You Know You’re Really Old When….
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Aging at times can be as bitter as horseradish. But do we have a right to complain when we know we’re each blessed to be lumbering through these last 12 months of the pandemic with roofs over our heads, food in our refrigerators and freezers, good healthcare, warm socks, gloves, hats and COVID-19 appointments for the vaccine? (One of us got both and one is waiting for her second).
Why are we feeling this way? Please, indulge us a bit and we’ll count the ways. Typically, we try to be optimists, we’re also good at trying to remedy what’s bad and not in our control the best way we can. After all, we have the wisdom and gray hairs to know we can’t turn back the clock, so we might as well make the best of this stage and fall back on all the clichés we remember from decades past such as “life is just a bowl of cherries” and “make lemonade from lemons.”
To soothe our aging selves, we compiled a list of what makes us feel old and ways to remedy this undeniable fact of life.
We feel old now that we dread more than ever colder temperatures and piles of snow and ice. We shiver, we layer up, we complain but try to go outside to get some fresh air. Barbara felt old when the snow and cold first arrived in January, after sitting out December, but even more when it snowed and kept snowing on the first day of February. Snow can mean ice, which can mean a hazard for falling (which for her resulted in a broken wrist and two bones in her arm a few years ago), regardless of age. Hating the cold more has made her feel older, as she realized she had no desire to walk and play gleefully in the snow as her two young grandsons did on a video post. Margaret is always cold. She looked up why and here are a few reasons. Apparently as we age, our metabolic rate decreases. There is a decrease in blood circulation, our skin thins out like tissue paper and the layer of fat under the skin decreases. Result: burr!
Fix. What does it take to remove the sting out of cold weather? Barbara pulls on her fleece-lined tights, gets into an afternoon ritual of a cup of hot tea and starts thinking about what new plants she might add to her garden come spring. She laughs at those who relish every snowflake and descending temperature degree with their FB posts, including one who wrote, “I love when it snows in NYC!” Margaret wears several layers when she ventures outside, and when inside stays hydrated with warm drinks, turns up the heat and then goes into shock when the utility bill arrives. At our older age, we HATE spending money.
“I feel old when my lower back and hip are routinely really stiff first thing in the morning.” So says Barbara’s most athletic childhood friend, “Emma,” who easily climbed to the top of the ropes fast, vaulted over the horse effortlessly, did cartwheels and anything else gracefully.
Fix. While Emma lies in bed still, she does her routine of stretching exercises, which helps her to limber up. It’s also a pleasant transition from sleeping to being awake, unlike her younger days when she quickly had to get out of bed and out of the house to head to work. She’s now retired.
We feel old when we look at old photos. We love seeing photos of family and friends from years back (assuming we can remember who the people are). Those were the days when we were out and about, hugging, kissing and sharing food at scrumptious buffets. Remember buffets? Only if you are of a certain age since they’re nowhere to be found now—not on cruises, not in Chinese restaurants and not at any relative’s Bar or Bat Mitzvah, Shiva or wake. And yikes, we look at old photos of ourselves and wonder, who is that? We may look back with sadness at how well we used to look before we had our current wrinkles, flabby necks, liver spots and other signs that we’re starting to resemble our mothers or grandmothers. Pat in St. Louis sums it up. She feels old when she walks past a mirror and thinks: Who is the person? Both of us think we look awful with our lines, flab and wrinkles. We choke on the words. So, we whisper them and beg God to make them go away. But we know that’s magical thinking and with age has come reality.
Fix. What’s the difference? We’re not going on TV or making celebrity appearances. Why be so vain? That’s only our exterior and not how we feel inside. To prove it, we show ourselves that we can still be creative with our writing, tutoring and painting, and active by running up and down stairs, walking fast along streets, doing a good round of jumping jacks or other calisthenics and having hearts of gold. It takes years and decades to acquire real hearts and souls. At an older age, we’re also better at rationalizing almost everything.
We feel old when our teeth start to give us problems and our gums begin receding and bleeding. We both worry about keeping our teeth so we can continue to chew our food and smile. Wouldn’t that be nice! Margaret, the sugar junkie, visited the dentist last year when she had tooth pain fearful that she’d lose her back tooth. The dentist swooped in like a superhero and preserved it with drilling that sounded like it was being excavated by a jackhammer. But her tooth is still intact.
Fix: Cut the crap, mostly the sugar. Let’s tend to our teeth like we would a garden and use the right tools. Buy an electric toothbrush, floss and do what Barbara does. She goes the extra step by using a waterpik flosser which she swears by, after a friend with great teeth gifted it to her for Hanukkah. At an older age, you love such gifts more than flowers that die and candy that puts on pounds and causes cavities.
We feel old when we realize we like the way things used to be. We tend to be old school. How nice it was when people sat down to dinner and had conversations rather than rushed through meals to get here and there or ate with the TV blasting. Or how lovely it used to be when people dressed to eat at a restaurant, fly on an airplane or to go to work rather than appear in shorts or look a slovenly mess. Barbara can hear her mom saying, “It was so nice when men wore a jacket and tie.” And now Barbara and Margaret have become old enough to agree with her. Thanks, Mom, for the lesson.
Fix. Try walking, literally, in others’ shoes. Barbara found it fun to start wearing casual shoes wherever she went, including in her colorful Rothy’s, which are made from recycled water bottles. She even got more oohs and aahs than when she wore her designer high heels. Even more fun she found was getting hooked on some recycled TV series during the pandemic and eating in front of the TV to be able to binge watch better. After all, who needed conversation when you had Carrie (Claire Danes) solving another crisis with Saul (Mandy Patinkin) in Homeland? Equally fun has been trying out new recipes from cuisines we never would have tried when young. Margaret has made soups and vegetarian dishes (she wants to try mushroom bourguignon) which were never part of her family repertoire. Barbara now cooks salmon so it’s almost raw like sushi. That’s something new, too.
We feel old when we don’t recognize celebs in “People” magazine and other news sources. We both used to gobble up the headlines in magazines at the checkout line. We knew who everybody was--actors, actresses, musicians, artists, chefs and politicians. Now our eyes glaze over most articles for we don’t know who the heck the writers are talking about. We then we go home and Google who everyone is. Thank goodness we are still young enough to know and remember how to Google.
Fix. Barbara takes the attitude her mom taught her when somebody or something annoyed her, and she wanted to move on. “The hell with them,” she would say. Margaret’s father used the same line (both were born the same year). Barbara and Margaret have simply given up on pop culture and most of their friends feel the same way. Both feel happy that they’re old enough to be familiar with someone elderly whom they care about when something happens. We both were incredibly sad when we heard Tony Bennett was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
We feel old when we can’t figure out something simple on the computer. So says our brilliant lawyer friend Lynn, who adds, “I felt even older asking my son or grandson for help.”
Fix. Her solution is to realize that it gives them the opportunity to feel knowledgeable and be helpful. A Win-Win! We’ve tried that sometimes, with good and mixed results. Be prepared for the “Oh, Mom, I can’t believe you can’t figure it out.” And we’re young enough not to give up but try again. Persistence comes with aging; the young are usually far more impatient.
We feel old when we have no tolerance for loud noise, certain current popular music and violent video games. We remember being incredulous when we were young and our parents would scream, “Turn the music down” or they’d change our pop music radio station to a sleepy Frank Sinatra or Mel Torme. We thought then that we’d always be fans of pop music. Well, guess what? Our tastes have aged with us as we listen to more jazz and classical music to sooth our souls. As for popular music, most of the time we don’t even know the names of the artists or recognize their work. Open a copy of Billboard magazine and it’s like reading something in another language. And let’s throw in the whole video game craze? We don’t know the lingo or understand the concepts or mechanics.
Fix: Baby steps. If you want to be savvy about today’s music, which is important, says Margaret, especially when she tutors young kids and they want to talk about a favorite new recording artist. Try listening to one tune a day or a week to get your ear attuned to today’s music. Or go online and read about new artists which is great fodder for conversation. And if you have grandchildren who are video game aficionados, ask them to show you how to play and then try it yourself. Learning something new is good for your brain. This is why experts recommend crossword puzzles, bridge, jigsaw puzzles and the latest craze chess, popularized after release of the Netflix movie, The Queen’s Gambit.
We feel old when we debate “borrowing” a few things from a supermarket or restaurant or reusing a paper napkin or towel. Barbara believes it’s in her DNA to do so and be frugal. When her mother, a Depression-era child, was mobile enough to go to restaurants to eat and supermarkets to shop, she couldn’t resist taking a few extra sugar or ketchup packets, plastic bags or paper napkins home. Now that Barbara and Margaret have reached the older age when this same urge has taken hold, they think, “Hmmm, the restaurant has so many, they won’t mind sharing a few.” Same goes for the grocery store as they spy long rolls of plastic bags at every bin of vegetables and fruits.
Fix. Their conscience gets the best of them: “You know it’s not grand larceny but just a step beneath. They’re here to use for what you pay for—an iced tea or latte or a big bunch of grapes. Otherwise, keep your hands off.” So, they pull their hands back. It feels good being so honest, and even more important, it makes us feel more like our younger selves.
We feel old when someone tells us to add an app to a device. At first, we had no idea what this meant. Huh? We fought it for we felt we’d like to experience life before apps, without the terror of being app-free. However, gradually we’ve learned there’s a boon to having certain apps. After fumbling around trying to load them when needed, we can now sigh and say to ourselves when we need an Uber, “There’s an app for that.” Or, Barbara, directionally challenged when driving, has learned to love the Waze app. Mastering this phenomenon makes us feel terrific and oh so smart. Our kids have been super amazed.
Fix: Practice here makes perfect. There are apps for just about everything you can imagine including ways to check your blood pressure or your insulin levels. How nice it might be, you think, to have an app that would notify you when your neighbors have left the building, so you don’t have to run into them in the hallways. How about an app that blocks noise if you’re sitting at a table with one of those people who talks loud on a cellphone or chews with their mouth open? A white noise app could cut out 50 percent of the blaring voice or disgusting smacky-eating noises. If only. This makes it worth the time invested to learn how to load and access these valuable tools.
We feel old when we have a harder time filtering our comments. We know that older people lose their ability to watch what they say, blurting out, “Have you talked to your doctor about your weight?” or “You’re lucky you’re married since you’re not attractive.” Or, try this one on for size? “That skirt with the horizontal stripes accentuates your big hips.” Oh, my, such nastiness comes tumbling out of some mouths, we know from our personal experiences with our aging moms and others. Barbara heard years ago one older woman, not a friend but acquaintance say to her, “You’ve gained some weight, haven’t you?” She smiled rather than blurt out, “I can’t believe what an unkind comment that was. You should be ashamed.” She was still young enough to edit her thoughts.
Fix. Maybe, you didn’t even hear the comment. In this case, thank goodness that you’re older and your hearing probably has worsened and you’re still too vain to invest in hearing aids. Tune it out. Don’t say, “Oh, I didn’t catch that; could you please repeat it?” Ignore it and walk away. In this case, old age has its rewards.
We feel old when the celebrities we grew up with are no longer with us. Tragic losses include Mary Tyler Moore, Don Rickles, Chuck Yeager, Sean Connery, Mac Davis, Kirk Douglas. And Barbara’s mother’s benchmark for good looks: Cary Grant. Who are these people our kids might ask?
Fix: We gloat. We can still remember who they are, we say smiling.
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