Thanks to all of you who suggested new words for Old Ages.
You’re Looking Wonderful!
My favorite so far is “Queen-ager,” from my friend Fran. One reason Queen-ager resonates with me is because I’ve been there, back in the days when I watched with dismay my lips and eyebrows fade. For a while, I dyed my hair – as if. I’m past that.
These days, I look in the mirror and remember hearing a radio interview where a mature woman admonished listeners to stop looking back. “You’ll never look as good as you do today,” she said. This is right in line with what John, a regular reader, says is the fourth stage of life, right after Childhood, Youth and Middle Age: “You’re looking wonderful!”
Looks aren’t everything.
Sandwiches, Orphans and Widows
There are other stages, like those of loss. Many of my cohort are in the Sandwich Years, taking care of grandchildren while caregiving their elderly parents. When our nonagenarian parents die, we seniors become orphans, a state without parents. The world looks different without Mom and Dad. Of course, some of us lost parents early on, just as widowhood isn’t the sole domain of seniors, though it is more prevalent among us now. People who have lived partnered for decades are forced to embark on the single life. For someone like my dad, who was 87 when Mom died, it was the first time in his life he lived alone. He made a good go of it for the next six years, but finally ran out of steam.
Downsizers and Diverstors
I watched my parents become Downsizers and Divestors. Together, they downsized twice, from a large house with stairs to a slightly smaller house on one level and then to an apartment in an independent living set-up. From there, Mom moved into Nursing Care, and in time, Dad moved into Assisted Living. Each time they moved, they gave away furniture, artwork and stained clothing. They also spent a good deal of their money educating their grandchildren, nieces and nephews. Dad had just started to give it all away before he died.
Without actually being ready to downsize, I’m ready to cull the junk in the attic and the broken furniture in the basement. The rest of the house is tidier than ever before. More remarkable, with just the two of us here, it stays that way. What’s a good name for this unprecedented phase of life?
The older they get . . .
My friend Célilia has a mother in her seventies and a grandmother over ninety. She says, “They are NOT at the same phase of senior living.” She suggests “Super-Elder” for those eighty-five and up.
But that still leaves a lot of living that’s unnamed.
Actors, Cranks & Experienced Americans
This is where I am now. And I’m grateful to my high school classmate Ole, who suggests using the five-act play for the phases of life. This appeals to me, because each act can have several scenes, which makes it easier to take to the stage in Act 5, Scene 1: Enter Senior. I’m also fond of my rowing buddy Chris’s suggestion of “Crank: a small handy device capable of starting revolutions.”
Best of all is a combination of Ole’s Life in Five Acts with Chris’s Crank, called Third Act. This is a new organization Bill McKibben has founded, inviting our generation of “Experienced Americans” to come together to protect democracy and the planet. I have my former colleague Joanna to thank for telling me about this one.
According to the Third Act website, 10,000 Americans turn 60 every day, making ours the fastest growing segment of the population. We’re the generation that advanced and/or benefited from civil rights, women’s rights, and pacifist activism, among other initiatives. And we can do it again – joyfully. Here’s a link to how you can get involved. Or you can join the nationwide call-in on January 26.
Mary Oliver’s poem The Summer Day, is popular with adolescents, teens and young adults. It ends with the speaker asking, What are you going to do with your one wild and precious life?
It’s a good question for us graduating Seniors to ask, slightly amended.
Tell me, what are you going to do with what’s left of your one wild and precious life?