How you know you're getting older

Thursday, April 19, 2007

I saw on television the other day that a local organization is providing free gourmet meals for seniors. I was happy that our seniors have this lovely service. Then it was announced that this service is for those age 60 and older. As someone who is dangerously close to that watermark of aging, I was shocked and awed. Since when did 60 become the new 75?

It got me to thinking. I don't think I am old, and I certainly don't feel old, but I am deluding myself. Maybe I should just give in and graciously accept those gourmet meals on wheels.

So my question is, for us youth-obsessed boomers, how do we sober up and realize that we are really getting older?

Actually, I did feel old today as I wrestled yet another shrink-wrapped product to the ground, cursing like an exorcism candidate the day plastic was invented. To hell with progress. Why do they have to encase every damned thing in impossible-to-penetrate plastic?

I have a friend named Paul who surely knows he is getting old because he is willing to forsake sophistication to catch those early bird specials at any restaurant. Actually, he doesn't need a special; he now just likes to eat early. Something I think to do with digestion.

In order to get more benchmarks for all of us to consider, I put the question out to my correspondents.

As expected, many responses had to do with gravity's inexorable pull on our bodies. "I used to buy Victoria's Secret bras to enhance my cleavage," reported Gail. "Now I buy them to keep my breasts in the right section of my body."

This is how Jack notices he is getting older: "By looking at my mates' face when I get naked."

For many of us, these markers require a definite self-esteem adjustment.

I've heard several stories like this one by a 40-something-year-old woman who thought a handsome younger man was checking her out in the gym, only to realize he was checking himself out in the reflection of the glass behind her. And then there is Geoff, who shared an experience I think a lot of us have had: "I look at someone and think, 'He is really old!' and then realize he is the same age as me!"

Here are some more benchmarks of how you know you are getting older:

"When living spontaneously takes a week of planning."

"When I can reread "Lady Chatterly's Lover" cover to cover with no heavy breathing."

"When you start calling everyone 'honey' if you are female, or 'son' if you are a man."

"When you give up trying to change your spouse and just see them as a lovable character."

As this last one suggests, not all of these experiences that register as old need to be negative. "Trivia does not monopolize my time anymore," reported one "oldster," and that is a good thing.

Nancy, who delightfully signs her e-mails "Be well and raise hell," probably described this perspective best: "I now speak my truth and express my opinion when I know it isn't shared by the people around me. Other people's opinions honestly interest me ... except what their opinion of me may be. With age, I can't stand by silently when I see injustice. There may not be another chance; being idle in the face of injustice is no longer an option."

Dr. Michael O.L. Seabaugh, a Cape Girardeau native, is a clinical psychologist who lives in Santa Barbara, Calif. Contact him at mseabaugh@semissourian.com For more on the topics covered in Healthspan, visit his Web site: www.HealthspanWeb.com.

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