Until our family moved to Vermont, I had very little exposure to people aged 65 or older – the demographic often referred to as “senior citizens,” but which I prefer to think of as “elders.”
I wasn’t alone; our ultra-mobile society, with its emphasis on education and achievement, encourages young people to follow educational and employment opportunities. As my husband and I moved from college to early jobs to graduate school in major metropolitan areas, we were primarily surrounded by members of our own generation – give or take a decade at most.
Vermont, as many Vermonters know, is aging faster than the rest of the United States: The 2015 census put Vermont’s median age at 42.8, which ties Vermont with New Hampshire for second oldest state in the nation (after Maine.) Caring for the aged is a growth industry here.
That Vermont is an elderly state may have something to do with why I came into closer contact with my elders after we moved here. But the main reason is our church.
The church that my family attends, Memorial Baptist, has an age distribution of roughly 12 months to 91 years in the pews each Sunday. Because the congregation is small — about 60-70 people in church on a given week — there’s little opportunity for people to form cliques based on age; you rub shoulders with babies and nonagenarians alike.
This June 7, our church and our community lost one of our best elders: my 91-year-old friend Persis Rowe.