I was looking at sunglasses one day in Marshall’s and heard a child run up to her mother — who was on her cell phone — to tell her of something she had seen in the store. The mother stopped and said to the child with complete exasperation, “Honey, I can’t have two conversations at once. I’m old.” I glanced over to see that these words were coming out of the mouth of a young woman in her thirties.
I find that appalling. I truly resist this terrible propensity that has my generation, Baby Boomers (and younger generations as well), going on and on about how old they are. Hey — no doubt about it: we are aging. EVERYONE is aging. Some of us are more prone to particular illnesses or physical problems than others, for sure. We’re mortals who are captive to our mortality. We all have an expiration date! But the Baby Boomer generation is the first that has the likely possibility of routinely living into the 100s, as long as we take care of ourselves. We all know that no matter what genetic hardwiring we’ve been handed, we can often affect its severity by the lifestyle choices we make: eating right, exercising, remaining positive. The truth is we who are in our 50s now are, quite accurately, “middle aged.”
“Riding my Trikke is one of the things I’ll keep doing until I am absolutely unable to move.”
Think of it: we may have another 50 years or so to go. That’s another entire lifetime. That’s why I cannot abide people my age speaking as though they are this close to dementia and a visiting nurse. Seriously? You’re retiring to do what — spend the next four decades decaying? That’s what my dad did. He sat in his recliner in front of the television set and just zoned out, year after year. Both my mom and my dad found great solace in junk food, and their kitchen was full of it.
I simply refuse to follow in those footsteps. I refuse to accept my mother’s silly pronouncements about what it meant to grow old: “When you get older, you don’t feel like reading anymore.” “When you get old, you don’t need to see your friends so much.” “When you get older, you don’t feel like sleeping in the same bed together.” All manner of countering that I offered, such as the men I worked for at The Brookings Institution who were in their 80s, and were not only reading books, but writing them; the research that shows one of the most powerful factors of aging well is strong network of friendships; that married couples who still sleep together, even if they do not have sex (and if they do, all the better) are happier and healthier — well, my mom knew better, because her experience showed her that, by golly, that’s what old feels like, and she was old. She didn’t want her experience to be confused by facts.
I will fight to stay young! I don’t mean inappropriately young. I’m not talking about acting like I can be 25 forever. I’m talking about living vibrantly, youthfully, joyfully! I refuse to avoid driving at night if I don’t have problems with my eyes. I refuse to dress like a matronly grandmother. I refuse to give in to the belief I can’t stay flexible and limber and adventurous when I have no significant physical limitations. I’ve never been fearless like kids who can get on a skateboard and start trying to perform jumps and turns; I never felt easy about riding a bike without gripping the handlebars. I just wasn’t the physically confident type. I wasn’t able to get on my Trikke and start zipping around like kids seem to be able to do. I had to practice. I had to figure it out. I had to get the hang of it.
Riding my Trikke is one of the things I’ll keep doing until I am absolutely unable to move. I plan for that to be when I’m, oh, 105 or so. My Trikke will be one of the things that keep me young. You won’t hear me saying, “I’m old.” I’m going to say, “It’s a lovely day. Think I’ll get out on my Trikke.”