Monthly Archives: March 2013

How Long Do I Have To Wait For Old Age To Start?

When do Golden Agers move into Old Agers? I’ve been here in the retirement home for just over a year and so far I have met very few proper old people. It is true that most of the residents have 70 or 80 or 90 birthdays behind them but that’s not what makes them old. The old ones have gone, left for some other place. The people here are busy in the gym, in the exercise classes and the swimming pool. They are arguing over books in the library and eagerly awaiting the latest publications, they are slavering over the cakes at the monthly sale and elbowing their way to the front so they get their hands on the rich chocolate cakes. Are these all signs of old age?

You should see these people at the card tables playing killer bridge and canasta, showing no mercy to their opponents. That’s not the behavior of the old age crowd. True, many of them use walking aids, metal or human, but that too is only a sign of a frail body and has no connection to our perception of old age.

Ask any one of them how old they feel and you will be stunned at the answers: “Somewhere in the upper 60’s!”

“Hell, who can remember what 60 felt like?”

“How old do I feel? I can’t feel very much anymore! Did you bring a bottle of whisky with you?”

“I am getting old, but it’s pretty slow…”

“Sorry, I’m a bit deaf. Can you repeat the question?”

“I’m 86 but I’m not old.”

“Yeah, my back is shot and I walk all bent, but my head is still straight and working just fine. Have you seen my glasses?”

Who says we’re old here?

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The Senior’s Eleventh Commandment: Thou Shalt Not Fall

Of all the bad things a Senior can do, falling is about the worst. Your immediate and most important objective at this stage in your life is to stay on your feet. It’s bad enough when a young person falls in the street or in the house and the damage can be terrible. When an oldie falls, the consequences can be disastrous. Old bones don’t heal quickly; torn muscles and tendons cannot be fixed. I can cite any number of falls where the victim never fully recovered or if he or she did recover, they were never the same again.

So I walk with my head down; I watch for changes in the floor or sidewalk levels when I am outside; I look for those treacherous two inch steps that building laws ban but which are the favorites of building contractors who don’t know their arithmetic and get their floor levels wrong and have to adjust them.

Of course there are falls that are harmless. You get up, shake the dust off and continue on your way. Others are not as innocuous – you may be unconscious or have hit your head on the concrete and broken bones in your face. You may land up in hospital having surgery. Don’t fall.

Falling is the second leading cause of accidental death worldwide and is a major cause of personal injury, especially for the elderly. The World Health Organization estimates that 424,000 people die in falls every year. Don’t fall.

In the elderly, even falls from standing position to flat ground may cause serious injuries. In a study of 80,000 elderly persons the risk of falling increases for any who are taking multiple prescription medications and for all who are taking psychoactive drugs. Do yourself and everyone around you a favor – don’t fall!


A Week of Snow in the Retirement Home

I remember clearly the day the new flat screen TV set arrived at our apartment in the retirement home. I stared at this marvel of technology and watched as the technician connected the wires, pressed buttons, waved the remote and said, “That’s it, folks! Enjoy your new set!”
I remember that I said, “Just a minute young feller; show me exactly what I have to do to get a movie.”
“All you have to do is point the remote at the TV and press this little green button,” he said.
He lied.

Last night I was late in switching on the TV. I thought I might be missing the news so I grabbed the remote and in my haste pressed the nearest button. I got snow on about 200 channels and I did miss the news. For all I knew Cyprus could have sunk and Syria could have fallen while I tried to get the set back on the rails. There are a limited number of buttons on the remote and I have pressed them all singly, in tandem and hopscotch fashion; in alphabetical order and in all four directions and nothing happens. I know the satellite dish is still up there on the roof because Ben, my mate on the fifth floor, says his set is working fine.

Three days later I am still looking at the snow. My usual electronics help team, which consists of assorted grandchildren, are all out of town and the TV repairman gave me an appointment for next Tuesday, “between 8am and 5pm. Please be home when I arrive.” I Googled the subject and got back about 200 answers, none of which quite matches my problem.

Someone needs to open a seniors’ store, a place where we Goldenagers can buy simple electronics and modern day gadgets that operate with a flick of the finger. The remotes should have one big button marked “press here” in large letters and should be able to operate everything.


Exceedingly Senior

I push the hot water button on the water dispenser to fill my coffee cup and turn to greet someone hobbling along on his crutches. The boiling water overflows and runs down my hand. I do a small dance of pain, mutter a curse and walk to where I usually sit in the coffee lounge, slopping coffee as I go.
“Good morning, Leon!” says someone as I pass.
“Morning,” I growl, watching a drop of coffee narrowly miss my shoe.
“Guten morgen, Leon!”
“Morgen.” I don’t look but it sounds like Fritz, the nice guy from the third floor.
“Buenas Dias, Leon,” says Paco who always sits in the window seat.
“Hola!” I say, pleased at my knowledge of Spanish as it is spoken in Beunos Aires.

I’m halfway to my usual seat and rapidly running out of languages.
“Bon jour, Ami!” says Marcel, raising his cup as I draw…

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We Speak 50 Languages in the Retirement Home

I push the hot water button on the water dispenser to fill my coffee cup and turn to greet someone hobbling along on his crutches. The boiling water overflows and runs down my hand. I do a small dance of pain, mutter a curse and walk to where I usually sit in the coffee lounge, slopping coffee as I go.
“Good morning, Leon!” says someone as I pass.
“Morning,” I growl, watching a drop of coffee narrowly miss my shoe.
“Guten morgen, Leon!”
“Morgen.” I don’t look but it sounds like Fritz, the nice guy from the third floor.
“Buenas Dias, Leon,” says Paco who always sits in the window seat.
“Hola!” I say, pleased at my knowledge of Spanish as it is spoken in Beunos Aires.

I’m halfway to my usual seat and rapidly running out of languages.
“Bon jour, Ami!” says Marcel, raising his cup as I draw near.
I give him a quick smile, trying not to move my eyes from my stormy coffee cup.
“B’jour Marcel!”
“Buenas Dias, Amigo! Como estas?” This guy’s name is Leonardo, Uruguayan, early 90s, fit as a fiddle, drives like a maniac. “Because of the traffic in Montevideo,” he once explained.
“Can I carry that cup for you?” it is the smiling Fatima, the Arab lady who is in charge of cleaning and order in the lounge. “Shukran, Fatima!” I say, highly relieved at her offer.

I trail after her as she weaves through the chairs balancing the coffee cup like a pro and we pass through a knot of caregivers. Luckily they all speak smatterings of Hebrew and “Good Morning” is the specialty of these smiling people. I mean you wouldn’t expect me to learn Philipino, Thai, Chinese, Sri Lankan and Indian with all their different dialects, would you?

Finally I get the greeting from my own crowd: “Boker Tov, Leon!”
It’s going to be a great day, after all…


A Pill Fight in the Retirement Home

It’s another one of those anomalies: the most popular 4 wheeled vehicle in the world is the ubiquitous shopping-cart; the main ingredient of a Golden Ager’s diet is the pill. I got myself a cup of coffee in the lounge this morning, sat down among a circle of residents and found myself in the midst of an animated discussion on medications, most of which turn out to be pills.

“I take 4 in the morning and 7 at night,” said Rachel from the third floor.
“I take 7 in the morning and 4 at night,” said her neighbor Bessie.
“I take a handful every morning,” said Rosie. “I just swallow the whole lot, I think its about 12, with my morning coffee. They must be working, I’m still here!”
“I take 5 in the morning,” said Sid. “One is to make me pee, one is to stop me from peeing, one for cholesterol, one for blood pressure and one for…, um, I’ve forgotten, but I take it anyway. And I take another lot at night. No sleeping pills, though. I have to get up to pee.”
The discussion raged on, quantities, causes, results and finally manufacturers were compared. There seems to be no standard, no one really understands what it’s all about, but everyone agrees that the medicines work and they obey the doctor’s instructions to the last pill.

The retirement home offers a pill delivery service; you hand in your prescriptions at the clinic and the medications arrive the next day.
“I refuse to use the system,” said Jessica. “I used it once and the pharmacist sent back pills in strange looking boxes. I think they were generics or copies or something. I want to see the manufacturers’ names on every box. I don’t trust those pharmacists!”
“I use the system every month,” said Joan. “It’s great. Saves me going across town to my HMO.”


Catching a Dose of Old Age in the Retirement Home

Nowadays when I sit in the lounge or the auditorium and look around at the residents in the retirement home, I understand that I am not the youngest person here. It makes me feel better. I’m also not the oldest. That makes me feel much better. I am somewhere in between, at some sort of anonymous, indeterminate age, neither here nor there. I have also come to understand that I will not “catch” old age because of my surroundings. It’s not one’s surroundings that add the years to one; it’s the grandchildren who flaunt their spectacular growth rates before our eyes.

“I remember when,” you say to a grandson stretching up to pat him on the head. Or you say, “I held you on my knee,” you say to the university student who drives her own car. And the grandchild you once helped tie a shoelace or the bow in her doll’s hair is now the one you call when your computer refuses to obey your commands. Back in 1952 you did a course in motor car mechanics, so that you would understand what makes your car go. Today, if it won’t budge you call a grandson; he’ll know how to get your stubborn car to move.

It’s a gentle process, this growing old business. If you’re lucky healthwise there will be few serious bumps in the road and you won’t feel anything. No “growing-down” pains like there were once “growing-up” pains. Good genes are also a great asset in the aging business and then there is that ever-present factor – good luck. If you are already in the old-age business, make the most of it.


A Computer Crash in the Retirement Home

Computers, as most of us have found out the hard way, can crash anywhere and at any time. The retirement home is no exception. There is no germination period and no warning. No little box opens up and asks you if you have backed everything up. One moment you are busy banging away on the keyboard and next moment you have a blank screen grinning at you. “See if you can fix it, buster!” It is a most stressful situation. So I sat and prayed it was a temporary illness of some sort, then started fiddling with the wires and switches and anything else that moves with no results and finally called the techie. He did a quick examination over the phone, connected my computer to his and from 10 miles away informed me that the whatsit had died.

“Say a quick prayer and head for the phone company and get a new one,” he explained. “Then call me.”
I did as instructed and today he showed up, pushed in a couple of plugs, entered some numbers on the keyboard and held out his hand for a token payment. I’m back in business.

I bought my first computer in 1984 and have never been without once since. But I have never taken the trouble to learn what makes the thing go. And if you watch the techie when he comes, he doesn’t really do much. Back in the 80s the computer man would arrive holding a small screwdriver and pair of pliers. “These are all the tools required to fix anything that goes wrong inside the box,” he explained. I remember thinking that I should ask him if he would teach me, but for some perverse reason I held my tongue. Big mistake!


When You’ve Been Around A Long Time…

The thing is that when you’ve been around for a long time, like 80 years – and you can still remember the old days, good or not – you often find yourself the only one with a particular opinion. In the car the other day I listened to a group of sports experts on the BBC talking about modern day football. “Without a doubt,” said one with great conviction, “Lionel Messi is the greatest football player of all time!” This was followed by a silence so I assumed that the others in the room were all nodding in agreement.

Then a telephone rang in the back ground and an irate voice said “Wrong! Messi is not the greatest. Pele is the greatest!” a few minutes later the phone rang again and this time the caller shouted, “The greatest was Maradona! No one has ever equaled his football magic! A violent argument took place and I understood that the dispute was based on your age. If you were cheering when Maradona was scoring goals, he was your greatest. Likewise for all the others.

I tried this conversation on my grand children. The unanimous answer to who the greatest football player was, of course Messi. One son said Maradona and another older son opted for Johan Kruyff. As I expected after listening to the BBC program, an argument erupted.
“Who you think is or was the greatest, Pop?” asked a grandson.
“Well, in my day there was only one name that was heard in the football world.”
They all leaned forward.
“His name was Eusebio,” I said to a ring of blank faces.
Silence erupted.

Does anyone else in the room remember the great Eusebio? Its all a matter of age.


Pope Francis Is a Member of The Seniors Club

Whatever the youngsters may think, in the end it is we Seniors who are guiding the world. The young may rule, make decisions and fight battles and wars but the good advice and guidance is still handed down by our Senior members.

Pope Francis is 76 years old, is the 266th pontiff in the Church’s 2,000-year history and is taking the helm at a time of great crisis in the church. We wish him success. He is at the age when most of us are quite happy to hit the couch after a long and busy working life. 76 is a time of looking back, teasing grandchildren and taking it easy. 76 should be a time of reading and relaxing, not one of applying for a new full-time job and stating one’s readiness to work overtime and weekends as well.

Pope Francis is clearly facing his old age head on. He is neither scared of old age and neither is he bowing to it or preparing to spend it like many old men. He does not accept that ageing is a strange and foreign territory usually described in negative terms for those whom, much to their surprise, find themselves lost in its hinterland, often unsuitably dressed and without a compass. Pope Francis will not be found stumbling about in the wilderness of old age. He knows that the world now recognizes that older people have assets, capabilities and talents which are often intensified and not erased by age.

Here’s wishing him luck!