Do you know how it feels to live to be 80 or 85—or 90?
We are living longer and have many more seniors and octogenarians active in our society. Consider the current political array of candidates aspiring to be the next president of the United States.
I am 89 and never expected to live this long.
With age comes many changes—mostly physical, some mental. There’s a slowdown in remembering, walking with a cane, or using a walker or wheelchair, and there’s surviving your mate and dear friends, and facing loneliness. Of course, giving up the ability to drive is the greatest deflation to our personal ego for anyone, be it a senior or an adult. It means giving away some of our freedom, and as a senior, it reflects a significant blow to our dignity.
Some of us do not recognize how our reaction time has decreased with aging, our vision has become impaired, our hearing has also diminished, which all have a serious effect on our ability to drive safely. Due to these changes, we may cause a collision resulting in serious injuries or death—to others or ourselves. This is not to say that many accidents aren’t also caused by younger, inexperienced drivers, and those not properly trained, who choose to ignore courtesy or rules of the road. In any case, poor judgement on the part of an older driver (or a younger one) may result in a crash.
Some other changes we may not consider happening are that we bruise more easily. Black and blue marks appear mysteriously and take longer to heal. This occurs because skin becomes thinner with aging and more subject to injury. Now the sun becomes a devil that we must seek protection from due to the threat of skin cancer. I lost my younger brother four years ago to melanoma. It began with a small spot on his forehead; other spots appeared, and soon it had metastasized throughout his body, causing his death. He was only one year younger than me. I never go outdoors without applying sunscreen on any exposed areas of skin.
Every day, something new evidences itself as a problem. Not always so serious—just a nuisance—but something not to be ignored. Agility and our ability to be limber also diminish. I enjoyed playing the piano for over 15 years and am no longer able to stretch my fingers to reach all the notes. I feel really sad when that happens, but it’s arthritis and I realize I must adjust to that change.
In our 50s, we never anticipate the changes and limitations coming. Younger people become impatient and sometimes act as though we are invisible. The lack of respect is sad. However, I must clarify that this does not happen all the time. I have had many kind and considerate offers of help from strangers, especially when I needed help. I think Southern Hospitality does shine through on occasion, and I’ve been so pleased and grateful.
On one shopping trip, I was waiting outside the supermarket for my ride, which was late. It was extremely hot—near 100 degrees—and I had ice cream and other frozen items in my bags. Finally, a taxi appeared and I asked the driver if he was there for me, but when I gave him my name, he said no. I was beside myself, and spoke out loud saying, “Oh no, my ice cream is going to melt.” With that, a nice young woman, about to enter the store, came over and said she’d be glad to take me home. Well, I was surprised and hesitated for a moment, not knowing what to do. But, I made a quick decision and then said, “Yes, that would be wonderful.”
We got my groceries in her car and began a nice conversation. I asked her where she was from and she said, “New Jersey.” I immediately felt good because I, too, am from New Jersey. We continued our conversation, and in about 15 minutes I was home. I thanked my driver for her help and have never seen her again—just another angel sent from heaven.
Life is so precious and we, seniors, need to live each day by trying to enjoy ourselves. As I look ahead and realize the end of the trail may occur at any time, I try to be cheerful, always ready with a smile, and continuing to push forward. I go to senior lunches, concerts, the movies, and keep trying to enjoy my “golden years.”