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Once I was listening to an episode of Brene Brown's podcast where she was interviewing one of my favorite dementia experts, Dr. Jason Karlawish. I'd recently read his book The Problem of Alzheimer's and Brene had, too. She asked him how he decided on that book title, and they got into an interesting conversation about all the working titles a piece takes on before its final name.


I went through some of that with this blog. One name I considered was "Older Than Me." It's a blog about what I've learned from friends who are – you guessed it! – older than me, so I thought it made sense. Right?


How did I (albeit temporarily) come to "Older Than Me" as a potential blog name? Well, I've worked with older adults in some capacity for almost ten years now, and I continuously struggle with what exactly to call them. (I mean besides, like, their names.) I still stumble over my words when someone asks what I do for my job. "Oh, I work with… " old people? That seems a little rude. The elderly? Nah, don't love the sound of that either. Senior citizens? Ugh, that's too grocery-store-discount sounding. So obviously all these hang-ups re: terminology reared their head when brainstorming a name for this blog.


Enter my recent obsession: Ashton Applewhite. I read her book This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism earlier this summer and became wholly, consumingly, maybe-a-little-scarily obsessed. You think the Swifties have been going wild this summer? They've got nothing on my fandom. This book – dare I say it without sounding too dramatic? – changed my life. I talk about it all the time, incessantly, to anyone who will listen. For Christmas I'm getting a copy for everyone I know. I follow Ashton Applewhite on every social media platform and like her content from my various IG accounts. (Ashton, you've been wondering why a foodie account in North Carolina keeps liking your anti-ageism content? "It's me, hi, I'm the foodie, it's me.")


Anyway, Ashton talks about this same dilemma. (A dilemma which is really found in trying to find a singular term to "define" any large and heterogeneous group of individuals.) She says that "older people" is really the only non-problematic term (she shortens it to "olders", a term I've adopted). The "-er" is crucial here. Young and old are not binary, age is a spectrum. We're all older than some and younger than others. (Except the one very, very youngest and one very, very oldest person alive right now… no, now… wait, now. See, even that's always changing.)


So, "Older Than Me" just made sense. The olders I've spent time with over the past decade are all singularly unique, authentic, rare, distinctive people. The one thing they have in common? They're my friends, and they're all older than me.


I was leaning towards this blog title but wasn't 100% sold. (Maybe because when I dramatically unveiled my winning title to my parents — expecting ooohs and ahhhhs of appreciation — the reaction was less "ooooh" and more "huh.") So I decided to reach out to the guru herself and sent Ashton Applewhite an email, ie: a somewhat manic tome written by a crazed fangirl.


And she responded because she's an angel on earth (and not easily spooked by crazed fangirls, thankfully). She said "I’m on the fence about 'Older than Me.' On the one hand, the salient point is that these people are interesting; as you say, they just happen to be older. OTOH, it’s incredibly important to have older and younger friends, and there’s something very appealing about highlighting conversations with olders. So you’re on your own, and guess what: you already know enough to decide for yourself."


Ashton's words got me thinking (they always do). Although this blog will focus mainly on relationships with folks who are older than me, there's definitely something to be said about not counting out friendships with people who are younger than me. To my friends like Dr. J ("Charlie" — who this blog did eventually become named after) I am younger than them. If Dr. J were talking about me – rather than the other way around – he'd say "My friend Caroline is younger than me." And part of my deepest belief is that true friendship goes both ways, especially in intergenerational relationships. Dr. J is not just pouring wisdom and insight and love into me; I like to think I'm returning the favor. It goes both ways. (This is also a pet peeve of mine when talking about care partners of older adults — we act as if the older is an empty vessel who we must pour into; a void that takes and takes but never gives us anything back. That is SO not true! It's not unidirectional, and neither are the relationships highlighted in this blog.)


And also, one of my favorite friends in the entire world just happens to be over a decade younger than me. And I have gained more from that friendship with Diane than words could ever say! So don't let me have a blog title minimizing that. Like Ashton said: it’s incredibly important to have older and younger friends. She's right. She always is.

My husband and I with our very close friend Diane, who is 10+ years younger than us

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