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HAPPY BIRTHDAY

Surprise an older adult with a life-positive card

Go into any card shop and you get
a graphic understanding of society's view of aging. The overwhelming majority of cards for middle-aged and older people perpetuate the stereotypes with a variety of ageist jokes about falling apart, senility, memory loss, and lying about age – whether you're "over the hill" or "thirty-nine and holding" or even "young at heart."

Are these cards funny? The problem is that these messages subtly become part of our beliefs. And even if people receiving the cards laugh, they also know that they're at an age when people make fun of their age. They are indeed getting older and society will not value them much longer. That message is hard to brush off with a laugh.

What do you think of the following commentary from comedian Larry Miller:

The only time in our lives we like to get old is when we're kids. If you're less than 10 years old you're so excited about aging you think in fractions: "How old are you?" "Six and a half!" You're never 36 and a half. The greatest day of your life: you become 21. But you turn 30. It makes you sound like bad milk. Then you're pushing 40. It's all slipping away. Then you reach 50. "My dreams are gone!" You become 21, you turn 30, you're pushing 40, you reach 50, and you make it to 60. By then you've built up so much speed you HIT 70. After that? It's day by day. You hit Wednesday. In your 80s you hit lunch. My grandmother won't even buy green bananas. It doesn't end there. In the 90s you start going backward. "I was just 92." Then a strange thing happens. If you make it over a 100 you become a kid again: "I'm 104. And a half."


Compare children's birthday cards to adult birthday cards. Why is it great to turn 10, but not so great to turn 50? What about 70 years? What do cards for 100-year-olds look like and say? What do you think of the cards? What views of aging do they perpetuate?

A birthday is a time to celebrate the fact that you've been born and that you're still living. You're never too old to have a great birthday. There was a 69-year-old woman named Edith Gowan. She wanted to drive an 18-wheeler truck on her birthday. So a company provided her with a truck, birthday cake, and instructor. After her drive, when she climbed out of the truck, she exclaimed, "I can honestly say that my 69th birthday was the best ever!" Why do you think she said that? What difference does it make if you're 10 years old or 70 years old? Does your age really have anything to do with a birthday and the wishes you might have?

Make a beautifully decorated, life-positive birthday card to give to an older adult. Let them know why you think they're an important, unique, special person.

Happy birthday!

© SV Bosak, www.legacyproject.org

Materials
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Selection of birthday
  cards
Paper
Markers, pencil
  crayons

Connections
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Schools (art; social
  studies; language
  arts)
Youth groups
Seniors groups

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