Sunday, August 21, 2016

Growing older but not getting old. . .


On August 19, 1988, then President Ronald Reagan declared August 21 as National Senior Citizens Day.  Now, I don’t mind being a senior citizen, but do not call me elderly. I cringe when I read in the newspaper about an elderly person being transported to the hospital after an accident or making a crime report--and they turn out to be ten years younger than I am!
I don’t know who coined the phrase you’re only as old as you feel, but I believe it should be amended to you’re only as old as you let yourself become. My mother used to tell me I’d never grow up, an edict to which I responded, “No, and I’ll never grow old either!” And, I haven’t.
Early retirement in 2007 at the age of 62 1/2 seemed a good idea at the time. While I loved teaching school and had a few good years left in me, the public school environment had become something with which I was, to put it mildly, fed up.  Now, a few months away from a ten-year milestone as a retiree, I don’t have any regrets.
Spending the first eighteen months providing daycare for our unexpected but much-prayed for miracle Hanna aka the Small Person, forged a priceless bond with her. But eventually we both moved on--i.e., I wore out, and she went to pre-school. But I digress. Back to the subject of senior citizens.
There are advantages to being past 50. Discounts abound at movie theatres, restaurants, airlines, hotels, and other businesses. I first joined AARP but switched to AMAC because it fits my more conservative social, economic, and political philosophy. Both offer a number of discounts and special programs for seniors. As all my quarters were paid, I qualified for Social Security and Medicare, two more advantages which I hope remain available to seniors of another generation.

While all these are tangible perks for growing older in years, there are many others which go unheralded. I’d like to do so here.
1.      Living alone/no clock to punch
2.      Pursuing interests for which there’s never been time before
3.      Putting off until “tomorrow” what you don’t want to do today/not being in a hurry all the time
4.      Travel at any season of the year, unhampered by set holidays and vacations
5.      Going 3 days without leaving the house--or going to town 3 days in a row
6.      Ample time to organize, reorganize, and downsize
7.      Eating “pick-up” meals out of the pantry, frozen dinners, going out to eat, or cooking as the spirit moves
8.      Throwing off the bonds of fashion and convention
9.      Grandchildren (and even saying no to a babysitting request if inconvenient)
10.   Not feeling guilty about #s 1-9!

Having been blessed with unusually good health, I tend to see disadvantages in other areas:
1.      Disrespect from younger people--i.e. the nurse who called me “Baby” from the time I walked in until the time I walked out lost the doctor a patient. There were other issues, but that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Had my parents heard me refer to an older person as “Baby” (or any of the other saccharine terms out there), I would’ve paid a steep price. I might even still be grounded!
2.      Businesses which believe “old in years” means stupid--i.e the insurance agent who told me I was paying more for my car insurance (despite no moving violations or accidents EVER) because of my age. Apparently she didn’t think I had enough sense or initiative to speak to other agents with other companies and find out that isn’t how it works. And, if you want to sell me something, it might be a good idea to call me “Mrs. Nickles” or even “ma’am” as opposed to “honey”, “dear”, or “sweetie”.
3.      Dependence on others for certain things--i.e I no longer climb to change light bulbs because risking a broken hip (or neck!) isn’t worth it. So if a younger family member doesn’t come by for a while, I just do without that light.

All in all, I don’t really mind getting older. As the years pass, I appreciate more each day I’m given, the chance to hug an old friend and recall past times, understanding that things change--people move on, and it’s okay. I remain committed to the belief that an old dog can learn new tricks. While I wouldn’t say I take unnecessary risks, it’s time to stop worrying and have some fun. No, I haven’t been bungee-jumping yet, but I’m thinking of zip-lining the next time I go to Branson MO. After all, a few years ago I flew on a B-24 bomber built the year I was born!
It’s a good time of life. One always wishes for a “do-over” in certain areas, but those are impossible. Today is the time to do better and not make the same mistakes.
I remember taking off work to drive several hundred miles to attend the 50th wedding anniversary celebration of my “adopted parents” from college days. The morning I left, they walked out with me for the usual round of hugs and admonishments to drive carefully. Half-way down the block, I slowed the car and glanced back at the two of them standing with their arms around each other, and her parting words rang in my ears: It’s been a good life.
And so we would all wish to say the same. 

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