Am I in the twilight zone of life? Nah.
BY CHRIS BATEMAN
Alberta Newspaper Group
Since you’re reading Sierra Lifestyle, there’s a decent chance you’re one of those “mature” Americans. And by mature, I don’t mean eventempered, sophisticated, knowledgeable, mellow or wise beyond your years. I mean old. Just plain old old. Unlike the euphemistic “mature,” the word “old” does not beat around the bush. When you’re old, you may also be crotchety, doddering, senile, shaky or sick. Your days may be numbered. You could be in the Twilight Zone of life. But we’re not going down those dark paths today. Instead we’ll look at the many, many advantages of being just plain old. And, yes, I’m qualified to hold forth on this subject: I got my first join-up notice from the AARP more than 20 years ago. Not long after that, I was offered my first senior discount, at a Carrow’s restaurant in Barstow. I was insulted and indignant, letting the very abashed waitress know that I was a young buck in my 50s. No longer: At 73, I’ll take every discount I can get. And if need be, I’ll lie about my age. “Really, I am 80,” I’ll fib, angling for some cushy break reserved for the superannuated. I’ve actually thought seriously about scarfing down free lunches in Sonora or Angels Camp in return for listening to shameless spiels on the benefits of cremation, hearing aids or annuities. If you’re my age or older, you know about all this stuff, and are likely embracing much of it. But you 60-somethings just now dipping a toe into your so-called Golden Years may be looking ahead with shuddering dread. No need: A cornucopia of explicit and implicit benefits await. What follows is an admittedly partial list of the advantages of growing old and older. Medicare, Social Security, IRAs: After decades of ponying up, it’s time to collect. Medicare for All? Leave that to the politicians. At 65, it’s Medicare for Us. And with SS and IRA checks rolling in, you can spend instead of “saving for retirement.” So go ahead: Take pricey cruises, pay for crazy bucket-list adventures, eat at beyond-your-means restaurants and order $100 bottles of wine. This is not only fun, but will scare the hell out of your kids – who might have been counting on decent inheritances. Time: You’ve now got tons of it, so misuse it. Sleep late, veg out in front of the tube, go to the theater and watch three movies in a row, immerse yourself in a novel with no redeeming social value, spend entire days on the golf course, report to your favorite watering hole at noon and don’t leave until the barkeep kicks you out. Saying no: Upon retiring, you may be asked to volunteer, serve on boards or commissions, put in time at the local museum, be a state park docent, mentor someone, or serve as a classroom aide. Just say no. Or at least say no most of the time. Do really want to be one of those retirees who has “never been busier”? “Yep,” your kids might say at your funeral. “Dad had never been busier – then he died.” You’ve lived a little: Well, you’ve actually lived a lot. And all those decades have brought experience, perspective, knowledge and, dare I say it, a measure of wisdom. So you just might be able to help younger friends avoid some of the inadvisable, ill-conceived and downright stupid things you’ve done in your own lifetime. Still, don’t go volunteering such advice, as it will then almost certainly be ignored. But if one of your many juniors asks your counsel, be flattered and forthcoming. Senior discounts: Take ‘em, all of ‘em, and never be shy about it. Then ask for more discounts – on things like real estate, cars, stocks, bonds, gasoline, medication and hospital bills (fat chance on those last two, but it can’t hurt to ask). Finally, for you Viagra-dosing geezers out there, why not ask 20 percent off on Nevada hookers or lap dances? Wait a just a minute! I’d rather hike: OK, I’ll get my mind out of the gutter and tell you about the best discount you can get: The Lifetime Senior Pass to all U.S. national parks, monuments and recreation areas. It costs $80, youngsters of 62 qualify, and it gets you into all parks free for the rest of your life. Consider nearby Yosemite (per-car entry fee $35): Go three times, and you’re already ahead of the game. Go once a week for a year, and you’re ahead nearly $1,800. Want to see all 418 U.S. parks and monuments? You’ll be ahead many thousands more. What’s more, you can buy this card at Stanislaus National Forest headquarters right here in Sonora. Getting younger: Well, no, you’re not really getting younger. But remember what you thought about folks in their 70s when you were a kid. Admit it: You figured they were on death’s doorstep. Seventy, thanks to the miracles of modern medicine, better diets and more exercise, is now the new 50. You die at 75, and some people – usually much older people, I’ll admit – will say, “What a shame. She was so young.” Getting older: Say you’re an athlete – a runner, cyclist, swimmer, golfer or tennis player. Well, the older you are, the more acclaim you’ll get. You’ll rejoice on turning 60, 70 or 80, because you’ll go into a new division with creakier competition. Perform into your 80s, and you’ll win medals in that division. Do so in your 90s, and you’ll likely be the only one in your division. Just show up at 100, and you’ll make national news – even if you take 20 minutes to cover 100 meters. Stay in reasonable shape as you age, and you’ll collect that shelf full of trophies you never had as a young buck. Avoiding work: By now, you may have climbed your last ladder. Too many terrible stories on falls by oldsters make rung-byrung climbs more dangerous than Syria. In the near future – in the interests of health and safety, of course – you may also want to give up the string trimmer, rototiller, chain saw, leaf blower, shovel, lawn mower, snow blower, pruning shears and vacuum cleaner. Folding clothes or washing dishes might even be a bit much. Fortunately, golf clubs, bowling balls, poker chips and playing cards, my own studies have concluded, pose no dangers. Driving stick shift: “I see your car has a millennial anti-theft device,” a friend told me last month. “Huh?” I responded. “A clutch!” he explained. “No one under 35 knows how to use one.” Many of us oldsters learned to drive on a stick, but today only 3 percent of new cars sold in the U.S. have manual transmissions. Still, sticks are fun, will keep your reflexes sharp, and will totally mystify – and thus deter – theft-inclined millennials. Not only that, but you can get a stick shift on an economic, very practical Honda Civic. Heck, Honda even publishes a brochure called “The Joys and Driving a Manual Transmission.” Just don’t leave copies of it in any trendy coffee house or brew pub frequented by 30-somethings. Not driving at all: Many of us of have gone through the agonizing ordeal of taking the car keys away from our own aging parents. The good news? This will not happen to us. The way I figure it, amazing advances in self-driving cars are in synch with the steady deterioration of our own driving skills. Just as our kids are about report us to the DMV, we’ll be ordering up our brand-new Waymo, Apple or Googlemobiles. No, these new-fangled cars will not have stick shifts. But we’ll punch up “Phoenix” on the computer, recline the seats, pull up the blankets and wake up in Arizona in time for the A’s first spring training game. We might not know who’s on first, but we’ll get to the Valley of the Sun just fine. Organ Recitals: Yes, there is an upside to the multiple surgeries and illnesses you may have undergone. You could be the MVP of what is often the highlight of any senior gathering: The Organ Recital. When we were younger, we talked about drugs, sex and rock ‘n’ roll at parties. Today we talk about hip replacements, prostate cancer, kidney transplants and bypass surgery. And the more exotic your ailment or procedure is, the better. The right combination of medical misfortune, if delivered with humor and wit, will make you the life of any party populated by folks closing in on death. Pet choice easier: Don’t want to saddle your children with pets who outlive you? Then the older you are, the narrower your pet choices. Avoid very small dogs, indoor cats, tortoises, koi and parrots, as they will all outlive you. On an actuarial par with your own shrinking lifespan might be very large dogs, outdoor cats, rodents, small snakes or tropical fish (other than koi). Depressed by these limited choices? Well, if you wait too long, insects may be the only pets that won’t outlive you. And, really, mantises and stag beetles just aren’t that cuddly. Mate choice, not so much: The relationship dynamic, as we aging singles have noticed, changes dramatically with age. Women outlive us guys. So as time goes on, their choices diminish and ours grow. Guys who in earlier years wouldn’t rate a sidelong glance from a member of the opposite sex are now in demand simply because they have a pulse. Some older women are lowering standards to levels they might have found embarrassing a decade or two earlier. (Proof? One or two have even given me a sidelong glance). And many of us have heard those perhaps apocryphal or perhaps not stories of carehome Lotharios creakily trying to satisfy harems of doddering but eager women. So is this changing dynamic really a “benefit” of growing old? Well, as always in the realm of relationships, it pretty much depends on who you end up with. Good luck! A few final and quick takes on growing old: ° People will expect less of you. Don’t disappoint them. ° Younger folks will yield seats and places in line to you. Take them. ° You will be forgiven for crazy eccentricities – which means you can do pretty much what you want. ° You can take a swing at some obnoxious middleager over at Perko’s. The guy wouldn’t dare retaliate – punching a geezer would make him look bad. ° You can say you’ve forgotten stuff you don’t want to remember. ° You will eventually reach the point where discretion will no longer be expected. ° You can use a cane or a crutch as a weapon. ° Other drivers will give you plenty of room. ° Traffic cops, assuming you’re not swerving from lane to lane, are more likely to give you warnings than tickets. ° You can pretend not to hear anyone who is full of it. ° You may develop the capacity to bore people to death. ° At some point – and it may be right now – you can stop eating Brussels sprouts, lima beans and prunes.