GRAYING NEW YORK
BY MARCIA EPSTEIN
Sometimes I think that growing old must be the way athletes feel when they suddenly understand that they will never play again the way they did at 20. For athletes, “old” is in the 30s. The rest of the population in that bracket is in the process of settling down, finding themselves, marrying, having children and nailing down careers. For athletes, the glory days are beginning to be over. Most other people can take solace in the fact that 35 means being hopeful, healthy and on the way up.
But what about 65? 75? 85? Unless a major event happens, the realization that things are different happens slowly, but no less shockingly than a baseball player must feel when he doesn’t run as fast or hit as far, or when a tennis player understands that she’s lost a step somewhere.
So it is with aging. One day a knee hurts. The next month a shoulder aches. Your grandson says, “I know you’re old, Grandma, but you can walk fast like me.” You have to tell him that, no, you can’t, and he’ll have to slow down.
Someone I know loves canoeing but can no longer walk down the hill to get to the canoe. The back starts to ache, maybe a hip, maybe two. Oh, I know, jolly aging is “in” right now. And really, what can we do but take one thing at a time. But if you get right down to it, aging isn’t very jolly at all. A little memory loss, anyone? Long lists of medications?
I know women terrified of being alone and unable to take care of themselves. I know women (I am one) afraid that, even though they have a partner, they will end up alone. Who is not afraid of that? And the doctor visits pile up, the tests pile up, the “findings” pile up, and so do the “incidental” findings (if you’re diligent and do the right thing). Maybe a cane or walker is in your future. I know I will be getting furious feedback saying I am “depressing” and have the wrong mindset. Well, I envy those who don’t have these worries, at least in the back of their minds. And if you’re dealing with all those aches and pains with cheer and fortitude, good for you. Aging isn’t for sissies, as Bette Davis is famous for saying.
But now allow me to be a little more positive. Have you checked out the Senior Planet website? There you can find myriad ways to be an involved and engaged senior. They have their own center with many activities, as well as listings from other organizations. Check out their Massive Open Online Courses. Here is just a small sample: Poetry workshops; introduction to guitar; fiction writing; moralities of everyday life, and history of architecture.
So I’m not a total sourpuss, I like to show what’s positive about being a senior as well as the negative. Here are more positives: many free courses, on- and off-line; free museum days; access to public transportation; free time to pursue one’s interests; lunches with friends; daytime movies without crowds.
Good and bad; doesn’t that describe all of life?