At a retreat in the mountains I was talking to an older man over dinner. I say, “older” but really, he could’ve been closer to my age than any of yours. Probably. Anyway, we were commenting on how the retreat center had been attractively built into the mountain requiring many flights of stairs and few flat pathways to get from building to building. I noticed no ramps.
“Yes,” he said, “at this age, walking has become a meditation practice in and of itself.”
He was, of course, referring to the need to watch each and every footfall for fear we’d miss a step and tumble into a broken ankle or worse, a hip. A new meaning for walking meditation.
And he was, right, of course. At this age, walking becomes an exercise in mindfulness. It’s something I never thought about until recent years, in the innocence of my (relative) youth.
But now, as friend after friend falls and breaks something, I, too, am more aware of where I step.
At night, especially, the need for taking care was crucial at our retreat center, as steps and pathways were only dimly lit. The peaceful ambience and all that.
I get it: it’s a beautiful place. But it’s hardly accessible, and while most older people are not disabled, the stakes are higher for us. It would’ve been nice to have seen more care taken toward a more multi-generational site.
This is the way it is for us now, though, we senior citizens. We are no longer part of the future and so our needs aren’t as crucial to a successful project. A friend 10 years younger than I recently wrote that she’d reached the “age of irrelevancy.” Although she got there earlier than I did, I can’t disagree.
I’m increasingly aware of things like this, now that I am older. How marginalized older people are. How our needs don’t seem to even dawn on folks like architects, designers–most people who are NOT senior. Our time, it appears, has passed and they look toward the future.
Of course, there’s another whole topic, which is how aesthetics sometimes take precedence in our world in a form over function approach. As with this retreat center.
But that’s a topic for another day.
Would love your thoughts.