I find that the older I get the more annoying are the terms “elderly” and “senior citizen.” They almost seem demeaning. So much so that I’m reluctant to use the terms when explaining things to people over 60. Having been in practice for over 38 years, more than a few of my patients have grown old with me, like the patients of many other doctors if they live long enough. I recall as a 30-something doctor, when assisting someone over 60, that they indeed seemed “old.” I mean here I was on the young side of my thirties feeling bullet proof and ten feet tall, vulnerable to nothing, and going to live forever. And here they were in the twilight of their years having been around the track a few times – for some, maybe a few more than it seemed.
But now that I’m twice that long-ago age I subscribe to the claim I heard somewhere that 60 is the new middle age. I shared this with an octogenarian the other day and she, not feeling so well, scoffed at it. She rebutted, “Well, maybe so, but I’m going on 82.” I said, “Hey, that’s not so old. Old is 100. When you turn a hundred then you can say you’re old.”
I remember some years ago that when someone turned 100 that it was in the newspapers and it was a grand thing. Something to be awed at. Someone made it to the century mark. How about that. But now I don’t even think they bother to put their name or picture in the paper since it’s becoming more common. But 114, then you’re on the web and everywhere.
I have an aunt who’s not 100, but a few months ago she did celebrate her 90th birthday. And you wouldn’t know she was 90. She defies the claim I heard somewhere that people who take pills live longer than those who don’t. She doesn’t take any. No prescription or over-the-counter pills. She says, “I just don’t like to take medicine.” If the truth be known this might be why she made it to the youthful age of 90. And is also probably responsible for keeping her on the golf links which she would frequent, often several times a week.
But two days before Christmas she fell in her bathroom and fractured her pelvic bone such that no surgeons in these parts were capable or willing to fix it. So she had it done at USA, had a couple of screws put in and made it through the operation with flying colors. She is now in rehab and complaining about not being able to bear weight for six weeks. It won’t be long before she’ll be like a tiger in a telephone booth. I told her she’d quit falling if she’d take off half of them medals and chains from around her neck. About three pounds of them. The miraculous medal of Mary, St. Teresa, St. Joseph, St. Benedict, St. Christopher, and whatever new one might be hung around her neck. She says I give good advice but them saints ain’t going nowhere.
Mentally, she is feisty. Sometimes too feisty. Might be the donuts she eats, almost every day. And she works one or two crossword puzzles every day and gets annoyed, almost angry, if she can’t get the last two clues, a reflection of her reputation for being an exuberant competitor on the links with her Wednesday morning golfing ladies. I saw one of her golfing buddies once as a patient and she told me, “Yeah, she’s something. Tells everybody how they should make their shot. Damn aggravating.”
She’s never smoked a day in her life. And neither did her husband, a pharmacist, whose pharmacy on the east side of town was the first in town and maybe South Mississippi to not sell cigarettes. And this was in the early 60s when everyone was smoking cigarettes, including a friend of a friend in junior high who was smoking something foul – probably rabbit weed.
So when I hear someone complain about being old or they say, “Oh Lord, I don’t want to live to be 80 (or, 90, or 100)” I tell them about my Aunt Shannon -- but refrain from telling them how when she was recovering from her hip surgery a few years ago that she “wished the Lord would take me” -- yet after recovery glad she was able to walk and hit the casinos.
If you’re turning 60 this year, or over it, not to worry. You’re not elderly, and you’re not a senior anything. You’re just reaching middle age – looking at the lighter side of 100. Just don’t smoke, maybe play golf, eat donuts, and go to the casino. While it’s not a formula for good health for some, it’s seemed to work well for one.