As we celebrate Canada Day this week on July first, I found myself thinking about how we won the lottery being born in this country. Canada is now 153 years old and I’m approaching 73. We’re growing old gracefully and joyfully. We have so much to be thankful for and in particular, the freedom to grow old gracefully and peacefully.
When I woke up the other morning, I rolled over and squinted one sleepy eye open to check the time: 8:12 a.m. As I was lying there I found myself contemplating what I’d be doing if I weren’t retired. I’d be sitting at my desk in a suburban office building, vetting and culling a gazillion emails, sipping a cold mug of tea between urgent phone calls, each one presenting a new problem, and wondering how on earth I was going to get everything done to submit that proposal to its destination by 3:00 p.m. Then, reality settled in and I snuggled down for another few minutes of blissful dozing. I’m an old lady and I’m retired.
There’s a lot of negative thinking around aging these days. Ageism is considered a form of discrimination with all sorts of unpleasant connotations. While it’s tempting to focus on our aches and pains and being on the descending bell curve of life expectancy, on the whole, we’re the luckiest people in the world. I found myself contemplating this when I read a piece in the paper about how the baby boomer demographic bulge is going to strain our social services. It’s an old and worn out song that I have no time for. We’ve contributed throughout our entire lives and we’re still contributing.
I’m fully aware of how great life is and how lucky I am to be part of it. My day starts with reading the morning paper (the old-fashioned, hard-copy kind; I’m trying to support print journalism) while I eat my breakfast and consume two large mugs of strong tea. So far so good. In normal times when I’m not self-isolating I might have a late-morning hair appointment. I’d grab some sushi at the food court in the mall afterward while I people-watch and pass bitchy judgment on the good and bad fashion choices of fellow shoppers. Sweet. I’d pick up some groceries on the way home, walk the dog, have supper with my honey, then read and watch my PVR’d television programs. How is that not a perfect day? The only way I’m able to live this blissful life is because I’m retired and to be retired you have to be
a) old, or
b) young and extremely rich.
I’m definitely a) and will never be b).
I’ve never understood the eternal quest for youth. It’s the benchmark for all advertising and the ultimate goal of many people who have lost it. I wouldn’t want to go back even one single day in my life as it just gets better every year. We have so much to be thankful for. The most important thing is that we’re still here to enjoy life. But, being an old lady comes with so many extra benefits I think it’s important to remind ourselves how lucky we are. Despite being currently confined to quarters, here just a few of the things I love about being an old lady:
- I don’t have to go to work every day. I’m the boss of me and there’s no one to tell me what to do. No deadlines, sales quotas, reports to be submitted or working late nights and weekends doing something I’d rather not be doing.
- Being an old lady means I’m pretty much off the radar for sexual assault or discrimination. I’m invisible to predators, except perhaps purse-snatchers and unscrupulous boy scouts trying to help me across the road.
- Lovely discounts at movie theatres, certain restaurants, and retail outlets—when they reopen.
- Public transit is cheaper. While Toronto Transit Commission charges slightly less for seniors, the Mississauga Transit Authority (where I live) charges seniors only one dollar, one mere looney to ride their buses. How’s that not a good thing?
- It’s wonderful to no longer have to deal with the missteps, mistakes, angst, stresses, and challenges of being young. No more mortgages, worries about car payments, promotions, relationships, or life choices.
- I’ve accepted that my waistline is long-gone and will never return. I recently sent 34 lovely leather belts to charity and sighed with relief that I no longer have to waste my time on situps that will never change a thing.
- Being the boss of and the last word on the use of my time is one of the biggest advantages of being an old lady. I can be productive on any given day if I wish, or I can sit and read a book all day if my heart desires. We now have the time to pursue hobbies, community work, or do absolutely nothing.
- Interestingly, I’m also relieved that I won’t live long enough to see the results of the damage currently being done to our planet. I’m doing the best I can in terms of recycling and being environmentally conscientious but that’s all I can do. It’s pretty much out of my hands.
- No apologies. I’ve earned the right to my opinions, my feelings, and my principles. If you don’t agree, it’s not my problem.
- My circle of friends is tried and true. We’ve withstood the test of time, divorces, job loss, health issues, and life’s normal stresses. We’ve been together for a long time and will be together for whatever time we have left. That may be the best gift of all.
Aging also comes with some unexpected advantages which came as a nice surprise. When I’m having telecom problems (which happens far too often) and I’m forced to contact someone in a call centre who’s barely old enough to vote, I’ve mastered putting on a frail old lady voice that is guaranteed to get the sympathy and patience I need to get my problem solved. “Hello? I’m a senior so you’ll have to be patient with me, and please speak up.” Works every time. Admittedly, it perpetuates the ageism negative stereotype. Never mind that I spent more than forty years in a senior management position in the corporate world. I call it being resourceful.
There are just so many advantages to aging and other than unpredictable health, we’re a pretty lucky bunch a’ boomers. Every morning I wake up and say a silent thank you to whatever forces are guiding me through life. We live in a caring democracy here in Canada, a country with universal health care, among caring people and we’ve put most of life’s crap behind us. As long as I don’t watch the news on television any more than necessary, being an old lady is the best thing that ever happened to me. I consider it a blessing and a gift. How about you? How’s your old lady experience so far?