Andersen: The good life of a senior citizen
It has never been better to be old than today. Since I’ve become an officially designated “senior citizen” after turning 65 in January, life is full of amazing changes.
Before the bliss of old age, however, a senior must accept mortality. At 65, you realize you’re looking toward the end of the game, not the beginning. For some, that’s a frightening thought. For me, it’s a license for freedom.
Such newfound freedom means filling my bucket list with adventures like backcountry skiing sick lines and bike touring in Morocco. I am confident that we baby boomers will push the envelope on bucket lists to the point of absurdity.
Still, one must temper a bucket list to account for certain limits. I know I may never climb Denali, touch the North Pole or kiss the Blarney Stone. Realistically, for many seniors, it is cause for celebration just to perform basic bodily functions.
That’s why many seniors choose to spend the diminishing capital of life pursuing every opportunity for self-gratification. For some that translates to a month of golf in Palm Springs or luxuriating in some plush spa. Others seek out nudist camps and clothes-optional resorts where they may ogle one another in horror.
Many of the less imaginative aged decide that their ultimate happiness is a condo in Florida where they can drift off from the moorings of life amid tropical breezes, the rhythm of ocean waves and the enlivening routines of bridge and pickleball.
For truly daring seniors, old age can become an excuse for outrageous behavior. Whistling at a pretty girl can seem charming when the whistler staggers around on a walker and can’t remember where he parked his car. An aging women can wear outlandish clothes, cavort about with cosmetic enhancements and pretend to be a princess again.
Age can breed a manner of geriatric harmlessness that can be dismissed with the excuse of dementia. It could be fun to get a little crazy, which is perhaps the brain’s way of making light of the end of the tunnel.
For me, a more plebeian joy comes every time I step onto a Roaring Fork Transportation Authority bus and say, “senior.” The driver looks me over, recognizes obvious signs of bodily decrepitude, and nods knowingly as I saunter past the pay machine. Age is clearly in the eye of the beholder.
I was talking recently with a young man who innocently referred to someone we both know as being “an older guy.” How old? I asked. “Oh, at least 50,” he said. I rolled my eyes, knowing how different it looks to be 50 when you’ve overshot it by 15 years.
Seniors on Medicare can amuse themselves by running over to the clinic at the slightest hint of indigestion, constipation or whatever ailment de jour they decide to parade before their physician. The attention of a medical professional may be superfluous, but at least it acknowledges one’s existence.
Now that I’m a senior, I get to participate in exciting medical procedures that assure the complete indignity of my aged self. I can hardly wait for my next colonoscopy and for the wakeful sedation that gives me the best nap I’ve ever had.
A few weeks ago my doctor had me do a “stress test” by running on a treadmill. I passed the test and realized that treadmills are the most grueling of any workout. The fact that one can pant and sweat while going absolutely nowhere is a complete mystery. Treadmills are a hellish nightmare that condemn the soul to a Sisyphean eternity.
We baby boomers may be fading, but senior citizens are still a potent (or sometimes impotent) demographic. TIME magazine recently reported that seniors in the U.S. wield vast economic power through our discretionary spending. Ah, what a legacy!
It’s too bad more and more of that spending is going to adult diapers, nursing care, Viagra and cremations, instead of to exciting bucket lists. It seems that staying healthy and strong for life’s last adventures is the best insurance policy to which any senior can subscribe.
Paul Andersen’s column appears on Mondays when he’s not having a reaction to a nuclear stress test. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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