I have a friend I’ll call Miss Riggs, and she is a woman who has seen her share of both terrible tragedy and wild good times. She lives independently, in what she calls a “granny shack,” built on the property of one of her kids. She has her own cleaning business, and her services are in constant demand in the neighborhood. She could work every day if she wanted to, but instead takes time to cook for her family and enrich her mind at the local library and doing other activities.
She has engaged several of us in a very interesting discussion about age. I won’t tell you hers, except to say that the age of Social Security eligibility is in her rear view mirror. This is what she wants to know:
“I’ve always thought of elderly as the older people who are slow of step or shuffle their feet when they walk or are no longer able to stand up straight and need help getting around, who spend a goodly amount of time “doctoring”, who need somebody to remind them when it’s time to take meds, time for meals (that they can no longer prepare for themselves), time to get up/go to bed, are no longer able to drive. And I’ve said before that the older we get, the farther away old age gets!”
There’s been a lot of media banter about “fifty being the new forty” and studies showing that regardless of age, people do not view themselves as old. Is age just a number to you? Do birthdays mean the mere passage of time, the gaining of knowledge or the increased need for NSAIDs and naps?
The advertising world has clearly noticed the obvious: Baby Boomer numbers are big. Seventy-nine million babies were born between 1946 and 1964, and the first wave of folks is reaching age 65 this year. All kinds of new products and services are available to meet the needs of this group. The worlds of travel, food, medicine and health care, home building, exercise, publishing, fashion, automobiles and every other consumer product and service imaginable is affected by the aging of America.
But how do we look at ourselves, Miss Riggs wants to know? Are we old, older, aging, senior? Where does it start? Miss Riggs has an 85-year-old stepmother, and does not consider the woman to be elderly.
I think it might be time to drop the adjectives completely. I’ve learned to view the passage of time and the accumulation of birthdays as an indication that I’ve outlived a few other people and I gained knowledge each day I lived. I’m more sore the morning after competition than I was twenty years ago, and I need to stretch some body parts before I get out of bed. Waterproof tape, aspirin and the occasional elastic bandage have become my bedside companions. But overall, I’m in good shape physically, mentally and intellectually.
So, what about you? Do the years count against you, do you count the years or do you make the years count?