My Mother who was stunning in her youth and into her middle years thought of herself as young even in her 8th and 9th decade of life. She believed she could do anything and never lost interest in living. She rarely discussed aging, perhaps thinking it might cramp her busy lifestyle, however one day after she took up residence in longterm care with dementia, I visited on her 88th birthday. Handing her a birthday card wishing her a happy 88th she looked puzzled and as she opened it, softly and incredulously asked: “Am I really 88?” “Yes” I responded. “Shit!” she shrieked. And femme fatale was suddenly a senior.
My very own suddenly a senior moment came recently when a grocery cashier asked if I needed assistance getting my groceries to my car! Shocked, I wondered how she could possibly ask that question unless..she knew! But how could she possibly know my real age when I worked so hard to avoid being identified as belonging to that demographic?
Didn’t I walk my dog daily for a good 45-60 minutes? Hadn’t I engaged in a years long discipline of resistance training? (Of late I admit I had been on a hiatus) but did I not cream and moisturize every night in an effort to delay the inevitable – and hadn’t I found a great stylist who had coloured my hair and given it a chic young look? Plus, didn’t my husband’s doctor confuse me as his daughter? All good I thought.
And haven’t I a stellar driving record, being careful to pause at stop signs and red lights, never allowing my impatience to override due care and attention? Am I not super careful to never back over pedestrians or into buildings? I myself avoid walking behind cars driven by other seniors – or in front of them and have yet to understand why seniors who must have passed a driver’s exam at some point, have more traffic accidents than any other demographic and are more likely to become a fatality if involved in one, even beating out male teenage drivers. But that’s not me. Nor have I ever joined a Seniors Centre..!
Nevertheless my own Seniorhood was apparently no longer a secret! Stunned by an offer of assistance I had to ask what was it about me that tipped off this clerk?
The downside of registering for senior discounts
Then I remembered that when I signed up for a discount card at this particular grocer, they request your date of birth and as a courtesy to their customers ask anyone over 65 if they need help getting from the store to their car – because many do. So I had been outed by the information I myself had provided on that discount card and it was now all up on that clerk’s screen. Whew! that was a close call. As I gathered myself together and left the store – just to prove my birthday had nothing whatsoever to do with my biological age, I walked more brisky than usual to my car, hoping that someone would notice.
Everyone looks so old!
Who hasn’t been surprised when seeing a media icon for the first time in years noting how much they’ve aged? Who hasn’t seen a picture of an ex and felt a small glimmer of glee noting that his or her hair is now white and much thinner than you remember? It’s always someone else. Until now. Until that grocery clerk.
Who hasn’t stared into their iPhone attempting their first selfie and seeing their own aging visage looking back at them, reconsidered? The old saying “the camera never lies” has never been more true than now. If we were once photogenic, our relationship with the camera is now over unless we’re shooting birds or other wildlife.
What woman heavily invested in her looks all her life, isn’t sobered in the knowledge that she no longer turns heads in public? And what man doesn’t keep an close inventory on how much of his head is still growing hair vs how much is no longer there? What woman isn’t shocked to learn at her yearly physical that as her height has diminished, her waistline has expanded to compensate?
You’re never really suddenly a senior – because the process is gradual
The truth is that becoming a senior is never that sudden. Aging happens gradually – so incrementally we sometimes fail to notice subtle changes. Some are not quite so subtle – like that jawline no longer taut, or my favorite – the nasolabial folds – with chicken neck running a close second. And then comes the ultimate insult: word that losing weight actually ages you.
There’s the issue of accepting that you really do need reading glasses and possibly a hearing aide as well; people around you complaining about having to repeat themselves 2 or 3 times. Instead, you counter by accusing them of mumbling.
Bedtime ritual has become exhausting with so many things needing to be done before we turn out the lights. Medication must be taken, something sore needs soaking or the application of some painkilling linament needs doing, and creaming all the wrinked and dry spots is now a priority. And finally there’s the CPAP …
We do note that our energy bursts, if and when they happen, last for shorter periods; that a 2 hour walk finds us flagging with yet another hour to go before reaching our destination and our knees are telling us something. Bedtime comes earlier and our carkeys have a way of concealing themselves whenever we have an important appointment. Plus, we see the doctor more often.
Slowing down the inevitable
So what do we do if we wish to continue on this highway to Seniorhood – level Advanced? Experts once again tell us that we have to eat healthfully, avoid stress, exercise more, drink lots of water and plan our meals around berries and pomegranite juice. We have to remind ourselves of the alternative to aging and buck up; be grateful for our years on this planet; for the wisdom we’ve gained over a lifetime, for the fact that perhaps we have finally grown up; that we are less judgemental, less inclined to engage in conflict or hysterics – and are more determined to live in a state of gratitude for the fact that we have made it this far – even if our hair defies us, comes out in the shower and insists on turning silver.
Acceptance is the challenge. I think I can manage all this and will bravely soldier on. But now that I have been identified, I do plead guilty. I am a senior. Just don’t ask me to fill out another discount card again. It’s definitely not worth it.
If you are a senior reading this, can you tell us how you came to terms with fighting gravity, opted for comfortable shoes in lieu of fashionable ones and resigned yourself to wearing pants with an elasticized waistband because of the comfort factor? Please share your thoughts here….