Leadership Corner:  Who Do You Think You Are? 

By Mel Watson, ISR Aging & Disability Resource Manager

That’s the question I think maybe all of us have been asked at some point. I remember being asked that question by my mum and dad. Who do you think you are? You can hear the tone, can’t you? Back then, it was probably because I was being arrogant or cheeky or doing something sneaky. But this is a fascinating question that I’ve been thinking about my whole life. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve spoken to whose bodies are older and who have said things like, “The person that looks back at me in the mirror is not the person that I feel like I am.” I can relate to that, and I think many people can. Is it common for older people to have some perception of themselves that doesn’t relate to the person looking back in the mirror?

We’re finding out this is not uncommon across the whole of society. We know that with the gay rights movement of the ‘60s, more people were able to live their authentic lives, being able to live their lives in accordance with who they think they are. We know now, with the trans movement, that more people can be their authentic selves by asking people to use pronouns that reflect their inner life and who they think they are. I think we, as older adults, have something in common with the gay rights movement of the ’60s and the trans movement that is taking place now.

The person looking back in the mirror is not the person I feel like I am. People see gray hair, maybe a cane or a walker; perhaps I take a bit of time while I’m at the checkout at the store, and they relate to me as if I’m “less than.” Because in our society, youth is king, and aging is like an enemy. But my inner world is vast. I have a body that moves slower and a brain that takes a moment or two longer to process the ever-increasing amount of data coming in and demanding my attention. But I am not this body. I am more alive and aware than I have ever been. And it’s unacceptable that we live in a world that pushes older adults into the shadows. Ageism is real. And what a world we would live in if we could live by the golden rule and treat others as we wish to be treated.