Archive for January 12th, 2011

“What does it mean to be a senior citizen?” If you are and possibly even if you aren’t, it means that you’ve seen those e-mails that say, “You know you’re a senior citizen if you know the words to the elevator music” or “If your spouse asks you to go upstairs and make love, and you say, ‘choose one or the other.’”  Some of them are very funny…and that’s a good thing, because it’s very true that when you lose your sense of humor, you’ve lost an extremely important part of your life. Laughter may be good for the soul, but I’m of the belief that it also helps to keep us going.

There are some other things about becoming a senior citizen that people don’t seem to want to talk about. That may be an improper ending to a sentence, but I’m old and I couldn’t care less. One of the humorous things that is said is, “You’re less apt to be taken hostage in a bank robbery.” That’s probably very true. It’s equally true that the robbers will, in all likelihood, shoot the old bastard first just to show they mean business. You think I’m kidding; look what the terrorists did aboard the Achille Lauro when they threw 69-year old and disabled Leon Klinghoffer and his wheelchair overboard. That certainly made the point that they were serious.

All too often, old people are ignored. “Yeah, Pops, that was all well and good when you were growing up but we’ve come a long way.” It may not be said in so many words, but there is a tendency to think that most of us live in the past; nothing could be further from the truth. Benjamin Franklin invented the bifocal when he was 78. Galileo was the same age when he invented the telescope. There are a ton of examples of both young and old folk making contributions to our better living, and seniors should be given the opportunity to do so. Sometimes it takes us a bit longer to explain our theories and this world is moving so fast that others aren’t willing to wait.

Bette Davis said, “Getting old ain’t for sissies.” She couldn’t have said it better. When someone at the gym complains to me about this ache or that pain, I tell them that they should be happy about them. I figure if I wake up in the morning and something isn’t aching or painful, I really didn’t wake up; I’m dead, and this whole getting up thing just isn’t really happening. It’s true, however, that as we get older, the aches and pains seem more pronounced and linger longer. I’ve spoken with some seniors who have never seen the inside of a hospital operating room. That’s probably a good thing although if they ever have to do so, I’m certain they’ll be petrified. I’ve had so many operations, that some of the nurses, surgeons, and anesthesiologists call me by name. Nowadays, I even know which anesthetic to ask for…ouch! Get something straight; this doesn’t mean that I’m falling apart. It means that I’m getting old but what I have had was fixable by surgery. Some of my peers have just been lucky enough to escape ‘the knife.’

For all senior citizens, aging means we lose strength. About the only person I know who hasn’t has been Jack Lalanne – God Bless Him – and he’s still going like the hammers of hell. For the most part, however, our physical strength is diminished. The problem comes when our minds still believe we are capable of lifting shovels full of heavy wet snow…we are not. If we don’t wind up with a heart attack, we find that the muscles that used to be supple and powerful are now stiff and weakened…muscle mass has decreased. Unless you’re planning to take on some 20-year old who called you a nasty name, this doesn’t really matter. After all, you can probably shame him with big words. Don’t try to run away, however, because you’ll never make it; you may believe you’re still fast…uh uh!

Getting old means getting fat. Well, that doesn’t have to be the case, but you should understand that our metabolism slows down. As good as they may taste, fatty foods are our downfall because we just can’t burn them up as quickly

In almost every case that I’ve mentioned, exercise is a big part of the answer. You can’t exercise like some of those people you see on television; hell, we try that, we’ll be in a pine box faster ‘n you can say “muscle mass.” Legs permitting, we can walk, and even if the legs don’t permit, riding a stationary recumbent bike can get your heart rate up and speed the flow of blood through those arteries. In addition, you don’t have to prove yourself by trying to lift heavy weights. Remember, you’re not in this to attract babes at the beach; you’re just trying to maintain muscle mass in your body. You want repetitions in a weight training program. That body builder physique you once owned now belongs to the people who are the younger version of you.

Being a senior citizen means recognizing that you are a senior citizen. Sure, there are things that our brain tells us we’re still capable of doing. Our brain would probably even like to believe that. Unfortunately, it’s just now so. What do we do about it? We accept the fact that we aren’t as young as we were. We do what we can with what we have. Many of us still have physical capabilities that will allow us to exercise at a rate that will benefit our physical conditioning in remarkable ways. Many of us still have mental facilities that allow us to learn and the day we stop learning is the day we had better stop living. Exercising our brain is just as important as exercising our body. While I enjoy writing for this blog, I’ve discovered that there are a number of free online courses I can take to stretch my mind. I’ve also discovered that free jigsaw puzzles can be found that will test my dexterity as well as my eyesight.

If you’re considered a senior citizen today, just think of how many things you have seen come into being in your lifetime; cell phones that contain more power than the engines that put a man on the moon; computers that allow you to make friends all over the world; electric cars that are not just a novelty but are genuine products to help the environment. What will be the next great idea? You and I saw the creation of the Salk vaccine to eliminate polio. Is it possible we can be around when the drugs are found to eliminate cancer?

Too many people discount us. I’ve heard of people in the town in which I live who would like to see seniors forced from their homes; they don’t say it publicly, but their actions speak louder than their words. I don’t know about you but I love my home. My wife died in this house and that is exactly where I would like to make my exit.

I am a senior citizen. I’m old, wrinkled, have no hair. I ache when I walk and even when I’m standing still. I pee several times a night and have to put my glasses on to find the bathroom, but by God, I’m here and I’m proud of it!

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