Monday, January 09, 2006

From 60 to 80

What would you call people that age? Senior citizens? Elderly? Old? Over the hill? Your parents? Yourself? Your kids? Where you are on the spectrum of aging might make a difference in how you answer. As I approach the end of my “sixties” decade, I lack the vocabulary to describe myself.

Certainly I chafe under the label “senior.” Or worse yet, “elderly.” Partly because they have such negative connotations. “Senior” brings to mind women in ugly shorts and visors playing golf in their retirement village or befuddled old women filling out Publisher’s Clearinghouse entry forms at their kitchen tables. And “elderly” brings to mind someone drooling in her soup in the back corridor of a dingy nursing home.

I don’t care much for “little gray-haired old lady” or “honored citizen.” “Grandmother” makes me want to scream, as does “granny” or “grandma.” Which, by the way, I am not.

So who am I? Who are we? We’ve finished raising our children, completed our contribution to the workforce, sorted The Stuff, sold our homes, taken that cruise, caught up with all that reading, made up our sleep deficit, started (and probably forsaken) a new hobby, moved to a warmer climate, bought an automatic transmission car (or a hybrid), and if we are lucky we still have funds stashed away for the Rainy Day that has not yet arrived. If we are not so lucky (as many are not), we live at the edge of poverty and face declining health and a fast-changing world that leaves us behind.

Gail Sheehy calls this the “Second Adulthood” and the “Age of Mastery.” She’s the guru of the passages of life. Nobody expected us to be here. The designers of the Social Security Act thought we’d all be dead by this age. Ditto Medicare. But here we are, depleting the Federal budget and toodling along into our dotage.

How about “Survivors?” For we are that. Every morning I wake up and say, “Wow. I made it way past the finish line and I’m still in the race.” So I am nearing the half-way mark in this three- to four-score phase of living. And I still don’t know what to call it.

What would you call people from 60 to 80 years of age? Let’s be creative here!


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