Duh! Dick Clark is proof that older people are here to stay. Hey, sick people too!
A friend’s post on Facebook clued me in to last night’s backbiting at Dick Clark’s expense, both on Twitter and on Facebook, during the 2010 countdown. We were having fun elsewhere, on Central Time, and only watched some of the highlights with Kathy Griffin and Anderson Cooper later that evening. So we missed all the comments wondering why Dick Clark doesn’t retire, why ABC keeps trotting him out, etc. One YouTuber even posted a “fail” video complaining that Clark missed a few digits in the countdown. My first thought is, do/did none of these people have grandparents … ? Grandparents they loved? Is this the same group of people that helped hoist Betty White to the hosting slot on Saturday Night Live? I would rather watch any over-65 (or over-75!) professional put on a great show, rather than watch someone young, pretty and incompetent.
Dick Clark is a workaholic and has been his whole life. He doesn’t *want* to retire. He could have done it a long time ago; he is driven to work, even though it apparently destroyed one of his marriages. (He ended up marrying a woman he worked with.) Workaholics love to work; it makes them happy, keeps them going. If you are fond of Dick Clark, or grew up with him, perhaps you can understand why he’d prefer that you watch, and not avert your eyes even though he’s not the youthful man he once seemed to be.
Many people under forty forget (or never knew) that Guy Lombardo did the New Year’s Eve thing until the year he died from a heart attack. Clark clearly wants to do the same. He’s part of the smaller “Silent Generation” that’s historically shared some affinities with the baby boomers, and sometimes served as an advance guard for major changes in our society. Get used to seeing older people, including those with diseases or conditions, who aren’t interested in being put out to pasture… refusing to go quietly into that great night. Where they’re at, it’s still early evening, and they have plenty to accomplish. Look at Roger Ebert – if you’re not following what he’s doing online, you’re missing out.
This has been coming on for a long time. Many people survive with conditions that were once unthinkable: “the big C”, for instance, which quickly took away the lives of many of our favorite classic film and radio stars, but today, is increasingly a condition people live with for years. If you had juvenile diabetes, heaven help you – you weren’t expected to make it into adulthood. Now girls with Type 1 often grow up to have children of their own. Health care costs may be in crisis, but a lot of people are living longer, even if it means living a bit sicker than they would like.
This evening, The Pride of the Yankees aired on TCM. It’s a tearjerker. We know Lou Gehrig goes away, and he dies a horrible death, and we’re sad. It all happens off screen.
Today, we have Michael J. Fox. He won’t go away quietly, or go off screen to suffer in silence, after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. He cuts back his schedule but doesn’t retire completely. He goes on TV – including TCM recently, to share favorite films – and we watch him. He even works with the discomfort many of us feel at his condition, playing an ultimately unsympathetic role on The Good Wife. Like Christopher Reeve, and Ebert, he opens our eyes to conditions we probably knew very little about before.
This year, practically every day will see 10,000 people turning 65. This will go on for a generation.
These 65 year olds? They’re not just going to toodle off because they make some younger people uncomfortable. There will be some economic ramifications, because many older people will not be retiring full-time (and frankly, many of them can’t afford to).
Older people are here to stay. Aging and living with a disease may never be cool, but imagine the alternative. Imagine too, missing out on creative, powerful work, or the televised, annual visit of an “old friend”, just because of our prejudices towards youth and health.