On Aging

I’ve been thinking about this post for the last few weeks. Each time I sat down to write something triggered a new fleeting thought on the subject which I furiously jotted down lest I forget it. Happened again this morning while watching a recording from last Sunday’s 60 Minutes. This time it was a report on Voyager 1 & 2 which have been exploring the cosmos since the late 70’s. The scientist in charge of the project stated that these two little spacecrafts will continue on their path well beyond the time our sun collapses in on itself and destroys Earth and most of our universe….something like five billion years from now! That really puts our little lives, along with all our problems, in perspective, or maybe not. It’s too much for my tiny brain to comprehend.

All these thoughts originated when I started to think about aging. It was triggered one afternoon when I saw my two year old grand niece actually using her mom’s iPhone. She already understood how to turn it on, go to the stored photos and videos, swipe through them and play a video. It looked as natural to her as drinking from her sippy cup. This got me thinking about the speed in which technology is changing our society, the gap between the struggle for older people to learn technology and how tiny kids intuit it. Is this going to create a bigger and bigger gap between generations? Are the baby boomers, which I’m a member of, going to have the most difficult time keeping up while the Gen X’ers, Millennial’s and the New Silent Generation progressively have an easier time? All of the sudden I was feeling old!

But then I thought ‘what does it matter’? The reason I felt left behind is because mass media messages tell us so. Just turn on the TV, go to a movie, open a magazine, turn on your computer; media is geared toward the young (except for Viagra and the myriad other ads for drugs that will fix your every problem). But the media is really only about one thing; selling you something whether you need it or not. We’re still a capitalist society based on manufacturing, marketing, selling and buying. The media’s impact is real, but is what we buy who we are? It isn’t for me. But with so much information bombarding us every minute of the day it’s not unusual, as we age, to feel left behind, just as our parents felt in the sixties and their parents felt a generation before.

Media aside, shouldn’t we each create a world which is OUR real world, for the world the media creates is no more ‘real’ than our own or that of anyone else.

Recently I received a text message from a kid with whom I went to grammar school all the way through college. Kid? Is he still a kid? He was last time I saw him!  The message had a recent photo attached of 7 or 8 ‘kids’ I grew up with. I was not close to any of them but knew them all well enough. I only recognized two; one guy looked like he hasn’t aged a day since we lived together for a summer at college and the other guy is Chinese, one of only two Asian kids in our school. The point is these were all old guys; bald, paunchy, most of them dads and granddads who had gotten old in the flash of an eye. The last time I saw them they were kids, and now they’re old guys….what happened to them in between then and now? What are all their stories?  How did they get old and why do I feel they’re all so much older than me?

And then I’m alerted to a Facebook post about this year’s 45th high school reunion.

The reunion numbers keep getting bigger and bigger! I remember my mother going to her 50th and coming back saying there were a bunch of old people there. What’s our obsession in reliving the past? My present is much better than high school ever was. But maybe not for everyone. Was four years in your teens such a significant time in ones life that we find the need to relive it every 5 to 10 years? My life experiences since that time have had a much more significant impact on who I am today. Maybe that’s not true for others, which is why they keep reliving the past.

The dichotomy for me is this; my body is that of a 62 year old male while my brain feels like it’s still a kid. Does that mean I’m immature? Probably, but I don’t really care! I think it’s better to have the attitude of someone young than that of an old person….our grandparents were old, not us. But then I get another reminder that I am a senior when a friend kindly points out that chronologically I’m no longer middle age unless I plan to live to be 124! Not likely. And I really don’t mind the senior discounts. At first I wouldn’t acknowledge I was old enough but now I seek them out (although I really don’t like the cashier asking if I’m a senior).

I watch my skin start to sag; my back aches when I get out of bed in the morning; I have to pee a couple times overnight; I don’t always follow the slang used by younger people; my short term memory isn’t what it was and the magnification of my readers increases every couple years;  the kids at the local cinema no longer ask if I’m a senior, they just know: maybe my reaction time has slowed…it has!  The list goes on and on, this is life. But life experience and the common sense that accompanies it is not something you can teach a younger person. Would I like to be 20, 30 years younger and know then what I know now? Of course, but that’s not going to happen. I still feel like I’m going to live forever, long enough to see our sun implode along with the universe (by that time we’ll have a fix for it though). I know living like this may not be realistic but I don’t believe aging should keep me from living life fully, more fully than my younger days. Maybe living each day like it’s your last is a good way to eek out all there is in life, but so is living in the moment.  After all, as a good friend jokes when we’re pushing our physical limits on the bike, enjoy it now, you’re going to be dead a long time!