80 and Counting
I’ve turned 80 and it’s a little scary. I’m healthy and still working, but I’m well aware that medical problems began for many of my friends once they were in their 80s.
In many ways I’ve changed since I was younger, but most of the changes have a positive side, or at least a funny side, if I look for it. Looking for it seems like an excellent idea since these alterations are going to happen anyway.
Time is gradually remodeling me, inside and out, and it’s no use bemoaning that.
For instance, the hair on my body has relocated. These days, I rarely have to shave my legs, but I wish I could say the same for my chin. And the nails on my fingers are now quite fragile, while the ones on my toes give new meaning to the phrase, “tough as nails.”
My eyesight has vastly improved. Nearsighted all my life, I was so farsighted by the time I hit my 60s that I could drive without glasses. Of course, now I have to be home by sunset because my night vision has dimmed.
My hearing isn’t what it used to be. I can hear most, but not all, of the dialogue on TV. Fortunately, my television provides closed captions, and they’re lots of fun. I can tell when the person who keyboarded the captions was working from a script because the actors frequently depart from it, ad-libbing (or more likely just getting a line wrong). And quite a number of the keyboarders are creative spellers.
My sense of taste isn’t nearly as sharp as it was, and that’s a blessing. I’ve become much more adventurous about food now that I enjoy the strong flavors I used to dislike, such as blue cheese. I have two friends who are in their 90s. One adds mustard to everything except her dessert, and the other is equally liberal with black pepper.
Beyond bodily changes, I hope I’m wiser than I was. I’m certainly more skeptical, though not as easily upset. When something bad happens—for instance, the wrong party wins an election—I remember similar catastrophes from years ago and remind myself that the country (and I) survived them.
Because I’m older, salesclerks in stores occasionally ignore me, and receptionists in doctor’s offices sometimes talk down to me. At their peril. I’m much more likely to speak my mind than I used to be.
My children no longer think of me as a fount of wisdom, if they ever did. Instead of turning to me now when they have a problem, they come through for each other. I must have done something right!
Of course, I have senior moments. I know as much as I ever did, but sometimes a word or a name is rerouted between my brain and the tip of my tongue. If I can relax and put my frustration aside, the missing syllables eventually arrive. This is teaching me patience.
I no longer daydream about the great things I’m going to do in the future. Instead, I think a lot about the past, mulling over events that happened years ago. What can I learn from them?
Looking back is good but going forward is even better, of course. I’ve decided that I need to become more open-minded about myself and avoid automatic responses such as “I’ve never liked that” or “I can’t do it.” This is a new phase of my life. Who knows what I might enjoy or be able to do? I’m not about to apply to law school or take up skydiving, but in less radical ways maybe it’s time to risk more and open myself up to new possibilities.
As for that nagging worry about future health problems, I’m determined to take them as they come and try not to bore friends and family with complaints. When I have a meal with friends my age, we have a rule: no organ recitals during dinner. I do see my doctors oftener than I used to, but that’s okay. I like most of them.
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The Silver Century Foundation promotes a positive view of aging. The Foundation challenges entrenched and harmful stereotypes, encourages dialogue between generations, advocates planning for the second half of life, and raises awareness to educate and inspire everyone to live long, healthy, empowered lives.
"It is not by muscle, speed, or physical dexterity that great things are achieved, but by reflection, force of character, and judgment; in these qualities old age is usually not poorer, but is even richer."
Cicero (106-43 BC)