I was lucky to find notes of the back of this thrift store photo—“Great Grandmother Kate Isiater,” in one handwriting and “July 22, 1936” in another. Without the date, I would have had a hard time determining the era of this photo. Her dress isn’t much help. There’s a belt at the middle, but it’s hard to tell where it hits, and the angle of photo doesn’t reveal the full the length.
This great grandmother is perhaps in her eighties or more. She might be missing a few teeth, given the look of her jaw, and her hands appear to be arthritic. Her hair is completely white and thinning. She needs a cane to walk. I wonder if she got into her dress by herself or if she needed help.
Recently I’ve been reading a hard hitting book on aging, Never Say Die by Susan Jacoby. In it she distinguishes between the “young old,” those in their sixties and seventies, and the “old old” in their eighties and beyond. Today’s “young old” from the baby boomer generation seem to think that they will never know infirmity. But the “old old” struggle with impediments to easy movement as well as diseases like Alzheimer’s that target the aged. Her message is bracing—no matter how many stairs you climb or vegetables you eat, limitations brought on by aging will likely catch up with you if you live long enough.
Kate is certainly one of the “old old.” She looks quite poised and dignified, but I wonder what kind of struggle it took before she settled down on that park bench.