Aging gracefully? No, realistically in Daydreaming on the Porch

  • Aug. 13, 2020, 8:07 a.m.
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  • Public

Warning! This is entry is not for the faint of of heart, or for those who look in the mirror and turn away with a twinge of horror from the sight of wrinkles and sagging skin. Nor is it for those who take a selfie one day and are never the same afterward.

Do we age gracefully? No. Emphatically not. It’s a creeping existential nightmare, but eventually we get over it and realize our own Septuagenarian Age is going to be the best years of our lives because retirement at 66 was freedom at last.

The whole process starts innocently enough. We can laugh about that saying from the hippie days of the late 60s: “You can’t trust anyone over 30.” Haha. It was funny back then. Not so much so now if you’re pushing 60, 70 or beyond into some permanently gray twilight zone.

I first tackled this subject back in 2004 in an entry at OD. In my youth at 54 I was given to sly and self deprecating comments about getting “older.” Now I can say it out loud. I am no longer “older,” but I am OLD. Let’s admit it. Age is not just a number. It IS a number, not a state of mind. After a certain age (you take your pick), one is OLD, as in a gerontologically challenged, long-term AARP member and “senior citizen,” wizened but maybe still spry, who can laugh at the idea of living in one of those massive, senior-only retirement communities called “sun cities,” the brainchild of that archenemy of youth, Del Webb. Can you even imagine living in a place where all you ever saw was other old people, even if you can be a “young” as 55 to live in one of those sprawling ticky-tack blots on the landscape? As Charlie Brown was apt to say: “Arghhhhhh!!” Or was it Snoopy or Linus?

No, thanks. Give me a commune or an intentional community, or a nice multi-generational apartment building or complex where you can be any age and your mental health is probably better off for it.

As I wrote years ago, “…we live in a society that values youth and looks, but seems to have forgotten that beauty is only skin deep. The key is to remember that when you are old, you’ve gotten very far along the road of life and are living proof that hardships and vicissitudes can be surmounted. With aging comes a certain degree of wisdom, and the young are often the last to realize that…”

I’ll never forget chatting briefly with a 20-year-old “kid” once who told me with a straight face, “After 40 I guess a couple more years don’t make much difference.”

Here are some things that are as true now as they were when I recorded these thoughts back in 2004:

• You look upon joggers as the most hopelessly masochistic beings on the face of the earth, especially old codgers panting and heaving along on a 90-degree day.

• You have a slight pain in your knee after getting up from bending down to pet the cat, and laugh about it feigning more pain than you actually feel, and bravado as well.

• Air streams, RVs and KOA campgrounds don’t look as bad or ridiculous as they once did.

• Rocking on the porch on a late summer day never seemed so nice.

• The sound of a lawnmower can put you to sleep.

• The only TV listings you check are for PBS.

And here’s something else. All kidding aside, but I really don’t care what I see in the mirror. And, I can wear any kind of shorts I want to with any color socks or even mismatched socks. Who cares?

I once stood in line to check out at the drug store many years ago when my hair was still mostly dark, and I was in back of an “older gentleman” (nice ring to it), and I just sorta shook my head in awe at his appearance and outfit: stringy, thinning gray hair barely combed; thin, thin white-as-a-sheet legs with blue varicose veins; and the oddest combination of Bermuda shorts and golf shirt. “Wow, I thought. Am I gonna look like that one day?” 20 years later: “You know what? I don’t care!!”

I take comfort in something I once read about how if you make it to 65 your chances of reaching 82 are substantially greater. Remember, 82 is the new 70 these days, or at least it was before this year’s coronavirus pandemic changed all the equations about being old and vulnerable. Now we senior citizens can walk into a grocery store and come out with a deadly infection, even wearing masks. (unless perhaps if you go in to buy your bananas wearing an N95 medical grade mask and a face shield). I actually have a pack of face shields. They’re cheap and comfortable.

So yes, being old now is hardly something to laugh about given that everything has changed and going into a hospital for any kind of surgery, elective or not, could be a death sentence. And don’t even mention having to live in a nursing home. Just put me out of my misery, please!

A few final remarks. I recently posted an entry about some of an older generation’s most venerated singers and jazz artists. I knew that such a post would almost guarantee that any PBer under 40 would probably yawn, roll their eyes, and wonder if the place had been taken over by senior citizens.

To the young, with a few exceptions, old people are are invisible.

As the poet e.e. Cummings once wrote:

“…old age

Scolds Forbid
n’t Don’t

&youth goes
Right on
owing old.”

Last updated August 14, 2020

Marg August 13, 2020

I like the wisdom and the ‘knowing yourself’ that comes with ageing. I don’t like what it does to your body though!!

Oswego Marg ⋅ August 14, 2020

The body is a vessel for he soul and when the soul is ready it will take flight.

Marg Oswego ⋅ August 14, 2020

It’s just the ‘having to live in the vessel’ that annoys me sometimes though😁

Oswego Marg ⋅ August 14, 2020

I really noticed that with Mom, but what a beautiful soul!

Marg Oswego ⋅ August 15, 2020

Yes her sweet soul definitely shone through :)

ConnieK August 13, 2020

All my siblings died before age 65. At 68, I feel pretty good about surviving, saggy skin, age spots, and all. :)

Oswego ConnieK ⋅ August 14, 2020

You go! At 69 I feel grateful to have lived this long, given the adversity and illness I’ve experienced. It’s like each day when we get up we have an opportunity to appreciate life anew!

ConnieK Oswego ⋅ August 14, 2020

Yes! My eldest gets upset about turning 40. I tell him there are worse options.

Oswego ConnieK ⋅ August 14, 2020

How very true! I got a black birthday cake at work when I turned 40 that had RIP on it and black balloons, too. Cheery! 😄

ConnieK Oswego ⋅ August 14, 2020

At 40, you can still laugh at death. 60's, not so much.

Oswego ConnieK ⋅ August 14, 2020

Yes, it was all good fun 30 years ago. That seems like some other life in a far away galaxy! :)

mcbee August 13, 2020

Sometime in my 40's I began to focus on the heart and soul of people I met, and for the most part not the exterior, aging or young. For myself, I Iost all vanity and don't really care if I am wearing comfortable as opposed to fashionable. I try to take care of my skin, and I am lucky that I have a youthful face. I have not been so good at taking care of my body with enough exercise and eating as healthy as I should. Overall I feel that I matured and chose to focus on the important things, instead of the shallowness of the society we have entered. I am okay with that. I have loved your postings of music and archived writings. My new guilty pleasure is a u-tube channel that a fellow journalist posted on Facebook. It's a set of twins, late teens or possible 20's, they have probably never heard music other than rap or r & b in their lifetime. In the videos they are listening to songs they never heard in their lives, and reacting. I watched their faces as they listened to Janis Joplin, Queen, Phil Collins, Aerosmith and John Lennon yesterday. They will pause the song and comment. I love that this classic music is appreciated by a good ear, no matter the age or cultural identity.

Regarding elder living facilities, I worked as an ombudsman for about a year and a half visiting long term care homes. It was volunteer work. There were a few moments of connection with some elders that were very rewarding. Sadly, most of the homes I visited were just way stations, holding cells of a sort, for people waiting to die. For every good facility there were 15 bad ones. It has me determined to stay healthy enough to stay home until I am 85 or more. It was a reality check for me at this post retirement age to see so much of what the next decade or two may bring. I eventually had to give it up, but I'm certainly glad I did it.
Bottom line, I see two kinds of elders. Those that continue to fully live life and embrace it. The ones that inspire you. Then there are the ones that have given up. I certainly hope the day comes when the value of our elderly is embraced by this country and they are given every opportunity to thrive instead of waiting to die. Mindset is half the battle.

Telstar mcbee ⋅ August 13, 2020

Good mindset.......... very good point.

Oswego mcbee ⋅ August 14, 2020

The twins on YouTube are amazing, and it’s so much fun to watch their reactions to classic music videos from decades past. I’ve been tuned to their channel for about a month or so now and have watched their subscriber numbers skyrocket. There are tons of reactor YouTubers out there, but the Twin are among the very best (I’m always discovering new ones who are very good) They are 21-years-old old and so opened minded about music for people that age. It’s very refreshing!

Your comments about elder facilities and being an ombudsman for awhile were very interesting. How sad it must have been to realize that most of them are waystations for people waiting to die who have loved ones who either won’t or can’t take care of them in their homes. Or maybe no loved ones at all.

I want to be the kind of older person who embraces life for as long as I can, and in no matter what condition I’m in. There will also come a time when people who are dying of old age can choose physician assisted death with dignity, ending their lives when they are ready and/or experiencing so much suffering there is no real life anymore because their situation is terminal. There are only a handful of states that allow this now, and it’s usually for people with terminal illnesses like cancer. But with the tidal wave of elderly we see now, I shudder at the prospect of so many of sound mind suffering without compassionate care, before they can get palliative care and Hospice. This is a complex and controversial topic but I think it needs to be urgently addressed.

mcbee Oswego ⋅ August 14, 2020

I agree with you about death with dignity.
My son and his wife have expressed that they will have me live with them if I get to that point. While that is a sweet offer, my goal is to avoid that ever happening.
I'm impressed you knew about the twins! I'm going to have to peruse you tube more often.

Kristi1971 August 14, 2020

Maybe it's just my 49-ness that I am turning @ 7:37pm tonight, but you are not old. Nope. Not old. I don't see it. I guess I need to read onward now..I just had to get that out at the beginning.

Oswego Kristi1971 ⋅ August 14, 2020

Now that you’ve read the whole thing, do you agree that I am “old?” Lol

Kristi1971 Oswego ⋅ August 14, 2020

Nope! Just a whole lot wiser. Haha! I just don't think of anyone as old until they are in their 90s. I've seen so many people under 90 that are just so spry and witty to think of that age as "old". Gosh my Nana hiked with me into her early 90s, but then her OA made it impossible (knees). She had a replacement @ 93 or 94 and once she was able to walk again would take easy walks. One of my uncles gardened until he was 96. He then fell and broke his hip...died shortly thereafter. His gardens were legendary in Brunswick, ME. People used to come by just to see them.

Oswego Kristi1971 ⋅ August 14, 2020

Okay, okay! You’ve convinced me I’m not old. I now have a new lease on life. :)

Kristi1971 Oswego ⋅ August 14, 2020

Yay! Besides...I do think most of it is a state of mind...and you just don't have that state of mind, I think.

Kristi1971 August 14, 2020

'shook my head in awe at his appearance and outfit: stringy, thinning gray hair barely combed; thin, thin white-as-a-sheet legs with blue varicose veins; and the oddest combination of Bermuda shorts and golf shirt. “Wow, I thought. Am I gonna look like that one day?” 20 years later: “You know what? I don’t care!!”' - Perfect!

Oswego Kristi1971 ⋅ August 14, 2020

Fortunately, I won’t have to worry about thinning hair.

Kristi1971 Oswego ⋅ August 14, 2020

That's great!!

Jinn August 15, 2020

I am not liking this aging thing at all :-)

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