This year marks Queen Elizabeth’s 92nd birthday. In 2017, she made 50 public appearances, in addition to her everyday duties. My little company coordinated about 40-ish weddings last year, so I know how busy she was.  In her 92 years, she’s seen a lot. From volunteering in World War II to the advent of the age of technology, her years have taught her a lot.

My mother-in-law will be 93 this year, and my great-aunt 105. Both are remarkable women. When asked, they can’t tell you their secret to longevity except to stay active. They’ve worked, in the home and outside of it, raised children, outlived their spouses, and found their own way. Since I know both ladies, I know they don’t say much, but if they do have something to say, it’s worth hearing.

Do you wonder what these women would tell you about their stories? The highlights and lowlights? Do they think about their legacy, or just live and work each day trying to do the right thing?

My mother-in-law, I believe, would consider her sons and grandchildren her legacy, much like the Queen might. Her sons work hard, stay busy, maintain their homes and pay taxes. The grandchildren, however, are still figuring themselves out a bit – making career moves and mistakes; starting relationships, but not committing; making big mistakes from small decisions. 

The Queen’s grandchildren, from what we observe across the pond, have been through
the same.

From a public perspective, the one thing I most admire about the young royals is their commitment to starting a public conversation about mental health, and the entire stigma surrounding it – from addiction to family issues to moral decline. The Heads Together initiative, started by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (Will and Kate) and Prince Harry, is pretty impressive, at least from this writer’s point of view. I encourage you to do a little Google-search about it.

Here, in our little community, we have a difficult time talking about the big elephants in the room. We watch far-too-skinny girls walk dogs down the street and pick our friends up from jail after getting DUIs. But we don’t talk much about addiction and mental health, except in closed circles. This issue hits very close to home for me, and I think it’s time we started talking about the deterioration of community.

There’s not one Celebrate Recovery group in Rome anymore. Addiction support meetings are difficult to find.  Our amazing medical community is doing all they can, but navigating the path to recovery and the right help for everything from eating disorders to addiction to depression is a muddy, dark road. We prefer to support the arts and “fancy” causes rather than mental health programs and family support groups. Don’t get me wrong, I love the arts. I love music and dance and theatre and fun heart-shaped sculptures. But I also love children and young people, who are floundering. They are lost, and we need to talk about it. A conversation, I pray, will lead to systematic and measurable improvement.

I will not profess to know the answers to the ills of our society, but I do know we should talk about them openly. If the English are known for their stiff upper lips, then the Southern ladies and gentlemen are not far behind. If the Brits are talking about mental health, can’t we? 

You know how I feel about the British Royal Family – a little obsessed, a little crazy – but I also admire their perseverance and ability to adjust to the times. And I’m very impressed with the public conversation about mental health they’ve started. Let’s follow suit and at least start talking. The shame of addiction and mental illness should not silence our friends and family. Let us be the noisy Americans we are known for. 

Our extra-special senior adult community, like our over-90 year old friends and relatives, has learned a lot about adapting to change. They’ve lived nearly a century, and seen more change, heartache, and upheaval than most of us will. And each day these fine ladies, all queens in their own right, do the right thing and stay active. Let’s get active too – let’s put our own heads together and start talking.