The retirement home staged their annual Purim party on Sunday evening. The invitation read 7:00 sharp and by 6:20 the dining room was packed. One or two hopefuls who arrived on time wandered around looking for vacant chairs. The mountain of electronic sound equipment with 2 human operators and a singer provided a variety of music throughout the evening and there was a heavy flow of soft drinks and sugarless cakes to the tables. A few enterprising Goldenagers remembered their good old days and smuggled in bottles of wine under their clothes.
The costumes were dazzling. The dress theme was “The Sixties” and many of us didn’t have to dress up – our everyday clothes are from the Sixties anyway. Violently colored wigs are all the rage this season and many of the women were topped in psychedelic pinks, greens and blues.
The party started off with a selection of dancing. A short, agile and super-energetic woman was in the forefront and for the first half an hour none of us recognized her. She had on a spiky gold wig, a shiny pink mask with narrow eye-slits, a top with flashy gold sequins and a short, um, very short skirt and black tights. She twirled and twisted her way around the dance floor, moving from one partner to another.
“Who is she?” we asked each other as we watched her in action.
We were stunned to see her bouncing. No one in this retirement home bounces. We keep both eyes strictly on our weak points, meaning hips, knees and ankles. Bouncing is out! And then her mask slipped and her face was revealed.
“It’s Gilda, you know, from the corner apartment on the sixth floor!
“C’mon, you know her. She’s usually in a wheel chair. The one with the attractive Nepalese caregiver! She must be about 90!”
“Impossible! Look at her go!”
“Actually, she’s 97,” someone at our table said. “I’m her neighbor and she asked me to help her to fill in some forms for her bank one day. Born in 1917. Saw it with my own eyes!”
We watched in disbelief, our mouths wide open as she whirled, twisted and bounced her way through the exhausted line of partners. It was a stunning exhibition of 60’s dancing. The band took it as a challenge and the faster she danced the faster the beat of the music.
Shortly before 9pm her Nepalese caregiver came into the dining room. She was pushing a wheelchair. She weaved her way through the dancers, gently took Gilda’s arm, led her off the dance-floor, settled her into the seat, snuggled a blanket around her and wheeled her out. The party was over.
Whoever coined the phrase “the Golden Years” clearly never reached his or her Golden Years, (from now on to be written in small letters only). Gold keeps its color and its shine. It doesn’t tarnish or go rusty. It not only maintains its value, it increases in value. No one tosses gold into a waste bin.
The “golden years”, however, are something completely different. They refer to worn out old folks with creaky knees, aching hips, leaky plumbing, and iffy memory and other parts, some of which have already been replaced. These old folks have lost their shine and their value. They can’t find jobs and worse, they can’t do a whole slew of things which used to come naturally to them. The Golden Years (written with capital letters) refer to the years between about 18 and 50. It’s time someone put things right.
However, there are many things that a Senior Member of society can do to justify his few square feet on the planet. Take writing for instance. A Senior has many memories. Write them down so that one day one of your descendants can read about you and more importantly read about the world you lived in. I have grandchildren who constantly ask me questions like: “Pop, you really had no computers when you were my age? What did you do all day?” I always want to tell him that we never even had calculators back then and did most of the sums in our heads, but I don’t want him to think I’m a liar…
So these days, we read the papers and books, watch the TV too much, talk a lot, and reminisce about the good old days too much as well. Yep, those were the Golden Years all right!
I sat quietly in the lounge this morning with my cup of coffee watching the residents of this retirement home. First I concentrated on the walking aids. There are many different types, ranging from a simple wooden cane to a highly efficient Pilipino caregiver who is fully focused on her employer and takes great pains to make sure he or she remains vertical as they move along. Then there are 3-wheel walkers complete with cable type handbrakes. I reckon that if the walker flies ahead on its wheels for any reason, nothing will save the resident from falling flat on the floor. There will be no one and no time to operate the brakes. Next is the three-footed chrome cane. It looks strong and sturdy. My guess is than in the event of a fall the 3 feet of the walker will dig into the floor and stand firm while watching its owner flying.
The simple wooden cane with the curved handle seems most sensible and can be easily reversed to deal with pests and collectors and in a case of extreme need will make a usable golf club.
From these Senior supporters I moved on to studying the hand-pain relationship. I see men and women walking along gripping odd parts of their bodies. One can even hear a low-pitch mantra as used by Tibetan monks. “Ohhh, mmmy aching back/hip/arm…, Ohhh, mmmy aching…” The left or right hand is glued to some spot on the offending back or hip or back. I estimate the pain relief to be about zero, the comfort level about 50 per cent and the sympathy level at about 70 per cent. On the other hand we’re all doing it so it must be doing something.