Guest Columnist - John Ropa
Posted: October 24, 2008
"I'm too young to be this old ". That was a line from a book of the same title by Patricia Smith in 1997. It was a wonderful observation, which applies to more than half of American citizens. Yet, as one who left middle age a couple of decades ago, I can tell her that she hasn't seen anything yet.
Enjoying the golden years would be far more enjoyable if I weren't reminded daily, weekly and monthly that I should be enjoying these golden years. At the age of 50, I began to receive communication from one of the most profitable non-profit corporations in America. Somehow, the people there knew I was approaching the golden years and they were concerned about my insurance, my health and my retirement plans. And now, several times each year, they send me a reminder that I am getting older and that I had better do something about it. I don't need reminders: My lower back tells me the same thing.
If I remember to go to the mailbox, I extract a plethora of suggestions on how to spend more on retirement things. Some are even educational. For example, I received a colorful brochure on side by sides. I always thought that "side by side" referred to a refrigerator with a freezer on one side, but when I examined the advertisement more closely, I learned that "side by side" means cemetery plots.
Some sales pitches to us elderly folks are almost existential: "Is it hearing loss or just ear wax? " That's a question I could ponder for hours. In fact, I was pondering when the phone must have rung, but I did not hear it, either because my wax level was high or because I was pondering so heavily.
Lately, I find that I have been pre-approved for credit, free travel, life insurance and curious medications that did not exist when, perhaps, at some lesser age, I could have used them. I could also offer examples of senior moments - those incidents which leave me puzzled about what I was doing, but I forget them.
Growing older does have some benefits. The kids all graduated from college and they are out of the house and are successful. The grandchildren enjoy the tire swing in our back yard and it keeps them outside and away from our breakable collectibles. I have not worn a tie in 11 years and I don't work except in my gardens - and Social Security kicks in a few bucks each month.
Restaurants are especially tolerant of the elderly. Though we could choose from the senior menu, we tend to order the regular meal because the take-home portion will feed us for two more meals.
Finally, when I look in the mirror, I see myself, unchanged from yesterday, with a positive outlook on life and a lot of years remaining. However, if I look at my photograph, all I see is a senior citizen. "I'm too young to be this old ".
John, the father of Daniel Ropa (owner of The Bottom Line), is a retired Abbott Laboratories executive and a free-lance writer. He can be reached at: email@example.com.