Can growing old be fun?

Can growing old be fun?

Posted on September 25 by Sylvia McNicoll in Fiction, Recent Releases, Teens
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When I write, it is often to process and rationalize some troubling factor of the world to myself. So it was with Body Swap. Years ago I read about a tragic accident in the local newspaper. An 86 year-old driver had backed up over a 15 year-old in our mall parking lot during Christmas break and killed her. She claimed her car had accelerator issues which the garage had failed to resolve. The judge must have agreed, as she was back driving the next month. When I suggested to a friend that the woman’s reflexes rather than vehicle malfunction caused the accident, my friend called me an ageist. I realized she was right.

 

So I set out to write/right my flawed thinking in the story that became Body Swap. Amazingly, research proved that many cars had been recalled due to unintended acceleration. First the problem was blamed on floor mats that caught on the accelerator, then on sticky gas pedals. A third rationale suggested that the malfunction was a computer coding error and that testing the code to the extent that was needed was even problematic for NASA. My view on the 86 year-old driver shifted.

 

As I further processed and rationalized, I discovered other issues along the way. For example, statistically, the 64+ demographic outnumbers the under-15 crowd around the world; teenagers need to deal with an unprecedented number of seniors. It becomes more important than ever to foster intergenerational relationships. Luckily, the elderly and young adults have something huge in common: their struggle for independence. This commonality can be something to build upon. In our community, just as in Body Swap, teens can earn their volunteer hours pairing with seniors to help them conquer technology, a form of communication independence.

 

Another issue that surfaced was body image. We wish we could be taller, shorter, thinner… We complain about our hair, thighs, hips, skin, and everything else throughout our younger years. But when we look back, we miss our youthful energy and beauty. What better way to show this than by switching my main character 15 year-old Hallie into 82 year-old Susan’s body and vice versa? When Hallie peaks into the rear view mirror and sees a wrinkled face reflected back at her, she misses her real skin, zits and all, while Susan, returning to a youthful physique, responds to a ‘thunder thighs’ insult by kicking the offending boy into a swimming pool.  

 

And what about growing old? Is the reward for working hard all your life simply achy joints and loneliness? Perhaps improving intergenerational relationships can help make “growing old a privilege,” as Eli/God says in my story.

 

Besides some chuckles and hard lump swallows, I hope Body Swap inspires my readers to watch and hold corporations accountable and to savour their good health and beautiful bodies, but mostly to grow empathy – older adults for young people as well as younger adults for seniors. I hope that my processing and rationalization explains the world a little better to you, my reader, and that your life is somehow better for it.

Sylvia McNicoll

Posted by Kendra on April 12, 2016
Sylvia McNicoll photo

Sylvia McNicoll

Sylvia McNicoll is the author of over thirty novels. Bringing up Beauty, her guide dog story, won the Silver Birch Award, launching her to international success. Sylvia lives in Burlington, Ontario.