Citizens of Seniority: Growing Old in America
by Amelia Kanan
When venturing into the modern world with my grandmother, it’s clear to understand how she feels as if the world is pushing her out.
We hadn’t even stepped into the local Trader Joe’s before I witnessed her feelings of fear and invisibility. Shuffling through the busy sliding doors, a stranger unknowingly brushed past her and the gentle impact had set her off balance. As she grasped my arm, I felt her sway with the ebb and flow of patrons.
It dawned on us both that she should be better equipped for this grocery-foraging journey. She retrieved her confidence with a shiny, red cart and surged forward with her hands gripping the handle.
Every time she stopped for an item, she parked the cart, as if she was ready to sit and read the Encyclopedia among the frazzled shoppers.
Yet the time she took was not leisurely, in the least. It was cautionary; time well spent. Constantly on guard, she protected her ghost-like frame from a carelessly swinging basket and a grabby limb that desperately jabbed for a $1.99 bag of Organic Spinach.
Despite logically validating her struggle, my impatience groaned inside. Noticing that after 15 minutes, she had only gathered two of the five items on her list. Ignorantly, I offered to “go ahead” and “quickly grab” the last three things she needed.
Her annoyed, but polite rejection prompted me to take note. Perhaps this was another instance that will make her feel pushed, just like the unassuming stranger’s neglectful nudge.
Finally, with her collection of five provisions, she turned toward the checkout lanes, the finish line.
However in this stretch for victory, she noticed a rogue toddler with a mini, child cart.
Her panic gave way to survival strength and she swiftly swerved the cart – the wrong way. Luckily, the nimble toddler pivoted to avoid a collision. Everyone walked away without injury, but my grandmother did make a plea for emotional distress on the car ride home.
Later that evening, she would share our grocery journey with her 95-year-old boyfriend over dinner.
Recounting emotions of fear, insult and neglect, she would make large and general accusations like, “everyone” has become too busy, too preoccupied with themselves to care about little old ladies.
I cannot argue, because I agree. I am unfortunately one of them.
So, I listen and attempt to understand. Try to recognize how the world that she gave love, and good, strong-hearted children to, is telling her to leave. Notice that no one depends on her opinions, actively seeks her wisdom or honors the struggles she’s had to endure to keep surviving in this mad, chaotic place.
Maybe, if I can uncover those challenges and feelings of elderly invisibility today, the pain of tomorrow will be less. Or, when they do begin to arrive at my doorstep in years to come, I will be able to embrace them, as they will be packaged with the memories of my grandmother.
This is a small glimpse of the inspiration behind my new photography series, titled “Citizens of Seniority: Growing Old in America.”
According to the article “The U.S. Isn’t Just Getting Older. It’s Getting More Segregated by Age.” age segregation and age-awareness are growing issues.
It is my mission to educate myself and others about senior issues, from healthcare and financial to behavioral and death. Exhibit how aging struggles unite every human being.
Visually compare the living histories that walk within today’s modern world, from those living alone on sidewalks to others who are surrounded by support. Reflect the confusion, worry and embarrassment in wise eyes. And display examples of how this demographic is too often not considered.
If you would like to learn more or know of a potential subject who would like to participate, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or ameliakanan.com with the subject “Senior citizen series.”