The aging process has you firmly in its grasp if you never get the urge to throw a snowball.The Joy of Aging
Art Linkletter appropriately titled his book: Old Age is Not for Sissies. The title speaks volumes. Getting older is a process, a process of accepting a myriad of age-related challenges (health, emotional, financial), a growing self awareness of aches, pains, bumps, bruises (and a few other maladies); and the need for an ongoing willingness to negotiate through this maze.
So what’s it like being . . . older than your doctor . . . older than your dentist . . . older than the postman . . . older than the president . . . the oldest person in a class you’re taking . . . older than (fill in the blank)? What’s it like being considered old or elderly by commonly accepted standards? It’s . . . well . . . read on.
The Boomers are just now beginning to cross the finish line into retirement — applying for Social Security and Medicare, and expecting the perfunctory 10% discount at various shops around town. I’m at the vanguard of that generation, having been born in 1946. Officially, Boomerism spans birth years from 1946 to 1964.
Just how many Boomers are there? Way too many according to some statisticians who are crunching the numbers. There are an estimated 79 million Baby Boomers right behind me. Beginning January 1t, 2011 every single day more than 10,000 Baby Boomers will reach the age of 65. Ten thousand, every single day for the next 19 years!
According to a recent U.S. government report, entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare — plus interest costs on the U.S. national debt — will absorb approximately 92 cents of every single dollar of federal revenue by the year 2019. That leaves eight cents of every single dollar to be spent on everything else.
Politically, both the left and the right agree that this coming massive increase in retirees is going to cause some serious budget problems — a discussion we will have in a future Reflexions column.
When I’m out in the community, I’m constantly reminded of my “elderly” status. At stores, the gym or wherever there’s a door, a younger person may dart ahead to open the door for me (as though I couldn’t do that for myself). Or, use of the word “sir,” in an attempt to show respect.
I am at the “early elderly” age, where life seems to be a never-ending challenge, constantly “adjusting” to stay in the game. Over the past couple of years, I’ve developed some game strategies: Hard to understand people from time to time? — just smile and nod at what appears to be the appropriate moment. Memory not what it used to be? Oh well.
Knee gets sore when I do such and such? Just don’t do such and such. Night driving seems to be more challenging? Avoid driving at night. Using the word “what” constantly? Continue the use of the word, knowing that the time to “invest” in a hearing aid is approaching.
Forgetful? Oh well. Sleep not what it used to be? Oh well. Pull a muscle here, strain a ligament there? — make another doctor’s appointment or visit the local pharmacy for the latest anti-inflammatory. And on and on and on. The mantra seems to be: adjust, adjust, adjust, . . . then keep on keeping on!
There are some benefits (actually, one worth mentioning) to being “early elderly.” The finish line is clearly in sight, which can be motivating. Have I done the things I wanted to do in life? Have I seen the world? Had the experiences I wanted to have? If not, the clock is ticking — rather loudly.
Wisdom is as Wisdom Does
I recall when I was growing up, the phrase was: older people had wisdom. Wisdom? Ah . . . I can barely spell the word. I think it’s fair to say though, that older people have had a myriad of life experiences. And, older people have become comfortable with themselves and their beliefs. And, lastly, older people have less of a need to prove themselves. Does that add up to wisdom? Hmm . . . . not quite sure.
At the same time though, a study reported by the American Psychological Association (APA) reveals that older adults are 10 times more likely to remember false information — and believe it’s true — than younger adults. Memory loss and aging are facts of life. There are a host of acronyms to describe the phenomena: AMI — age-related memory impairment or AAMI — age-associated memory impairment, and MCI — mild cognitive impairment, to name a few.
Researchers also learned that older adults who were tested did not remember test information correctly and did not know their answers were incorrect. This combination of not remembering correctly and being unwilling to admit there’s a problem can make older adults especially vulnerable to scam artists.
Memory loss in older adults is not inevitable though. The brain is capable of producing new brain cells at any stage in life. What’s the old saying? Use it or lose it!
Keep on Keeping on
And so it goes; the unavoidable: death and taxes. In the meantime, aside from checking the Obituaries daily, having most conversations — with friends and relatives — start with health issues, life goes on. Truthfully, I’m not looking forward to all of the issues that go with aging.
But, I do have a magic bullet, one that has been with me my entire life; exercise. A walk, a swim, a trip to the gym, will be, and has always been the antidote to many of life’s challenges. As one older guy once told me: “keep moving . . . you gotta keep moving.”
In the meantime there’s a lot of living to do: a National Geographic trip to Alaska scheduled for June, a trip to the Adriatic in the fall, and if my knees are willing, a few ski trips planned for the winter. Keep on keeping on!
Robert Ross can be reached by e-mail at: SanDiegoRoss@Yahoo.com
Copyright © 2011 by Robert Ross, all rights reserved