Sunday, October 11, 2009

How to Deal With a Cranky Senior Citizen

We'll Soon Be Overrun

CoburnThe problem of dealing with cranky senior citizens will only get worse in the coming decades. Something like 70 million Baby Boomers have started turning 60. Chances are you will encounter irritable seniors everywhere you go.

Some Helpful Hints for Coping
Appear to listen attentively and be impressed as they unwind a tedious story
  • Try to be understanding. Senior citizens have plenty to be cranky about. The least of their problems is they could drop dead any minute. Worse, they could be felled by a catastrophic illness that will wipe out their life savings. Those who didn't save enough for retirement (spent too much on their kids) are forced to keep working even though they can't get a job because of age discrimination. And don't forget Alzheimer's. Victims of Alzheimer's tend to be confused about everything, which makes them cranky.

  • walmart_greeterHaving to work until you die tends to make a guy cranky.

  • Keep your cool. Don't take it personally when the senior citizen waves a scraggly finger in your face and threatens to rip your lungs out. Coming from a someone who wears diapers, it is probably an empty threat.
  • Try to be diplomatic. Gently remind the senior citizen that they are not the only one with problems. Make up a story that your grandfather is rotting away in old age home, helpless as a baby. To get on their good side, say you visit your grandfather every day.
  • Remind them to count their blessings. Remark on how spry and robust they are. "Aren't you lucky to still be getting around so well!" "You're still sharp as a tack, aren't you?"
  • Try a compliment. Say something nice about their hair, their pretty eyes, their warm smile. Tell them it's a pleasure to deal with someone so patient and understanding.
  • Be polite and respectful. When some cranky seniors grew up "respect your elders" was a popular sentiment. They may be resentful that this idea is now a quaint relic of a bygone era. You might get a positive response if you call them "mister," "sir," and so on. "Nice to see you today, Mr. Johnson." If you are used to calling people "dude" or "dawg" saying "sir" may feel awkward. Give it a try.
  • Try to get them to talk about themselves. Getting them to relive the past may get their mind off their gripes. Ask if they were ever a hippie or were in Vietnam. Ask them about the days before personal computers, cell phones, faxes, and the Internet. Ask them what it was like before pocket calculators, when you had to work out math problems with pencil and paper. Appear to listen attentively and be impressed as they unwind a tedious story.
  • Try to get them to talk about their kids and grandkids. They probably seldom see their family, but they may welcome the chance to show wallet pictures.
  • Be cheerful. Say "Isn't it a great day to be alive!?" Try calling them "honey" and "dear." It might get them to lower their guard.
  • Try telling a joke. Subscribe to a joke-a-day website. See if the old grouch responds to a cute off-color joke.
  • Offer them coffee and a donut. They might go for a treat that their doctor has said to never eat again.
  • If all else fails, sucker-punch the old buzzard (see below).
  • If the senior citizen carries a cane or walker that can be used as a weapon, keep your eye on them if you have to turn your back.
Elderly man, walker
What's So "Golden" About the Golden Years?
Those aren't freckles, Bunky

By the time liver spots show up, your days are numbered. Knowing that you have only a few good years left--if you're lucky--is a grim prospect. At an advanced age, ten years flash by like ten weeks. In ten years you can go from a robust, vibrant specimen to a shuffling, doddering wretch. If that doesn't scare the bejesus out of you, nothing will.
     These few final years are considered "golden," which is denial at its most ludicrous. Americans of all ages are in denial about aging. Younger folks ignore it altogether, preferring to think they have won immunity.
     Seniors are fed propaganda that there's an upside to getting old and decrepit. We're wiser, it is said. I'm wise enough to know that I have no more wisdom than a 20- or 30-something. I can hold my liquor better but that's about it. The 20- and 30-somethings are sharp. They'll have to be to cope with the problems we've left them.

Denial: A Coping Strategy That Makes Sense
100 is the new 80! Woo-hoo!

Some senior citizens look unkempt, dishevelled. That's because they've sworn off looking in the mirror. Who can handle seeing a scary version of the handsome devil you once were?
     Denial might be the sanest response to aging. When you're going down with the Titanic it's too late for a lot of handwringing. You might as well enjoy the fleeting time you have left. Summon the grim determination to get the most out of your few remaining years. Resolve to ignore the fact that you're getting old.

Citi's Cheap Shot
Bosses please note: This is not a typical 60-year-old

I guess the stereotype of the senior citizen as the doddering old fool is no more harmful than the blonde bimbo, the dumb jock, or the socially inept nerd.
     As age discrimination becomes more of a factor, however, I get a little sensitive about how seniors are portrayed in the media. Citi's cute father-son commercial irks me. The image of senior citizens in our culture is already pretty well trashed without help from Citibank. News outlets routinely refer to people no older than 60 as "elderly."
     The old man in the ad looks closer to 80 than 60. He's so befuddled he thinks he's Norwegian not Swedish. Trust me all you 30-something bosses out there, we're not this far gone.

The Onion's Shameful Slam
If Citi's dreadful dig at seniors didn't mark a new low in degradation of the elderly, check out the Onion's scathing smear, Everyone Proud Of Grandma For Staying Awake.

Growing Old Gracefully
Some of us handle aging better than others. Here are some notable "elderly" folks who are still functioning members of society, not ready for the scrap heap.

I guess no one has the nerve to tell Clint Eastwood he's too old to keep cranking out meaningful movies year after year.

There are so many things to admire about Martha Stewart. She's graceful in many important ways. I know, I know, she's a diva, the original bitch on wheels. The video below with Conan might change your mind.

Warren Buffett - The old boy seems to have his priorities straight. He gets a kick out of being the world's wealthiest man. Just listen to his jolly laugh. It says as much about him as anything. (Aging tip for Warren: Buy some race horses, old man. Fifty thousand sheiks can't be wrong.)

Jack LaLanne (RIP) - It gives you hope to think there's something to smile about when you're 90-something. I was there the day Jack swam from Alcatraz to San Francisco's Aquatic Park handcuffed and shackled, towing a rowboat filled with sandbags weighing 1000 pounds. As Jack staggered to shore, paramedics rushed to the scene, but not for Jack. Someone in the crowd suffered a heart attack. Jack just turned 60; I was a young punk. Now we're both senior citizens.
     Jan. 23, 2011: It was great having Jack around all my life as a role model for when I would get serious and start taking care of myself. Do a few pushups, eat some vegetables. With Jack gone, who'll be my inspiration? In a way, it's discouraging. Living a perfect life, as far we know, he only made it to 96. With my depraved lifestyle, I should be dead already.

USAir PilotChesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger III. It's widely perceived that old guys are feeble, incompetent. Smashing the stereotype is Sullenberger, 58, the pilot who safely crash-landed a US Airways flight onto New York's Hudson River on January 15, 2009. (details below).

Philippe Petit - That's right, the French guy who did his high-wire act between the tops of the World Trade Center towers, 1,368 feet above Manhattan, on August 7, 1974. He turned 60 in '09. Recent reports say he's raising money for a walk over the Grand Canyon.

Regis Philbin - In the early 1960s, a youthful Regis cut his chops with a late night show in San Diego. He worked in a living-room-sized studio that had maybe two dozen beat up theater seats to accommodate the scant audience. I was in high school at the time. My buddies and I were among Regis's few loyal fans because of his interviews with legendary wrestlers such as Dick the Bruiser and The Destroyer. It was high comedy watching these monstrous hulks demonstrate wrestling holds on poor Regis.
     Regis loved to swap insults with The Destroyer, inventor of the dreaded figure-4 leglock, from which no opponent ever escaped. The Destroyer was given to calling everyone, including Regis, a "pencil-neck geek."
     We were on hand in the studio one night when Regis made wisecracks about The Destroyer's suit. "Sears-Roebuck?" The Destroyer reached for Regis's lapel to examine the label of his suit. Regis fliched. "Idaho potatoes," the Destroyer quipped. A real card that Destroyer.

That's Regis in the burlap suit.

Jane Goodall - Women considering botox or facial surgery should take a look at Jane Goodall. At 75, she's one of the world's most beautiful women. I doubt that Ms. Goodall needs anything artificial to enhance that magnificent face. I think the Nobel committee should also take a look at Goodall as they puzzle over who gets the Peace Prize.

Walmart greeter, 69, dukes it out with 23-year-old, gets fired
(From Our "What if I Can't Afford to Retire?" File)

Millions of Boomers have not managed their finances sufficiently to have money to live on when their efforts are no longer welcome in the workplace. They will have no choice but to eke out a living somehow. The labor market can only accommodate a limited number of obsolete geezers who lack the multi-tasking skills and "energy" to compete with young go-getters. Those who can't compete will have no choice but to hope for a job at Walmart, certainly a step above standing at a stop light holding a "WILL WORK FOR FOOD" sign. The job of Walmart greeter will become highly sought after. Here's a preview of what to expect.
     As a shopper in Palm Bay, Fla., left the store, the anti-theft alarm was triggered. Greeter Ed Bauman followed the customer to get his license number. Skyler Lowery, the angry young shopper, took umbrage and threw a punch. Bauman fought back and was fired for his trouble.

In other Walmart News. . .
Greeter learns his lesson: Stick to being a grouch.

In Muscatine, Iowa, Dean L. Wooten, 65, was fired for trying to inject a little humor in his job as a greeter. He doctored his employee ID with this photo and joked that Walmart, in a move to cut costs, had created a cheaper uniform.
According to Fox News:
Wooten said he did not see the harm in the photo, which he said was made by a friend who spliced a picture of Wooten's head onto a shot of another man's body.
     "When I first seen it, I pretty near died laughing," he said.
Mr. Wooten shouldn't have been fired but he deserves a good punch in the stomach for atrocious grammar.
     For those who see a Walmart career in their future, here is an informative website.

Geezer Bandit
Consider for a moment the desperation that drives a feeble old man to go on a crime spree. It would be fodder for a George Burns or Walter Matthau movie (if either were still alive). Things won't be getting any easier for seniors from here on. Stories like this will become more common. Follow the old geezer on Facebook.
     Law enforcement has hatched the theory that the Geezer Bandit must be a young person in disguise. It's inconceivable that a doddering wretch could stage an impressive crime spree.

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Some Useful Information for Old Grouches

FLOH Club - Tech Support for Old Geezers - America's favorite TV mom wants technology to be simple! Multitalented entertainer Florence Henderson is here to comfort, support, and inspire you as you make the most of computer technology!

Eastwood's termination: 'Somebody got a bee under their bonnet' - Los Angeles Times - After Clint Eastwood learned last week that his friend Arnold Schwarzenegger no longer wanted him on the state parks commission, he spoke with Bobby Shriver, the governor's brother-in-law, who had also been dropped. Somewhat incredulous, they joked about it, each saying the other should be more offended...

Warren Buffett Says His Taxes Are Too Low - Tom Brokaw visits Buffett at work.

Buffett Sings - The jokester gives a stirring performance at stockholders' meeting.

Buffett Laughs - A minute or so in, Buffett cuts loose with his fun-guy chuckle.

MSNBC - Warren Buffett Watch - Keeping track of America's billionaire next door.

Martha the Horsewoman - The video shows how charming the old gal can be.

Jack & Groucho - The amazing thing is Jack & Groucho are about the same age here!

Born in 1947? You're a Baby Boom pioneer, aren't you! - 47 is the quintessential random number. Many have noticed. Many have wondered: why? Many more have wondered: so what? The 47 Society is dedicated to exploring the phenomenon that is 47.

Experts say young folks put off by presence of older people ... - This news item confirms what we already know. People in their 20s want to get away from old farts as fast as they can.

Medical News: White Baby Boomers Cause Rise in National Suicide Rate - BALTIMORE -- Suicide rates have been slowly rising over the past decade largely because of a surprising increase among middle-age whites, researchers found.

Why Clint Eastwood thinks America is full of babies - Tough guy Clint Eastwood believes America is getting soft around the middle - and the iconic Oscar winner thinks he knows when the problem began. "Maybe when people started asking about the meaning of life," Eastwood tells Esquire.

"Elderly" Pilot's Heroics Avert Disaster - A former fighter pilot was hailed as a hero last night after he guided his crippled airliner to a safe landing in the Hudson River in New York, saving the lives of all 155 people on board.

International Longevity Center USA - The Longevity Center's new media guide provides the necessary tools for media professionals to represent older adults and the aging process in a fair, contemporary and unbiased manner.

Psychology Today: Fluke Skywalker: Philippe Petit - High-wire maestro and daredevil Philippe Petit comes down from the clouds. (Daredevil isn't the word for Petit, but the article is worthwhile.)

Negative views of older people may be bad for your health - Don't badmouth the elderly.

Grouchy Senior Citizen Gets Snuffed in Road Rage Incident - OK, a snooty soccer mom cuts you off in her Escalade. Life is short! Don't make it even shorter by making a scene. She might call her husband to punch you out (or worse).

10 Healthy Habits That May Help You Live to 100 - You don't need to eat yogurt and live on a mountaintop but you do need to floss.

The 6 Most Annoying Things About Old People - Blogger takes a dim view of senior citizens.

Authentic Happiness :: Using the new Positive Psychology - Visit the Authentic Happiness website. Answer some happiness quizzes to find out how happy you are (no joke!). This could be your first step in emerging from life as a chronic grouchster.

Signs You Are Officially an Old Fart
Reaching an arbitrary milestone such as 55 is one thing. Old Farthood can begin sooner or be put off until later. Dentures and depends are the obvious signs. Here are some other things to look for.

Tube socks and sandals
Tube socks and sandals.
There are few more reliable signs of Old Fart status than the sandals and socks look. It has been co-opted in recent years by young nerdly types.

Email without a computer.
At what point do you scrap your trusty notebook (the grandkids want no part of it--outdated) and get a dumbed-down email terminal?

You swap your normal cell phone for one that's so simple even a senior citizen can use it!

While you continue to lose hair in places you want it, you gain unsightly hair where you don't want it. While male sex organs may atrophy, the nose and ears enlarge to grotesque proportions.

A lot of old geezers seem proud of their bushy eyebrows. They refuse to trim unsightly overgrown facial foliage. Guys like this look pretty funny out in the yard with weed whackers, hedge trimmers, and so on, not realizing their own appearance needs the most attention.

At some point you stop caring about looking cool and go with groovy senior citizen shades.

Galloping Grumpiness
Don't take your perpetual foul mood out on everyone.

"People are just as happy as they make up their minds to be." --Abraham Lincoln

Honest Abe didn't get a chance to be a cranky senior citizen. If he lived by the above advice, he might not have become an irascible old goat like so many of today's coddled curmudgeons.
     Don't get me wrong, there's plenty to be cranky about. I've had a chance to observe my fellow seniors up close, however, and I'm embarrassed by what I've seen. Too many crabby codgers and surly shrews are inflicting gratuitous grouchiness on an undeserving world.
     It uncalled for. It's inexcusable. With time running out on this precious life, shouldn't we be making the best of it?
     We all have a responsibility to make the world a better place. No extra effort is needed to be pleasant and kind. What's the problem?
     I'm as guilty as anyone. I've caught myself being gruff with servers, cashiers, clerks, and attendants. Sometimes their job performance leaves something to be desired (a subject for another entry). Unless you enjoy making yourself and others miserable, being grumpy only makes matters worse. I remind myself to smile and be nice!
     Being a grouch can have nasty consequences. See the road rage link above.

While there's still time, try being Mr. Nice Guy for a change. You'll live longer!

Being a cheerful old geezer is more fun. For example, at the grocery store, I filled out a compliment card for a young whippersnapper who was nice to me. I reported the incident to the store manager, who braced herself for the typical old grouch tirade. When I praised the youngster, it made the manager's day. Try it sometime.

January 19, 1999: A Turning Point For Civilization
How the BlackBerry Rule can help old timers find common ground with youngsters.

Nothing could be more boring than your story about the day JFK, MLK, or RFK was killed.

If you remember only one rule (about all a senior citizen can remember), your communication with young whippersnappers will be greatly improved. The rule is this: Youngsters (30ish or younger) hate to hear anything about the remote past. Ancient history starts on January 19, 1999, the day the BlackBerry was introduced.
A few words into your zesty anecdote about the Peace Corps, they will tune you out. No matter how fascinating the subject is to you, there is no way you can make it faintly interesting to the youngster. Watch how fast their eyes glaze over when you mention the day JFK, MLK, or RFK was killed. Don't talk about the technology that didn't exist when you were growing up, or the social upheaval you have witnessed (see below). They'll zone out. It's not worth the flicker of polite interest we showed Dad when he told his war stories and tales of the Great Depression (walking to school barefoot in the snow).
     If you must persist in ignoring my advice, you need a reality check. If the youngster shows interest, if she laughs politely at your clever witticisms, your droll bon mots, rest assured she is only humoring you. Perhaps you are a potential source of funds, a professor, or someone else she can't afford to alienate. Don't think for a minute she is actually interested. She probably doesn't have a clue what you are talking about.
     Not only are youngsters not curious about the past, they will become annoyed at the suggestion that anything cool happened back in your day.
     A youngster may say they like "old" movies, for example. To you, that may mean classics like Lawrence of Arabia, Easy Rider, or The Godfather. To a youngster, "old" movies are those from their teenage years. If the person is under 30, for example, don't mention Taxi Driver (1976). That's an old old movie, with all of the fascination of a documentary on the Punic Wars. They'll give you a blank look, avert their gaze, roll their eyes, sigh.
     To a youngster, the release date of Taxi Driver alone disqualifies it from consideration. If it's that old, it can't be any good. They will take you to task for talking about a movie from the ancient past. "That was before I was born," is the predictable protest. "Why would I know about that?" Where's the sense in cluttering your mind with useless information?
     In discussing popular culture, don't bother bringing up your favorite books like The Great Gatsby or To Kill A Mockingbird. Because they are relics of the ancient past, books like this are insufferably boring. Most youngsters have never heard of them and will bristle at the suggestion that they are worth looking into. In fact, reading newspapers, books, or magazines is pretty much a foreign concept to them.*
     Don't use fancy words like "acronym" or "flatulence." They'll have no idea what you are talking about, even if they have a college degree.
     That doesn't leave much to talk about, it's true. If you really want to find some common ground with a youngster, you'll have to learn to text or play video games. Don't expect them to meet you half way and watch Dances With Wolves (1990) with you.

* They may grudgingly concede one awesome thing from ancient times: Pre-BlackBerry comics. They're cool thanks to the bevy of blockbuster super-hero movies in recent years.

     It sounds like I'm taking cheap shots at the younger generation. My generalizations come from years of working with the youngsters, including 20-something bosses. I may have exaggerated a little to make a point. The point being that Millennials see Baby Boomers as an alien culture. If you meet someone from Bavaria, you might ask them about life in Bavaria. To a youngster, the culture of the 1950s is as foreign as the Lost Tribes of Borneo. Don't expect them to ask, however. Their aversion to pre-BlackBerry America is a sort of generational xenophobia. A youngster doesn't dare admit to his friends that he actually knows who Charlie Chaplin is, for example. They'll fiercely deny any knowledge of Bozo the Clown. It's not cool to know stuff like that. It marks you as a dweeb.
     Youthful dread of old folks is nothing new. When I was a small boy, my mother commanded me to kiss Grandma on the cheek. The leathery, wrinkled skin! The pancake makeup! At that age my eyes were like magnifying glasses. As my lips approached the dreaded cheek, it was like a movie of a lunar landing. The mottled skin, the crater-like pores, came into sharp focus. Music from the Psycho shower scene filled the room. Mom didn't tell me not to wipe my lips! I offended poor Grandma. I came within an inch of a good thrashing. From then on I not only had to kiss Grandma's cheek, I had to pretend I liked it!
     When Beatlemania swept the planet, my parents joined the rest of their generation in dismissing the Beatles' music as just a lot of noise. To them, the only real pop music was tunes from the Big Band era. How could they be so narrow-minded?
     Now the tables have turned. Kids are sick of hearing how great the Beatles were. That's music for old fogeys. When it comes to most rap music, I'm like my parents. It's just a lot of noise. Now that I'm a narrow-minded old fossil, I'll stick to the dreadful music from my era (Neil Young, Dylan, the Clash, Creedence, Midnight Oil, etc.).

     I have a lot of confidence in today's youngsters, in spite of the shortcomings I've noted. I think they somehow will find a way to grapple with the mess we're leaving them. They're not dummies. They just aren't smart in traditional ways old grouches use to gauge intelligence (general knowledge, acting responsibly, basic competence). They are industrious and optimistic. Thanks to the multi-tasking craze their work habits are a bit sloppy. (Multi-tasking is just a byproduct of Attention Deficit Disorder.) When these kids learn to focus their full attention on a task, I'm sure they will make the world a better place.

Geritol vs. Red Bull
In my years growing up, Geritol (as in "geriatric") was one of the most heavily-advertised products. It was marketed to the older set whose get up and go got up and went.
     You would think such products would be more popular than ever with the depends and dentures crowd, who need a boost just to maintain a pulse.
     But no. Today's energy drink craze turns logic upside down. Energy drinks are the cool lifestyle enhancer for young active adults who should already have energy to burn. They need a potent brew of exotic herbs and stimulants to get through all those extreme sports, clubbing, and non-stop partying. I'm sure they can use the help to maintain a competitive edge over the old farts!

Just a Lot of Folderlol
The senior citizen stereotype is the pathetic wretch set in his ways, hostile to change or innovation. Baby boomers have adapted to more change and innovation than any generation since the Bronze Age. Imagine living through the advent of jet travel, faxes, copiers, email, personal computers, the Internet, voice mail, cell phones, men in space, texting, microwave ovens, stereo, color television and the TV remote. These make good conversation starters with the youngsters in your life.
     "Would you believe, at one time there was no such thing as a microwave?"
     "Wow, Grandpa! How did you cook your Hot Pockets?"
     Baby boomers were also around at the dawn of credit cards, the Pill, voting for 18-year-olds, the civil rights movement, feminism, gay rights, and McDonald's.
     Like my fellow baby boomers, I have adapted quite gracefully to gadgets, new protocols, processes and procedures. When it comes to LOL, however, I'm just an old fuddyduddy. You couldn't pay me to use LOL. I make it a rule never to laugh at my own jokes, LOL. If I think something is funny, I'll just say "that's funny." I don't need those cute emoticons to get my point across. -:)
     Some things aren't LOL funny. They are chuckleworthy (COL) or giggleworthy (GOL). Things can send you into paroxysms of laughter (POL), or they can be So Funny I Forgot to Laugh (SFIFL).

Another one is finger quotes. I would feel like a big jerk flashing dorky bent peace signs to emphasize something I'm saying. I only use finger quotes when I'm mocking people who use finger quotes (like Dr. Evil here).
     Then there's the expression "It is what it is." Is it supposed to be profound? It's the ultimate empy-headed sentiment. I'll always be hostile to the expression because it's the one my 20-something boss used when he fired me.
     "Why am I being fired?"
     "It is what it is." (Cue Dragnet theme)

Strength in Numbers?
In a few years, senior citizens will make up a bigger chunk of the population than any generation since the Civil War. You might think that would be a good thing for old farts. With so many of us around, won't that make the culture a bit more friendly to the elderly?
     Not likely. Senior citizens will drain society's resources like never before. Social Security and Medicare will probably go broke. Decrepit oldsters will swamp our medical facilities. Slow drivers will clog our streets and highways. When they venture out to stores or restaurants, youngsters will be forever tripping over feeble old pukes as they struggle along with their walkers.
     I keep seeing articles that millions of seniors will keep working because they want to "feel useful" or "stay busy." Bullshit. Most of them can't afford to retire. They are irresponsible Baby Boomers who were too busy living for today to think about tomorrow. When they should have been saving for retirement, their disposable income went up in pot smoke. Why should our children and grandchildren bear the burden of their profligate ways?
     They will have to keep working until they die. They will only qualify for menial entry-level jobs typically taken by deserving young newcomers to the job market. The competition will be fierce. Seniors will be blamed for a steep decline in entry-level wages.
     Society will get fed up with all these doddering old geezers who won't just die already. They will be seen as a hindrance to the good life youngsters feel entitled to. Who can blame them? Natural cultural animosity will fester into seething resentment toward the elderly.
     Something to look forward to, eh?

The Death of an Old Friend
Before I understood that youngsters don't want to hear anything from an old fart, I made the mistake of offering a single piece of advice to my young co-workers. I suggested that they save for retirement. "I'll start in my 30s," they'd say, "when I'm making more money. I want to enjoy life while I can. I still have plenty of time." They don't understand that time has a fiendish way of spinning out of control. The earlier you start, the more you'll have at the finish line. It's tempting to put it off until it becomes an emergency. By then, it's too late. When you're in your 50s you won't miss the money you put away in your 20s. You won't look back and say "I was such a fool to save that money. I deprived myself of so much fun." You can have fun and save.
     "Who knows, I could get hit by a bus tomorrow. What good will the money do me then?" Well, you can do, or refrain from doing, just about anything based on the assumption you'll be hit by a bus tomorrow.
     You'll want to have fun when you're old, too. They picture retirement as forced immobilization, anything but fun. As bizarre a concept as it may seem, there is still fun to be had. You need to finance the fun. (Yeah, but it's not really fun. They're just trying to recapture their youth.) As they sail into middle age, people work out a "bucket list" of things to do before it's too late. If you can't finance your list of cool adventures, you're in a sorry state. That dream of climbing Mt. Everest or kayaking down the Amazon may remain just that, a dream never to be fulfilled.

Of course they don't want to hear it. I'm just an old geezer who regrets not saving more. I spent most of my worklife before there was such a painless program as a 401(k). Don't worry, they probably think, I'm not about to make any of your mistakes.
     Now I maintain self-restraint, not only in my dealings with youngsters, but with everyone. Listening is a lost art. People want to talk, not listen. Why waste your breath? Assuming anyone would listen, this is what I would tell a youngster about dealing with old farts.

We all start with a clean slate, full of hope that our life will be a pretty picture. Before long, some of us have created a Ralph Steadman nightmare. Good deeds, clean living and righteousness can't undo it. It tends to weigh on a person.
     Stooped shoulders aren't entirely a physical manifestation of age. The psychic burden carried by the elderly should bend them in half. They may feel they've been shortchanged somehow. They may be roiling with regret and resentment, reliving poor choices, wrong turns, botched opportunities, bungled endeavors, slights, injustices, humiliations great and small, and a laundry list of unresolved grievances. They may feel hurt at finding themselves among society's castoffs.
     I think of the movie The Mission. Robert De Niro plays Mendoza, a slaver who hopes to redeem himself through a grueling penance. He pulls an impossibly heavy bundle full of weapons up the steep face of a waterfall in South America. He endures heartbreaking agony as he struggles with the bundle. At last, his burden is cut away. He weeps, then laughs. If only someone could cut away the burden shouldered by the elderly. No one can. They have to cut it for themselves.

Nearly every day you hear about the death of a famous person, like Jack Lalanne. My earliest childhood memories include Jack Lalanne on TV. I was there when he marked his 60th birthday by towing a boatload of sand bags from Alcatraz to the Aquatic Park in San Francisco. Shackled and lashed to the boat, he pulled it with a machine-like breast stroke.
     Lalanne was like an old friend. Even if I live as long as Jack, which isn't likely, I don't have much time. When I was 30 years younger, the death of a famous person didn't faze me much. Oh, Bob Hope died? Too bad.
     Reminders of mortality now give me a shudder. Other than being feeble, halt, slow-witted, and losing IQ points by the minute, this is what sets senior citizens apart. It's dread of the clock running out. It's my first thought upon awakening. Great, survived another day.

You don't need to patiently listen to old folks relive their glory days. They mistakenly assume someone will find their story as funny or fascinating as they do. Senior citizens shouldn't be pitied or patronized. Tell them to write a memoir no one will read. The blank page or screen will soak up anything they have to say. They can join an online message forum, adopt a moniker like "CrankyOldBuzzard" and post angry rants, flame their opponents.

     Even a good storyteller can't find an audience these days. Mark Twain would be just another geezer on a park bench, sharing it quietly. No 20-year-old can imagine what it's like to be 70. Paul Simon tried. What possessed a man in his 20s to write about the elderly is beyond me. The most he could say was it's "terribly strange." I'll go along with that.

Old friends
Old friends
Sat on their park bench
Like bookends
A newspaper blown through the grass
Falls on the round toes
Of the high shoes
Of the old friends

Old friends
Winter companions
The old men
Lost in their overcoats
Waiting for the sunset
The sounds of the city
Sifting through the trees
Settle like dust
On the shoulders
Of the old friends

Can you imagine us years from today
Sharing a park bench quietly?
How terribly strange to be seventy

Old friends
Memory brushes the same years
Silently sharing the same fear...

Time it was, and what a time it was, it was
A time of innocence, a time of confidences
Long ago, it must be, I have a photograph
Preserve your memories; They're all that's left you.

Don't Worry

“Don't worry about me," he said. "The little limp means nothing. People my age limp. A limp is a natural thing at a certain age. Forget the cough. You move the stuff around. The stuff can't harm you as long as it doesn't settle in one spot and stay there for years. So the cough's all right. So is the insomnia. The insomnia's all right. What do I gain by sleeping? You reach an age when every minute of sleep is one less minute to do useful things. To cough or limp. Never mind the women. The women are all right. We rent a cassette and have some sex. It pumps blood to the heart. Forget the cigarettes. I like to tell myself I'm getting away with something. Let the Mormons quit smoking. They'll die of something just as bad. The money's no problem. I'm all set incomewise. Zero pensions, zero savings, zero stocks and bonds. So you don't have to worry about that. That's all taken care of. Never mind the teeth. The teeth are all right. The looser they are the more you can wobble them with your tongue. It gives your tongue something to do. Don't worry about the shakes. Everybody gets the shakes now and then. It's only the left hand anyway. The way to enjoy the shakes is pretend it's somebody else's hand. Never mind the sudden and unexplained weight loss. There's no point eating what you can't see. Don't worry about the eyes. The eyes can't get any worse than they are now. Forget the mind completely. The mind goes before the body. That's the way it's supposed to be. So don't worry about the mind. The mind is all right. Worry about the car . . ."

--Vernon Dickey, White Noise (Don Delillo)

Parting Shot
The AARP Magazine For Old Grouches


Voted off WikiHow
Taken to task for trying to be funny.

I originally posted this squib on a site called WikiHow. A link for WikiHow appeared one day on my email page. I innocently responded to the invitation to post my take on the cranky senior issue. My squib was greeted with a barrage of scathing comments:

     Support deletion. This is extremly mean spirited and sarcastic, and shows no respect for Seniors.

     Don't post joke topics here - this site is not a joke.

     The content is just nasty.

My post was promptly deleted by the self-appointed arbiters at WikiHow. This was before I knew about blogs. No such problem with a blog. True, you may not have readers but at least people leave you alone.

We welcome your comments
Is there a lighter side to aging?

I hope you enjoyed my look at the fate in store for all of us. Let me know your thoughts.

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this literally made me LAUGH OUT LOUD! great writing!!!!

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