I’m told we’re examining the matter of senior living in this month’s issue of the magazine. But is “senior living” any different from other kinds of living?
I’ll answer that for you. Hell yes it is.
You know everything has changed when you wake up in the morning and with every slow step you take to the bathroom, it sounds like you’re stepping on a fresh bag of Lays potato chips. Creaking and crunching on the way to your morning constitutional, a symphony of old bones, tendons and ligaments.
I turned 60 last year. I’m not sure that officially qualifies me as “senior,” but it did qualify me for membership in the esteemed American Association of Retired People. (Actually, you can join once you turn 50. Who knew?)
I used to think you were “old” when you turned 65. That’s when people generally retire, right? It’s when you qualify for Social Security. That is, if there’s any Social Security left by the time I get there. For now, all I’ve got is social distancing.
But joining AARP is an eye-opening experience. Even if you still have the capacity to reason and think for yourself, you don’t have to anymore. They give you tips on the best health care providers and hospitals, the best diet and exercise tips, the best cell provider to sign up for, the best “senior friendly” communities to live out your sunset years. My in-box is flooded everyday with deals, discounts and discoveries.
They tell you where to travel, when to travel, how to travel and even why to travel. Hint: It keeps you active and vibrant. None of that recliner, remote, crossword puzzles and early to bed crap for these folks.
Live, you geezers. Rise up and LIVE!
They offer tips on affordable exotic getaways, air travel, and fine dining options. That is, if these are in fact “options.” Because what they don’t really clarify is how to pay for all these exotic getaways, air travel and fine dining – despite the requisite 5 or 10 percent discount for AARP members. I guess I better get with the program. I must have skipped the part where part they offered tips on how to stretch your savings.
To paraphrase the words of the immortal former New Orleans coach and sage for the ages, Jim Mora: “SAVINGS? Don’t talk about savings! You kidding me? SAVINGS?” (Inside joke for you Saints fans.)
But AARP’s magazine is glossy and slick and an enjoyable read, even if you can’t afford anything that’s advertised in it. That’s why sometimes, thumbing through the pages makes me feel like I have failed at getting old. Because I don’t have a sailboat or a permanent tan, a timeshare, a favorite fishing hole, a walk-in tub, a collection of commemorative coins, milestone anniversaries or even grandchildren. Yet.
Hell, I’ve never even been to Branson.
But when I flash my AARP card at my local pharmacy – like a cop on the beat – I get a 10 percent discount on my prescriptions.
All the rewards of a life well lived.
There are drawbacks to all this, to be sure. Joining AARP is first of all, an admission. The process reminds me a lot of the recovery lifestyle: You have to admit something that you don’t want to admit. In this case, it’s not addiction. It’s that you’re getting old. Time is finally moving faster than you do. And with every day, week and month, I inch closer to COVID-19 waiting to rip my lungs out of my chest.
But this growing old-panic all seems like much ado about nothing. To be clear, because of louche and reckless behavior in my younger and more vulnerable years, I never really expected to make it past 40. I vowed to go down like rock stars, literary icons, Van Gogh, Mozart and Jesus. In my prime. And proud to die.
So every day is a new lease on life now. New fresh air to breathe. The main lesson I’ve learned through aging is this: You lose hair where you want it and you grow hair where you don’t. Things could be worse. With age comes a modicum of wisdom, a wellspring of experience and an assertive and intractable position that my opinions are better than yours.
Some folks even hold the door open for me.
So you see, “senior living” can be a gift. An awakening of sorts. Because, once acknowledged, you realize it sure beats the hell out of senior dying.