Old and Gray

     The headline in the town newspaper caught my eye. “Stoneham forecasted to grow older and grayer”. Luckily I was wearing my tri-focals so I didn’t have to squint to read the type. 

     When I moved to Stoneham in 1990, the town was full of elderly residents. The street I currently live on was affectionately nicknamed “Widow’s Row” by the residents. My neighbor’s thought the name was charming. I thought it was a little too Stephen King-ish at the time. But over time things changed. Some of the widows died, others moved away. The houses on the street began to blossom with young families, with children. My own included. A perfect starter home in a perfect location. I had no idea thirty years later, this would be my retirement home. Nearly half the town’s population will be 65 and older by 2030. Sounds like a party. I’ll bring my walker.

     As the median age increases, so should services for the elderly. I’m 61 years old so I’m becoming increasingly more interested in things that affect people in my age bracket. Being a Baby-Boomer was great a few decades ago. The influence of my generation is still felt today. Gen X-ers and Millennials still haven’t forgiven Boomers for hogging the limelight of pop culture. Us 60 and 70 year olds refuse to age the same way our parents did. Look around at today’s fashion styles and musical influences. We are “Stayin’ Alive” just like the song says, much to the chagrin of the younger generation doing their darnedest to supplant us (or more appropriately, just plant us). But we ain’t going down without a fight. Even Rocky Balboa came back more than a few times and he’s one of us.

     I was hoping the generation before me would pave the way for senior citizen rights. I don’t know what happened to all the political activists of the 1960’s who fought so hard for social change. I wanted those 70 year old ex-hippies to overhaul the society before I climbed the next rung on the age ladder. I guess the older generation is burnt out from their years of fighting for change. It’s hard to fight when you become old, tired and comfortable. There’s only so much time to protest the system between naps. If anyone thinks 60 year-olds are going to reform anything, think again. We’re too busy denying that we’re aging to take part in any demonstration to advocate change for the future. Our future is now, not fifteen years from now when we’ll be too old to enjoy it. 

     Age is just a number (and that number is 10% off my purchase at Dunkin’ Donuts). I was stunned when the drive-thru cashier automatically gave me the senior citizen discount. I didn’t know I qualified, nor would I ever think to ask for it. My wife thought it was funny even though she was charged full price for her items. Then again, she’s a couple of years younger than me. 

     Things went downhill during my last annual medical exam. After a lifetime of near-perfect blood pressure readings, I was suddenly on the high end of the scale. The really high-end. The end where the doctor’s red face matched the red zone on the sphygmomanometer. That’s never a good sign.

I’m starting you on medication immediately to regulate your blood pressure,” he said.

“You’re one step away from a trip to the hospital.”

Why would my figures suddenly skyrocket?” I asked.

Well…” he answered, “when you reach a certain age…”

I stopped listening at that point. Or maybe the booming of my heart was drowning out his words. 

I’m really not happy with this whole aging thing,” I told him.

Unfortunately, there’s no cure,” he said. 

     That wasn’t exactly what I wanted to hear. But I get it. We’re all aging – elderly Boomers, pre-middle-age Gen X-ers and even ever-immature Millennials. So let’s all agree to live our best life with the time we have left. No matter how much time we have, it’s never enough. 

     Until then, I will enjoy my senior citizens discount at the movie theater and pine away for the simpler times of the 1970’s before I end up in my pine box permanently. 

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