Belltown, the urban neighborhood in Seattle where I live, is about 80% young people — really young, as in 20’s and 30’s tech workers who can afford these rents or mortgage payments — and 20% older people who have downsized from larger homes and chosen city living. I feel younger than my 71 years, and prefer to be surrounded by people younger than I am rather than living in a retirement community where most of the residents would be older. I think in that setting I’d feel older too.
On Friday night Louise and I went to a movie — changing our choice of film to see one two blocks away rather than a 15 minute walk away because Seattle is having a true cold snap and it’s freezing. We came out around 8pm, and went looking for supper. Belltown bars and eateries on a Friday night are packed, but we scored a table in a nearby establishment and had a nice meal and glass of wine.
We were both conscious of being the oldest people in the bar by at least forty years. We weren’t treated any differently from the younger patrons — we had great service, and no one hurried us along. But I find myself wondering where my older compatriots are on a chilly Friday night in Seattle?
We were both conscious of being the outliers, which makes me wonder why it matters to feel and be older than the surrounding group? I’m not sure, but on some level it does. We didn’t, like the elderly people in Shanghai who congregate at Ikea, go to the bar to avoid feeling lonely or hoping to meet dates. We went to have supper. We weren’t trying to hang out all night with a much younger crowd; the noise level alone would preclude that.
I’m thinking that our brains automatically scan the people around us, making a judgment whether we are alike or different, and raising that awareness to a conscious level. In some evolutionary sense, knowing how you relate to the people around you is probably a basic survival skill.
It may be as simple as that.