the one who has to witness the preview of how your death announcement will be received, each time your born day rolls around, and attention-seekers exploitatively resurrect the dusty playbook that ungraciously pays homage to how you miraculously dodged another bullet.

Yes, of course it’s mainly coming from a good place. We don’t want to lose Betty White and we are loudly applauding her ability to live her best life by defying the odds, and proving how being almost 100 isn’t a death sentence.

And yet we can’t ignore how disrespectful it is to weaponize her impressive amount of years on this earth, by being tone-deaf to the brutal avalanche of greetings that provide entertainment at the expense of someone who shouldn’t have to take it.

Why do we need the inclusion of her close proximity to the glowing obituary that’s on stand-by?

The glaring truth of how we are all vulnerably expendable, regardless of our varied stations is unapologetically displayed in password-protected folders, housed by editors at top entertainment trades.

Every single notable name is stored and ready to go when the unfathomable news is made public. And while staring at the created shells that don’t discriminate, I was hit with the brilliant prep skills that guarantee the flawless execution of celebrity obituaries in a timely fashion.

But even more vital and prolific, is the clinical approach to the inevitable rite of passage, that for the most part doesn’t have a pattern of attack that gauges when and how we will be taken, based on the blatant practice of ageism.

Bless Betty White for her long life and vitality!

I’m almost positive that I won’t live that long, and so my respect comes from a place of hearty commendation without the thrill of adding how she has once again cheated what can happen to any of us at anytime.

Perhaps my acceptance of what is no longer a mystery or a source of frightful reflection, makes it easier for me not to project the opposite emotions in places where they don’t belong.

We like to say “respect the dead,” but in this scenario, I say respect the living!

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store