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Marilyn Heltzer: Demographics tell the story, or so they say

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columns Bemidji, 56619
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

Demographics are all over the place. Every survey looks at the needs, wants or actions of a specific age group. Every product and every advertisement is aimed at a folks within a certain age range.  

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I didn’t used to think about demographics as much because so many people were the same age as I am. Give or take 20 years. But age does creep up. Have you noticed how physicians and dentists are young enough to be our sons or daughters, or even grandkids.

The women at the checkout counter at the grocery store may be looking forward to retirement, but they have years to go before getting the gold watch. Even that, the symbol of retirement, is an unfamiliar notion.

Thank heaven for the guy at the post office who held the door for me the other day and said, “After you, young lady.” He made my day. And he was just about my age. Younger men who have been well-trained by their mothers call me “ma’m.” Of course, those mothers who trained those guys are about the age of my daughters, now all in their 50s.

You see what I mean. It’s about demographics: age groups.

I notice it as I make my way around town doing errands. There are lots of large vehicles: SUVS, vans, pick-up trucks. Many are driven by oldsters like me, as are the big boat cars that some drive as a symbol of their success in life. We maneuver carefully.

Lots of smaller cars are driven by young folks, many of whom have another car in the driveway at home, a car driven by another member of the family. It’s taken to work by a spouse or to school by a teenager who passed a test to get a driver’s license. Younger folks tend to drive fast. If you look in the rearview mirror at the person who honked at you when you didn’t make a left turn fast enough, or on a red light when nobody was coming, it’s usually someone a few decades younger. When that happens to me, I know a moment of pity. All that rushing around.

Then I move on, of course.

Now, all of these are generalities. But while I’m at it, here’s another one. Various times of the day belong to people in different demographic groups. The mornings are for working people and students. Once they’re safely at their place of employment or education, we older folks, as well as young mothers or fathers, small kids in tow, take over. The next time you’re shopping, and hear a child say “grandma!” in a loud voice, notice how many older women look in that direction. Our grandchildren may be grown up and far away, but that call and that young voice is suddenly familiar and must be heeded by someone.

We’re in the time of the year when the light lingers. Oh, blessed light … and there were all those years when we didn’t give a thought to making our way across town or across the country after dark, headlights piercing the night. But as we age, we hesitate just a bit to make those nighttime trips. And maybe the roads in dark December belong to the young.

Maybe the world belongs to the young. But I don’t believe it. I’ve been reading Julian of Norwich lately. She was an early Christian mystic, and I don’t understand all that I read. Julian’s wisdom: All Will Be Well. It’s a philosophy that is perfect for any age.

But it’s especially true for the older demographic. That’s us, folks.

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