Is it never too late to be a rock star?
“It is never too late to be a rock star”. This somewhat worn-out phrase in one of my public presentations a couple of years ago provoked an interesting debate between myself and a professional rock musician. He was (perhaps rightfully) disturbed by this claim because for him it meant downgrading rock music to an easy and simple art form that anyone can learn to master at any time of their life. It is always a gift to find oneself in a conversation with someone whose view differs from mine, for it allows me to review and correct my own argument and hone its justifications so that the message is not misunderstood. Of course, the phrase I used was not intended to simplify the skill and technique required to play rock music. But for me, being a rock star has a wider significance than just heavenly guitar-tapping or hitting the high notes. It is about seeing yourself differently, testing a new identity, and going on stage (no matter how big or small) with a goal to show others: This is who I am. I think that these kinds of opportunities are given to us less and less the more we age.
The goal of good aging is being met when we understand it as a complementing story of our life which began a long time ago and continues to be supplemented every day. Aging is not about fading away, but a constant replenishment of life and rebuilding our identity. The roots of our old age identity are in our youth and early adulthood. Inside our aging bodies and behind our wrinkled eyes we remain the same person. This next sentence may make you gasp: We are the future old people. Doesn’t it make sense when you think about it? And how successfully we keep ignoring the fact that we are aging every day and consequently maintaining somewhat narrow and vague views of our future selves.
Whether we like it or not, we have a culture that idealizes youth. This culture is held through education, media, politics, and long-term attitudes that are not challenged. Social and cultural attitudes toward aging certainly have an effect on personal age-identification, leading to positive or negative self-conceptions. This, in turn, has a significant impact on how an older person maintains or disconnects from social involvement. In order to guarantee good and meaningful aging for everyone, older people should be offered more possibilities to build new social networks, collect meaningful experiences, and attain a sense of purpose after work-life. And I’m not talking about starting a new hobby, but actually re-creating yourself.
We have to keep in mind, however, that although aging concerns everyone (at least all the lucky ones), aging affects different people in different ways. Not everyone wants to be a rock star. But if we allow that possibility for ourselves and our aging peers, we can change the perception of life as a whole, as something that is continuously rebuilt and renewed. Aging does not simply mean growing old and decelerate – we can choose to keep growing up and amping up.