They speak Spainish in Spain.

Cultural Experiences of International Students in Spain

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Is anyone really old in Spain?

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Old ladies.  Spain seems to have a lot of old ladies.  I just don’t remember seeing so many old ladies walking around on the streets when I was growing up.

I decided to do some research on this.  According to Wikipedia, of Spain’s 46.1 million people, about 3.2 million of them are women 65 and older, and 4.4 million of them are men 65 and older.  All together, this portion of the population is 16.5 %.

I grew up in Minnesota.  I looked up the same statistics on Wikipedia regarding the 65 and older population.  Minnesota’s total population is 5.1 million people (which makes Spain roughly 9 times bigger).  The 65 and older portion is 12.2%, which means Minnesota has 622,000 “old ladies and men”  And as there are .72 males/ female in this particular age demographic, that makes about 366,000 old ladies in Minnesota.  If you multiply that number times nine (Spain is roughly 9 times bigger than Minnesota) then Minnesota has basically the same number of old ladies as Spain does.

But its weird, because in Minnesota, unless you are at Mystic Lake casino at 11 am on a Wednesday, or at an elderly persons home, you rarely see any of these old people.  Maybe it has to do with the fact that they don’t need to rely on cars to get around.   Although we have excellent mass transportation in Minnesota (like the metrotransit buses and lightrail) we generally don’t spend too much time walking around.  A movement has begun towards using less cars and more bicycles, (check out the greenway bike trail) but this is usually a younger or more modern section of the public.

In Spain, on the other hand, old ladies are walking around everywhere.  Within walking distance of just about every neighborhood you will find a grocery store, several bakeries, a meat market, fish market, fruit store, a tobacco shop and several bus stops.  Old ladies buy their own groceries using a bag on wheels to tote them home.  They pick up bread and newspapers in the mornings at the bakery.  One day I caught myself fighting for my place in line with an elderly lady at a mobile phone shop, and another day another elderly lady insisted on going to the front of the line at the fish market I was shopping at because her husband was home sick.  These old ladies don’t just get out, they have gusto! And it works.  People stop aside.  They don’t argue back.  They treat these ladies with respect.

In Minnesota I used to walk to the local grocery store every few days with my dad.  Two years ago though, like many smaller businesses, the neighborhood store closed down.  According to google maps, the grocery store he goes to now is 8 minutes driving, or an hour walk from his house.  My dad is an active person, but you have to admit that its pretty inconvenient.  In Bloomington, where I grew up, the bakery is a section of the grocery store, as is the fish market, the fruit store, and the fish market.  We do all of our shopping at once, load the groceries into the trunks of our cars, and drive home.

So maybe the reason I don’t notice all the old ladies in Minnesota is that they aren’t walking around the neighborhood doing their daily chores.  Maybe, like my grandmother, they don’t drive and they need someone to do their grocery shopping for them.  Maybe they come out, but its just once a week, and they get it all done at once.

Where I live now I can walk to the grocery store in less than three minutes.  I can smell the bread baking from the bakery below my window every morning and I can choose between the meat market across the street, the fish market kitty corner, or buying a ready made kebab from the shop just next door.  In all of these places I am generally standing in line behind  well-dressed old lady or two.

In my dad’s neighborhood there is a woman whose doctor told her she should move her body more.  He recommended an upright three-wheeled bicycle.  The last time I was home my dad pointed her out as she was doing her laps up and down the same street.  He said she did it every day at the same time.  Up and down.  The same street.  I imagine that this woman could also walk as far as the movie rental place several blocks away, or perhaps she could ride her three-wheeled bicycle to the lake just across the street, but she chooses to stick to her laps up and down the same street.  And still, you have to think, good for her.

But here, I don’t know, maybe it is something in the Mediterranean diet- all that wine and olive oil, but these ladies can move.  They walk their dogs.  They take up tables at the bars-drinking wines and liqueurs, playing cards at long tables. Even after midnight on a weeknight you will see a whole group of them dining or drinking together!   They are walking the pathways around the parks at night.  They are waiting outside the shops for the local bus.  They are out! It makes me wonder, are you ever really old in Spain?

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Written by iamandreaholm

October 8, 2009 at 12:33 AM