We attended another funeral yesterday, this time of a good friend whose heart finally gave out after some years of sputtering along. He was 77, a very respectable age even in these times of increasing longevity, but many of those at the cemetery were stunned at his early departure. A visit to the cemetery turns one’s mind to questions of life and death and a whole slew of whys and wherefores and if only he had…, or perhaps they should have…? There are no answers. It’s all part of the mystery of life. Not everyone is destined for their 80s and 90s and not everyone has the health, luck and genes that pull one along to those ages.
The search for long life is in full swing and the results are spectacular and will become even more so in the coming years. Insurance companies are having problems with long life and are racing to update their actuarial tables. Birthday parties are hitting new highs and wedding anniversaries are making it past the 60th and even the 70th. There are a couple of residents here in the retirement home in their mid-nineties who are still driving. Will we be seeing 100 year old drivers texting on their iPhones while doing four-wheel slides around the corners in the years to come? Frightening thought, isn’t it?
People have strong ideas about why they live longer. If you ask the Japanese, it’s fish and vegetables. If you ask the Chinese, it’s green tea and ginseng, the French say it’s the wine and the Americans swear by exercise. In a current Longevity Genes Project, sixty percent of the subjects said it was due to being happy.
Whatever it is, enjoy every moment of your time on earth!
A new film called “Unfinished Song”, soon to be released, stars Vanessa Redgrave and Terence Stamp and features a senior choral singing group. This comes hard on the heels of the British movie “Quartet” which is set in Beecham House, a retirement home for gifted musicians, patterned after the real-life Casa di Riposo per Musicisti founded by Giuseppe Verdi. The N.Y. Times blog, The New Old Age cites evidence that singing groups may have found one of the secrets to healthy aging. On the other hand the movie industry may have found a new use for older, well-worn actors to star in films…
In “Unfinished Song,” Redgrave, 75, playing Stamp’s dying wife, discovers that singing in a local senior center’s choral group helps her stay grounded in the present and also face her fate. Stamp’s character is a grumpy, difficult caregiver to his wife, but is reluctantly drawn into the singing group by the film’s series of events. But he undergoes a personal and spiritual transformation, finding hope and grace through the choral group.
The blog post reports many studies have shown the physical and mental health benefits of seniors participating in singing groups. One 2006 study compared chorus groups over age 65 with non-singing 65+ senior groups and the chorus groups reported fewer falls, a more active lifestyle, feeling less lonely and overall better health. The science behind singing also supports healthier aging, showing stronger neural brain connections, stress reduction, and healthier immune systems.
Our Retirement Home offers a choir among its many activities for the residents and we faithfully attend their performances, marveling at the professional choirmaster’s perseverance, not only in organizing such a group, but in getting the members to sing together. After the last performance I suggested to a couple of my closer friends that listening to the choir may not be extending our lives at all…
One of the things that we seniors are really serious about is our sleep. For some strange reason, sleep becomes elusive as we age and here in the House of Seniors anyone who disturbs our sleep after we finally find it is not regarded kindly. I hope the helicopter pilot who keeps buzzing this building reads this. If we get our hand on him, we will still his rotor forever. We are two kilometers east of Highway No. 4 and one kilometer north of Road No. 553.
Take yesterday afternoon. I had a good lunch, tottered my way to the couch, fiddled with a crossword and then fell asleep. The roar of a low-flying helicopter woke me ten minutes after I passed out and that was the end of my after-lunch nap. That evening you made three low passes over our building, rattling the window frames and sending many of the occupants out onto their balconies to see what was going on. Most of the lights in this place are out by 11. You flew over at 11:30 waking many of us, including yours truly.
This afternoon you came past again at 2:30, waking us again. We were sure that the coming war had already started. This evening you have made one pass so far – your lowest – at 9:30. We are now all waiting for your return trip, which we know will be after we have fallen asleep.
Wherever it is you fly to, can you please adjust your route a few miles east or west so that we seniors are left in peace to enjoy our sleep?
From where I’m standing on my balcony at the retirement home, it looks suspiciously as though a war is about to break out. Not one of those local wars that go on in Africa or other dark parts, but a big war, a full-scale war, a global war like World War I or World War II. And the focal point is Syria, a small unimportant country at the eastern end of the Mediterranean. It has no gold or oil and in fact, nothing that anyone else wants or is prepared to fight over. So far in their local fighting, over 90,000 people have died while the world watched and shrugged their shoulders – “None of our business!”
But now America is sending fighting equipment to neighboring Jordan while China and Russia are rubbing their hands at the prospect of testing their new weaponry in real time and in real warfare.
Next year, 2014, will be exactly 100 years since the outbreak of World War I, perhaps an auspicious year to start another world war and reduce the populations of some countries. We seniors have been in this movie before and we warn you of the dire consequences of a world war, this time one which will use nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. Take another look at the damage and poisoning of the earth by the meltdowns in Chernobyl back in the 80s and Japan not so many years ago. This war that you seem to be intent on conducting will do much more damage than that. It will make the Middle East uninhabitable for centuries. How will you collect your precious oil?
We implore you youngsters to stop this madness before it becomes unstoppable. We gave you a planet in fair condition. You owe it to the future generations to look after it in your tenure.
Do you remember how air travel was back in the good old days? It was what is today called, a “no-brainer”. You never had to think. You drove to the airport, parked your car in any one of the available slots in the parking lot and ambled into the airport carrying your bag. At the counter the pretty booking clerk smiled and you made your request. You took your boarding pass, had a couple of drinks to the pilot’s health in the airport bar, passed through passport control and when your flight was called, you boarded the plane and off you went. All in all, a quick and painless operation.
We, the “Over 70s Group” all living in various retirement homes, had just completed our week’s cruise on the Mediterranean and were now eager to get home. We stepped off the enormous cruise-liner at 9am. We arrived at our retirement home at 10pm that evening after a day of interminable waiting, hanging about, passing through one security checkpoint after another and in total spent an excruciating13 hours to make the three and a half hour flight. This is one for the Guinness Book of Records. I know we were a suspicious looking bunch, old, bent, haggard, leaning on our canes, each of us carrying at least one M16 under our jackets and a couple of hand grenades in our pockets, and accordingly the Barcelona airport security system outdid themselves. First they poked and prodded and then they literally took us – and our luggage – to pieces. True, our cases has been unattended overnight…
Terrorism, in all of its many guises, has changed the world dramatically. What a shame our children and grandchildren never knew the pleasures of early air travel and have inherited an irritating and unpleasant form of travel instead.
You live in a retirement home so you see the Over 70s on an hourly basis. You practice patience, you study the habits of the elderly, you make yourself the most patient person in town and finally you know you can handle any situation that demands the slightest sliver of patience – and then you put your name down for an “over 70s” cruise. And in the first three minutes, everything you know about patience goes straight down the tubes.
The cruise started with a few days in Barcelona and included various bus tours around the city. Finally everyone, meaning 20 elderly ladies and 3 gents were on the bus and off we went.
“It’s too hot in here! Is there no air-conditioning?”
“It’s much too cold in here! I will freeze! Switch on the heaters!”
“I brought a sweater! Why didn’t you think of that?”
Then there was the seating.
“You’re in my seat. I sat there yesterday.”
“There is no permanent seating. I’m sitting here!”
“I want my seat back. I will be sea-sick if I sit further back!”
“That’s my seat! Out, I say!”
The seating war was finally solved by having a quick draw for seats as we climbed aboard the bus.
Then other seating problems arose.
Where do you park your cane in the bus? “It keeps falling and startling everyone. Everyone jumps! It sounds like a gun going off!”
How do you fit a 36inch wide beam into a 24inch wide corridor? “Even when you turn sideways you don’t fit!”
Then there are embarking and disembarking issues.
“I need an extra step to get into the bus!”
Getting down the bottom step is a nightmare. “I go in reverse, it’s easier.”
And short-term memory works on the bus too.
“Driver, I left my cane in that coffee shop. Please go back!”
“Madam, it’s 45 miles from here…”
“I’m sure I had my passport in my hand when we went into that church. Now it’s gone.”
“Why did you bring a passport to a church?”
“You never can tell with these Italians.”
“That’s the third pair of sunglasses I’ve lost in Sorrento. I’ll have to come back. Isn’t that a song? Oh, here they are on my head!”