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:
Last updated August 14, 2020