Discover Teaneck '83: "THEN AND NOW"

Published for The Teaneck Housing Center by The Teaneck News
May 18, 1983

'The Third Age'

By Ann Robison

It has been variously called the gold or silver age. For some it is the third age -- for those who have graduated from youth and middle age. Others see it as the dessert time after the soup and meat and potatoes life.

In a panel discussion in Washington recently 77-year-old Maggie Kuhn, the feisty Gray Panther leader, insisted that old age is not a disaster. "With it comes freedom," she said. "I wear my wrinkles as a badge of distinction," Her mind is rapier sharp as she continues to fight against sexism and racism.

Those who know and write about this busy ever-changing town of ours are aware that many of the contributing participants are over 62, and already recipients of Social Security benefits.

The third-agers are not listed by age in year books, corporation rosters or other lists, but you can be sure that they are well represented among the officers, on the boards and as chairpersons on committees in charge of implementing the decisions.

And so we say bravo to our older citizens as we thank them for the role they play in Teaneck, and the valuable contribution they make toward a more beautiful, more honorable and more comfortable society.

The cover story in the April 25 issue of  Time Magazine about 82-year-old Congressman Claude Denson Pepper tells us that despite his tri-focals, a pacemaker and hearing aid, he is like a vintage automobile with new parts: "he gets better and more powerful with age."

Surely you have noticed the gray heads or gray turned blond, brown or black, who do headstart for children who need help, who man ambulances, or drive patients for rehabilitation, who work on fund raising enterprises for organizations like the Lung, Cancer and Hear Associations, for Easier Seals or Boy and Girl Scouts, for church suppers or synagogue bazaars, or who give services in hospitals, day care centers and half-way houses. The list is endless.

Unfortunately there are among us the elderly who are frail, incapacitated and lonely. For them, too, their younger and healthier elderly are in the forefront of efforts to give them help and comfort. Who has not heard of "Meals on Wheels?" With sadness we must mention the grim spectra of people who were writers, pianists, scientists of note, who spend their last years mindless, self consciousness lost forever. When the strong third-agers visit them in nursing homes they can only think "How tarnished is their 'golden age.' "

Perhaps the point of all the above is to emphasize the true meaning of "old" or "elderly" or "senior citizen." like human beings of all ages. They come in different sizes, strengths, abilities and talents.

But more than all the ages, the third age brings to the society a lifetime of experience and the wisdom that a lot of living and a lot of giving bestow. It has been said that when an old person dies, it is as if a library has burned down.

We are told that today some 26 million Americans are over 65 and another 33 million are 50 to 65 years old. By the year 2030 one out of every four Americans will be 60 or older. They are a valuable resource, we must learn to utilize them. They can make it difference in any election. The graying of America is upon us.

Perhaps Robert Browning was right when he wrote almost a century ago: "Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be. The last of life for which the first was made.

-- "The Teaneck Taxpayers League was formed in the early 1930's. They proceeded to change the form of government from the old ward system to the present mayor-council form with the five councilmen elected at large, in turn electing their own mayor...The first Taxpayers league council changed the mechanics of government to the present council-manager form.  The appointed town manager would be the actual head of all elements of town government."

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