12/2/2021 | By Seniors Guide Staff

by Steve Cook

Baby boomer and freelance food and travel writer Steve Cook looks for the gold in the golden years, for the silver linings in growing older.

Someone once told me that old age is not for sissies. The truth is that it takes some real mental and physical fortitude to face old age, especially to face it with a smile. Now, I could regale you with a litany of all the aches, pains, and other travails that come with old age, but I’m guessing I don’t need to do that. So, no preaching to the choir here.

Rather, let’s reflect on the joys of old age. Although, let me be clear, I’m not really sure I’m old enough to be considered an authority on the subject. I used to think old age began at 50. Of course, I realized how foolish that thinking was when I hit 50. And I didn’t even feel old when I turned 65, which, when I was growing up, was the magic age at which you automatically became old. How much I didn’t know about old age when I was young.

So, now that 70 is in my rearview mirror, I’m thinking that 80 is probably closer to what must be true old age. But, for the sake of an argument, let’s assume that I have, indeed, reached those golden years. I’m not sure what’s so golden about them, but if that’s what they are, I’m going to go for the gold. I’ve decided to start taking advantage of the perks that come with old age.

Going for the gold

The perks to which I refer go way beyond getting a few cents off on a meal. I’m talking about some much more valuable benefits of old age. They’re sitting out there, just ripe for the plucking, if you’re willing to take advantage of them.

For instance, I’ve always had a terrible memory when it comes to people’s names. I’ll see someone at a gathering, who will come right up to me and say, “Steve, great to see you. How are you?”

My initial reaction is to respond, “I’ve never met you in my life.” The sad thing is that sounds as if I’m saying, “I must have considered you as so unimportant that I didn’t bother to remember you or your name.” And I really don’t want to send that message.

But this line works beautifully, “Oh, I’m so sorry. It’s great to see you, but, the old memory is not what it once was. Can you remind me of your first name?” When I use that line, the other guy is always quick to share his name. I can tell that he’s basking in the glory that his memory is far superior to mine.

Although I can’t remember names, I can remember “Howdy Doody.” I also remember “Leave it to Beaver,” “Father Knows Best,” and Andy, Barney, and Opie. That’s another perk and it truly gives me a great deal of pleasure. TV is way too complicated these days. Remember when we used to think Eddie Haskell was the worst human on earth? Yes, we were sheltered, but I kinda liked being sheltered.

I’m not especially fond of all these premium TV services where I get to pay people to curse at me. I’ve gotten that for free all my life. What I’m trying to say is that those good memories are a wonderful treat.

Here’s another perk that comes with the golden years. I may never have to lift another piece of furniture, even around my own house. My wife is more than a decade younger than I, so I don’t mind letting her do it, but there’s an art to this. When she asks me if I’ll help her turn over the mattress, I will agree wholeheartedly. I’ll slowly get up from my rocker, and sigh very lightly. I don’t want to look like I’m doing a John Barrymore here. Then I’ll slightly limp into the bedroom, rubbing my back.

“You sit down. Let me do it,” my wife offers sympathetically.

I’ve learned to give this sad little look that says that I am so sorry to disappoint you. I’ve had to practice that look in the mirror to make sure I get it just right. But instead of sitting down, I’ll go with her and kind of touch the mattress a few times to make it look like I’m trying to help.

But when I say I don’t have to move furniture, it goes way beyond an occasional chore around the house. Used to be, whenever any of my friends were moving, they’d call me to help. And I’d gladly go. Today, I get to gladly stay home. The nice thing is when people think you’re old, they stop soliciting your help. I don’t have to turn them down. I never make their “Who can we get to help us move” list. Of course, dropping a box or two of precious China can get you off that list, as well.

But wait, there’s more gold in the golden years

There is another benefit to having reached those golden years. It’s an especially nice benefit if you are, like me, a true hypochondriac. You see, I’ve never tired of talking about myself, my procedures, stents, aches, pains, and the like. And now, every visit to the doctor’s office, I get to talk about me.

I think Medicare regulations require that the doctor or his nurse feign interest in me. And I’m not just being jaded. They’ve told me that they are mandated to ask all sorts of questions about me. But I don’t care if they are feigning – I’m talking. The first question I get at least once each visit is, “Have you fallen recently?”

Actually, I haven’t, but I’ll scrunch up my forehead as if I’m deep in thought. Then I’ll say, “Well, there was that time …” I’ll then interrupt myself and say, “No, not really.” I do that for effect. I think it makes me look brave.

Next they will ask me if I have any trouble feeding myself or taking care of my daily needs. Here is where I shine. “No, I can do all of that,” I reply proudly. While they don’t admit it, I’m guessing my bravery is impressive to them. I have to admit, one of the joys of going to the doctor is having an opportunity to answer these questions.

Now, these are benefits that no one else is going to tell you about. But they are real and I say relish them. However, there are other benefits even if you’re not a hypochondriac.

The proof is in the pocketbook

The other day, we were able to save about $100 a month on our cell phone bill because we’re over 55. Now, that’s a big deal. The customer service rep gave my wife a list of instructions as to what we have to send to them to prove that we’re old. I asked if we could just send a picture of our faces, but that evidently is not enough. You may wish to check with your cell phone provider and see if they offer that deal.

Here’s another great benefit. Did you know that the Senior Citizens Higher Education Act of 1974 requires all colleges in the Commonwealth of Virginia to allow senior citizens to audit up to six classes per semester – including up to three for-credit classes and three not-for-credit classes? And it’s all free of charge. For information on one university’s participation in this, check out Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond

Then, there are organizations like the Lifelong Learning Institute in Chesterfield. It offers somewhat of a buffet of education for “midlife adults and older.” You pay one annual fee ($150.00) and you get access to all of their courses, which range from art, music, and drama to computer technology and international studies. I have excellent intentions on taking advantage of some of these classes; however, I’ve promised myself that my first class will be Overcoming Procrastination 101. The last I checked, that class has been rescheduled until spring of 2022. But once I get that behind me, the sky is the limit, as they say.

I wish I hadn’t mentioned the word “buffet” because now I’m thinking about Golden Corral. You know, they offer a whopping 50-cent discount to seniors. I bet that’s why they call it the Golden Corral.

The bottom line is that there is true beauty in aging. You just have to look for it. I’ve finally gotten to the point where I’ve convinced myself that old-age spots are really just cute giant freckles. Personally, I always liked the term liver spots better, but somehow that’s now passé. And if you can get to that point, you can just about convince yourself that these really are the best years of your life.

Seniors Guide Staff

Seniors Guide has been addressing traditional topics and upcoming trends in the senior living industry since 1999. We strive to educate seniors and their loved ones in an approachable manner, and aim to provide them with the right information to make the best decisions possible.

Seniors Guide Staff