By Judy Reiss
Have you ever realized that all of a sudden you are old and that most of your acquaintances are old, too? Now there are many different type of old people and you need to decide what type you are and what type you want to continue to have as your “best” friends.
I am sure that there are some of you who wonder why in heavens name you need to figure out the “friend” question. Of course, I have the answer for that question! Not only that particular question but the answer to all sorts of the growing old question/problems!
I think the real problem of the growing old experience is this, You really have no preparation to grow old. From early childhood you learn how to do many things. These days you aren’t even out of diapers when you are taught how to brush your teeth. And of course, you also are taught that although diapers are comfy, when you reach a certain age, it is time to learn how to use the potty whether if you like it or not! Your beloved diapers are taken away and you are taught that it is time to be a big boy or girl. And slowly but surely, many of the things that you love are taken away. Not only are your opportunities to snuggle with one of your parents, but also to be read your favorite books and stories. And then you realize that it is time for you to learn how to read and not only are you told that reading is important and fun, you are taught that it is now time for you to read to yourself and the snuggling is a thing of the past!
What you don’t know or ever are told is all of these strange things are just preparing you to be an older person. Not old mind you, but just old so you can begin to care for yourself. And what makes it worse is that no one tells you what this transition period of your life actually means. I guess the comfortable thing is everyone else that you know is going through the same experiences. Many have good parents who help you through and many don’t! Many of the things you learn is how to parent. If your parents are good, hopefully you will learn how to be a good parent, too. So, what happens if you have bad parents who make your childhood less than happy? Hopefully you will recognize what works well for you and also recognize what doesn’t and you learn how to change those bad experiences and use them as ways to be sure that you don’t do them and then you too will become a good and even a terrific parent.
I don’t think it is productive or even important for you to figure out how to live the middle years of your life. Hopefully your life and the living of it will be happy, healthy and even productive. Again, what nobody told you when you were young and then growing up was you only get a chance to go through this time once. There are no “backsies”.
Here is the most important part of this column. All of a sudden you wake up one morning and find that with no preparation really, you are old. And nothing that you have experienced has prepared you for this time of your life. Most of your physical movements that have always worked and worked well, are no longer doing their jobs! Your eyes no longer work as a team and even though you now wear glasses, your sight just isn’t what it was before. And pain? No way have you been prepared for 24 hours of pain. I think that what you thought, if you thought about it at all, was that pills are always available and that they will bring you back, pain wise, the way you were when you were young. Needless to say that is stupid and wrong!
So, is there anything to look forward about when you wake up and you’re old? Well, the most important thing that our elder citizens need to look forward to…and it isn’t a good doctor! Nope, what every single one of us needs more than anything else are friends! Yes, the senior citizen who is willing to put themselves out and not only to get and keep good friends but to be a friend will be healthy and happy!
You need to make sure that you get out of the house and meet and greet friends as often as possible! I meet a large group of crazy women almost every day. We drink coffee and/or tea and often have a snack at the same time. We have been given the nickname of the Grandmamafia. And to tell you the truth, I have been thinking about getting us either T-shirts of caps!
But I also want to share with you that last fall I had a long and lousy experience in the hospital. When I got home, one of my children came and helped care for me, but what I found most helpful was the wonderful friends that gathered around me and forced me to not only get better but to behave! My close friends and my new friends helped me much more than the medications that I was told to take.
And what is really weird, I have been spending my summers at the Cape for 77 years. But this summer, I went later and came back earlier and even I was surprised that I realized I came back early because I missed all my Grandmamafia buddies.
So, here it is. Live each part of your life to the fullest but when you are old or if you know an older senior citizen, encourage them to be a friend and have as many friends as you can! If you try and live a solitary life and not be or have a friend, you will learn too early that what comes next will come too soon and I don’t think it will be as much fun as is available now!