Like millions of people who watched 88 year-old Betty White host Saturday Night Live, I was amazed by her flawless comic timing and her ability to handle the pressure of a complex live show. She boosted SNL’s ratings with her sass and charm, prompting a sort of intergenerational lovefest across the country. Not surprisingly, there have been lots of comments and tweets from younger adults who are clamoring for their own Nanas and Mamaws to be more like Ms. White.
It got me to thinking. Sure, older adults can take inspiration in Ms. White’s willingness to stretch beyond her comfort zone. She obviously has a great attitude about aging. It is no wonder that some young adults wish their couch-potato grandparents would put more pizzazz into their own lives.
However, I must offer a word of caution. Not all 88 year-olds have the overall good health of Ms. White. Many face tough health issues and decline through no fault of their own. When well-intentioned family members make comments like, “Why can’t you be more like Betty White?”, many older adults are likely to feel scolded or inferior as if they are not trying hard enough.
So while we celebrate Betty White’s success, let us remember that not all octogenarians are the same. We need to focus on the individual and not get caught in a trap of comparison. Aging really is more than attitude.