Most people dread that AARP solicitation in the mail when they turn fifty. Not me. I had an AARP card since I was twenty-seven, when I was a young whimper snapper gerontologist working for AARP. AARP gave their membership card to employees back then.
In the old days (which I can say now that I am turning 50) I believed the best age was the age you are. Ha! I know better now. I have somewhat of a unique perspective on aging. I wanted to be a gerontologist since I was twelve years old when I came across a book titled Nobody Ever Died of Old Age, by Sharon Curtin. The book was written by a geriatric nurse who believed that diseases kill older people, not old age. Aging is something you have control over.
I eat well, exercise everyday (well sometimes) and take vitamins. Lot’s of vitamins. There are so many vitamin bottles on my kitchen table; they block my view of loved ones at breakfast, especially the short people. They’re lined-up like soldiers in battle ready to fight the aging process. There’s the vitamin for memory, the vitamin for stamina, the vitamin for strong bones. I don’t know if they work. I don’t know if I excrete them, but I’m not going to take a chance.
When I was a young gerontologist, I loved wrinkles. They came in all kinds of shapes and designs, and I respected the road map it represented in peoples’ lives. Barf! I hate wrinkles. I look in the mirror and I say who the heck is that. They began around my eyes. Now they creep above my lips and eyebrows. My eyelids are sagging among other things. My knees are hurting when I climb stairs. Hair is growing in places it never grew before, and there is no full moon. Aging is not fun. It’s not for sissies, pansies, daisies or other delicate flower either.
As a gerontologist, I loved old people. That is until my parents became them. Throughout my adult life, I have been dispersing advice to family caregivers about their older relatives, but my parents won’t listen to a word I say. They’re polite all right, but they act just like me when I was a teenager. I didn’t listen to a word they said even though I knew my parents knew best. Now it’s my parent’s turn to have deaf ears when it comes to my advice. They do have impaired hearing, but that’s no excuse. Listen to me for goodness sakes. I have been a gerontologist for decades. It’s my turn to know best.
How pompous I am. How frustrated I feel. But I am not alone. My geriatric colleagues are experiencing the same thing. For them and myself, I decided to start a new organization called The National Association of Gerontologists Whose Parents Won’t Listen To a Word We Say. There will be support groups in every community.
For years we gerontologists professed the value of older peoples’ self-determination. But for our parents, safety concerns have trumped that value at times. No wonder our parents don’t listen to us.
I am a member of the famous aging baby boomer group. We are not the sandwich generation. We are the club sandwich generation. Many of us do have children and older parents we care for. But we also have grandparents, great grandparents and even grandchildren under our care and concern. Some of us are just one big Whopper with all that stuff piled on high.
As an aging baby boomer, I must say I do not feel there is safety in numbers. I am thrilled that our generation is supposedly redefining retirement, but when you look at the younger generation following us with their tattoos, pierced private places, noses, and lips, you have to question, WHO IS GOING TO TAKE CARE OF US?
Perhaps every generation has that nagging thought. Then I look at my children and smile and wonder… will I listen to them when I get older? Nah.