Dear People Under Forty,
As a person who is now officially a “senior citizen” (I had my Medicare birthday four years ago), I have a small request. Whenever we’re together could you please refrain from inserting into our conversation the phrase “at your age?” When you say these words, what we people in our sixties hear is, “Dude, I can’t believe how old you are, not to mention frail, out of touch, mentally incompetent, and likely to tip over at any moment. Do you need to go pee?”
It’s true, I can no longer legally call myself middle-aged. But no, my kids aren’t currently scoping out nursing homes in my area – not yet anyway. I still play racquetball, tennis, and pickleball (although, admittedly I’ve never played any of them very well). I’m still totally capable of driving, building a deck, and setting up a wireless network in our house – okay, my wife just pointed out that perhaps I should just stick with the part about still being able to drive, in order to sound credible.
You don’t have to explain what every trendy new slang term means. I know what “Karen” and “Bye Felicia” mean. And when you roll your eyes, smirk, and say to me, “Okay Boomer,” I get the dismissive dig. I may not be totally woke, but I’m not in a coma, okay? I still use the Internet daily and have even written about the threat of AI. I still text, although on principle, I insist on using proper punctuation. (I confess I have no idea what the octopus emoji means.)
You don’t need to slow down your speech – or TALK LOUDER. My hearing is fine (even if my audiologist says I‘ll probably need hearing aids in three years).
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard younger people make reference to “at your age” in their conversations with me – mainly because my memory isn’t what it used to be. I played pickleball the other day. I lunged for a shot and lost my balance briefly. My partner, a young guy around 35, pulled me aside and counseled me, “Tim, at your age, why not let those shots go. You don’t want to hurt yourself.” I just smiled and said, “Thanks for your concern.” There was no way I was going to give him the satisfaction of knowing I’d just pulled my calf muscle.
At my last annual physical, I told my doctor of my plans to ski again this winter. He looked at my knees, both of which underwent total knee replacement surgery three years ago, and he said, “Tim, at your age, I’m not sure it’s wise to keep skiing, given the stress it puts on your knees.” Of course, most of my friends have been suggesting for years that I give up the sport, but only because they all agree I’ve never been a very good skier and I keep holding them back.
The other week, I was pushing a wheelbarrow heavily loaded with dirt up a steep incline in my backyard. A well-intentioned neighbor in his early forties noticed me straining under the weight. He said, “Hey, Jonesy, are you sure you should be pushing something that heavy at your age? Here, let me get that for you” And only because I didn’t want to offend him after his kind neighborly gesture, I reluctantly agreed to let him take over and push that load up the incline for me – along with the next 20 wheelbarrow loads. Hey, I’m lazy, not stupid.
Not long ago, I bought a gas grill at the hardware store. The sales clerk, who could not have been more than 25, informed me it takes about an hour to assemble. Then he added, “For $25, we can assemble it for you. At your age, perhaps you have better things to do with your time.” Because I’m a mature, emotionally secure man, I chose to ignore his subtle insinuation that I was too old and feeble to assemble it myself. Nevertheless, I decided to pay the $25 to have them assemble the grill, because, frankly, at my age, I have better things to do with my time.
People have often told me in recent years, “Tim, you still look good for your age.” What they’re really saying is, “Tim, if you were middle-aged, I’d say you look terrible. But seeing as you’re an old guy, you’re not looking so bad. I mean, congrats on still having most of your hair and teeth.” Um, thanks for the compliment, I guess?
I’m sure that in most cases, these younger people are just trying to be gracious or helpful. They’re probably concerned that people my age may need a little assistance or perhaps we’ve lost a step mentally and may not catch on quite as quickly as we used to. But the fact is most people in their sixties are far healthier and more mentally and physically fit than younger people realize. Did you know that George Clooney is 62? Kevin Costner is 68. Pierce Brosnan is 70. They’re all studs. And they’re all way better dressers than I am. I’m not sure what my point was. Oh right. Being over sixty doesn’t mean you’re slowing down. We have a lot to live for – unless your name is Rudy Giuliani, in which case, yeah, it would suck to be old like you.
Let me ask you a question, my millennial friends. How would you like it if I routinely made comments to you like, “Hey, at your age, you might want to think about setting aside some money for a down payment on a house rather than putting it all into the latest cryptocurrency fad.” Or maybe, “At your age, perhaps you should think twice about getting into that car and driving, given the six beers you’ve consumed in the past two hours.”
Just something to think about… that is, if you’d like to have a shot at surviving until you arrive at my age.
That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.
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