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The golden years

Su Lum

Ask people over a certain age what they think about the concept of “the golden years,” and you can bet that they will respond with some variation of “Golden years, my ass.”It’s more like the RUST years, when you start to fall apart like an old car: the paint chips, the clutch goes out, the brakes fail, the fenders are dented, the corroded muffler is riddled with holes and it’s patch-patch-patch for the rest of your life. The older you get the faster time goes by, so the only blessing about getting old is that it doesn’t last very long. My 98-year-old mother will tell you it seems that only last week she was in her 70s. Her comment about old age is: “It’s not for sissies.”We spend our first 25 years laboriously climbing up the great ladder to maturity, only to discover that life is a gigantic slide down which we fly faster and faster. Going on 68, a true fact that I cannot comprehend at all, I’m at mach speed and finding no time to smell the flowers and damn! – Christmas is almost upon us again and where did the summer go?I, who spent my childhood climbing ropes and trees, lower myself into the bathtub to soak my herniated discs and feel my once-reliable knees creaking. Wonder if I should have brought the phone into the bathroom so I could call 911, or should have one of those devices that will place the call for me at the press of a button: I’m in the tub and I can’t get out. NO! It’s not THAT bad! But echo answers, “yet.”There’s no consensus on what constitutes a senior citizen. To join AARP you only need to be 50, to qualify for the senior housing project, 55. You have to be 65 to ride RFTA free of charge but only 60 to get a discount at The Grog Shop and Clark’s Market. To get a $199 Silver ski pass, you have to be 70.As there are varying entrance levels into the Senior club, there are also varying cutoff levels. I was shocked to read in The New York Times that a 71-year-old woman, with a blemish-free driving record, found herself unable to rent a car in Ireland because she was one year over the limit for car rental which, in various European countries, ranges between 70 and 75. That old man who mowed down all those people in a mall a few years ago is going to ruin it for the rest of us in this country, you can bet your Social Security check on that. The HMO’s and Medicare already limit – and would like to drastically limit – coverage for procedures for people deemed too old to be worth saving. There is a logic to that – make room for the babies – but it adds another layer of dread to the reality behind the youthful myth (heartily endorsed by the drug companies) that we can live both forever and happily ever after.I have a cartoon scotch-taped to my roll-top desk at work, depicting a wreck of an old man sitting on the examination table with his walker at hand. His doctor is saying, “Remember the twenty extra years you added to your life through clean, healthy living? Well, these are them.” Su Lum is an old-time local who has forgotten if she’s written about this before. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times.


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