The truth is that no one ever knows how difficult aging is until you get there. When you’re young, you don’t want to think about it. Besides, it won’t happen to you; everyone else, yes, but surely you won’t have to suffer all those indignities of aging: hearing aids, memory loss and not understanding how to use a smart phone.
A lot of the popular reading material (such as AARP’s magazine) would lead you to believe that your retirement years are golden: traveling where and when you want; fine dinners with friends; or playing endless rounds of golf.
It’s true there are advantages to being older. For me, the biggest is having the time to slow down and appreciate the parts of life I was too busy to notice when I was working, like taking long walks, more time to read or learning to draw. But there’s also a lot of downsides, especially physical problems. For me, I can’t see well at night, so I’ve curtailed my driving; my knees and feet hurt when I hike, so I can’t go as far as I once did. For many, especially single women on limited incomes, dining at fine restaurants or cruising the Danube is a luxury. While friendships become more important, because it’s mainly our peers who understand what we’re going through, we lose friends through death, moving away or their withdrawal from the world because of physical or mental issues.
After we retire, we no longer have a role or place in the world, especially as the world changes faster than we can keep up with, leaving us older ones in the dust. Increasingly, we live in a world not of our making. Baby boomers made history just by being part of the largest generation in U.S. history. We made more history by being part of movements that ended the Vietnam War and that promoted rights for women and minorities. Now I’m in a world that feels like it’s speeding past me (sometimes, literally, when I’m driving). I can’t keep up with all the rapid changes in technology; sometimes I don’t want to. New words (what the heck does “woke” mean?) sprout up daily on social media. When I sit down to watch TV, most shows are focused on dating, raising a family, getting ahead at work. Where are the shows and movies about my life?
In the college town where I live, almost all the restaurants I loved have been replaced by ones that are too loud for conversation and that offer food fare that’s not familiar (what’s the big deal with avocado toast?). A new generation has stamped its mark on culture— food, TV, movies—just like my generation did. It’s not my world anymore, and yet I’m not ready to leave it. I still want to be involved, but where do I fit in?