At 65, you enter the “autumn of your life.” Your hair falls like leaves, your skin changes colours here and there, you think a lot about liniments.
At 69, they advise men not to bother with PSA screening.
“At your age, we’re not going to get too excited about you reaching room temperature. What’s one less Boomer?”
By 70, conversations with contemporaries are a stew of grandchildren, doctors, tests, ailments, medications and “I almost killed myself on the ice.”
I am a member of this endangered species – Genus Golden Ageis. One moment you’re a youngster and when the cuckoo clock slides out at midnight at the end of your 64th year, it mutters a warning – Life as you knew it is over. You are now “65 and over.”
I don’t feel the end is nigh. True, I no longer run up or skip downstairs, singing a Dylan tune, hands full.
Descent and ascent are at a more deliberate pace, one hand on bannister and, instead of singing Dylan, I whisper, “ouch, ouch, ouch,” with each step, with a coda of “son of a bitch,” when I reach top or bottom. What’s a little osteoarthritis? And, I can’t remember Dylan’s lyrics anyway.
From news on the Plague and various monographs about the meds I swallow, at 65, the immune system begins to vacation in Florida or maybe Thailand. Says if you’re nuts enough to stay here during winter at your age, you’re on your own.
The info on the meds suggests, “May cause drowsiness. Be careful when operating machinery.” However, “If over 65, strap yourself into bed. This medication may cause you to walk into walls, roll downstairs or drive into a snowblower.
“If over 70 flush medication down toilet. What’s the point?”
Last week, news surfaced that this winter’s flu vaccine sucked at preventing low and medium grade influenza but worked well in preventing serious disease. UNLESS you were over 65. In that case, if it hasn’t gotten you yet, pack a bag and get ready to meet your new, best friend – a ventilator. The flu vaccine was pretty useless after your 65th birthday. Maybe it reads the lines on your face like rings of a tree.
And that 4th booster. You can maybe do without it unless, of course, you’ve crossed the Maginot line of 65. Then three shots won’t do it but a 4th may keep you breathing without mechanical assistance.
Ibuprofen, a decent NSAID, shouldn’t be taken long-term by anyone, but once you enter your 65th year, Google warns, those caps are a time bomb, waiting to stop your heart or stroke your brain, won't even bother to warn you.
Hit the wall of 65, warnings also proliferate about buying the farm by falling. The first thing you do the midnight moment 64 becomes 65, if you can stay awake, is tack down or tape every carpet in the house. At this new age, lifting one’s feet becomes death-defying.
And showers. Forget about it. Over 65, they want to sell us chairs and safety bars and doors for the tub so you don’t have to make the perilous climb into the bath. It’s only a matter of time before they sell Senior’s Scuba Bathing equipment, convincing us, “Warm water may cause drowsiness and drowning. Attach breathing apparatus before stepping into tub, making sure one hand is on safety rail and bathmat is glued down.”
I have seen the future and it’s fist-sized red buttons in public washrooms to lock the door, along with safety bars and emergency red buttons in case you’ve seen the bill before you’ve digested. And, if there’s a button on the inside to lock, there’s a button for them outside to unlock, in case you sat down after a few glasses of wine and decided on a quick nap.
While young women in shops and restaurants assess me as a cute eunuch, newspapers fill hundreds of incredulous column inches about the wonders of people my age having sex. They even suggest positions, lest I’ve forgotten what I’ve been doing the last 50 years. I’m not yet where, as my dear, late Aunt Rosie used to say, “What’s that we used to do?”
Always a woman who spoke her mind, when I split from my marriage, she said, “What’s wrong with you? Stand a woman on her head and let her dress fall, they all look the same.” Disagreeing with Rosie was done at unacceptable risk.
And, of course, there are warm-up exercises to prepare the decrepit body lest sex blows out your heart, wrenches your back or tears a rotator cuff or two. At this arthritic age, spontaneity is out, so advice includes scheduling intimacy on your phone, if you can see the keyboard. When the alarm sounds, you wobble to the bedroom – watching the carpets, holding onto walls – and head to the medicine chest to bring the Advil bottle to bed for post-coital languor. Try not to forget your partner.
But, there are advantages to this over-65 business.
Desjardins asks you to press one if you’re over 70, worried you’ll keel over if on hold for the normal: “Due to a higher-than-normal volume of calls you might be on hold until you forget why you called.” So, I pressed one and a young woman instantly answered and gently spoke to me just as if I was demented.
Then, there was delivery of my prized gravity chair.
“Your delivery agent left large boxes in the driveway,” I told the woman at Wayfair, courteous but trying for indignant. “I’m 70 and there’s no way I’m carrying 100 lb. boxes up the stairs.”
After only a nap-time on hold, she returned with her own sweet indignance: “I would never want anyone in my family who was 70 to be stuck with 100-lb boxes,” and gave me $200 to avoid the rage of the aged and hire two backs to haul the boxes up the stairs and into the house.
I hired a friend’s son who turned up with the boxes and his girlfriend – yes, a 20-year-old woman fears neither hernia or shredded back – and in 10 minutes they snapped it together and wired it up – the chair also brews coffee and sings Dylan – and showed me how to work the doodads, smiling all the while as if I was an old man in need of indulgence.
But, I didn’t have to tape down the carpets for them.