There was an old woman . . .

Tell me - do these look like the faces of elderly women?
Tell me – do these look like the faces of elderly women?

The other day as I was listening to a story on the radio about a house fire the announcer wrapped up by saying, “And the elderly woman who lived in the home died in the fire. She was sixty-two.” That comment nearly knocked me on my flabby old fanny. Since when did sixty-two become elderly? I’m older than that; most of my friends are older than that and we hardly consider ourselves elderly. In fact, neither did my grandmother when she was well into her nineties. She always respectfully referred to older people (who were most often younger than her) in the third person, “old Mrs. James or poor old Mr. Holmes who lives around the corner”.

Remember when we Boomer’s didn’t trust anyone over thirty? Now we discount everyone under thirty as being too young to understand anything, including their perception of our generation. Just because I’ve had two hip replacements and wear hearing aids doesn’t mean I’m old. I can still rock around the clock with the best of them, sometimes even as late as 9:00 p.m. My maintenance issues are keeping me broke and when I get down on the floor I sometimes can’t get back up but that still doesn’t make me old. And the fact that I qualify for CPP and OAS (Canada Pension and Old Age Security, for any kids who might be reading this) just means I worked for a very long time and have earned it.

You definitely don't want to be seated near us at lunch.
You definitely don’t want to be seated anywhere near us at lunch. However, because Boomer Broads worked hard for so many years before retiring, we appreciate good service by others and we’re generous tippers.

The other day I went for Japanese food at lunchtime with eleven girlfriends. The hostess seated the twelve of us in a private room so our screaming laughter and rude jokes wouldn’t disturb the other restaurant patrons. Does that sound like a group of elderly women? After lunch, we split up and went our various way— shoe shopping, to the esthetician, to tennis drills, and the liquor store. I drove home with the top down on my car and found a new pair of red shoes I’d ordered on-line waiting for me in a box on my doorstep, along with the new February issues of ELLE  and MORE magazine in my mailbox. No pilled pastel cardigans with a snotty Kleenex up the sleeve for us.

When we look at pictures of our mothers, aunts and grandmothers at our age, they did not look like we do now. Maybe they accepted aging with more grace than we do. Call it vanity, taking care of ourselves, good living or just plain denial. Just don’t call us elderly! Or you might not live long enough to know what elderly really means.

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It pays to make beautiful silk purses from sow’s ears

The restored Britannnia copper mine in B.C. has turned a former eyesore into an educational and visually fascinating source of income for the community.
The restored Britannia copper mine in B.C. has turned a former eyesore into an educational and visually fascinating source of income for the community.

Derelict buildings, ruins and architectural salvage are valued in Europe to the extent that fragments of crumbling Roman walls or centuries-old buildings are rarely torn down but incorporated into new and attractive projects. In North America it seemed until recently we could hardly wait to tear down classical Georgian architecture or turn-of-the-century industrial buildings to replace them with characterless glass monoliths designed with minimal imagination and no personality.

I was reminded of this recently when we visited The Britannia Mining Museum, a rehabilitated copper mine near Squamish, British Columbia that has been restored and opened as a museum in 1974. The original Britannia copper mine employed 60,000 people between 1904 and 1964. Until 1958, when a road was built to link the community on Howe Sound to Vancouver, all access to the site was by water only. When we visited the site I was unprepared for how interesting the experience would be. Climbing new wooden steps up the side of the mountain, we then took a small train into the tunnels where the guide demonstrated the working conditions for miners who drilled, blasted and loaded carts with raw materials. A vertical processing facility used gravity to funnel materials through the various processes to produce pure copper powder ready for smelting. The facility sat derelict for a number of years before it was restored and environmental remediation began on Howe Sound. What a great way to recycle an old eyesore and at the same time create interesting and productive jobs for the community.

Old schoolhouse in Bracebridge has been refashioned into modern condos.
Old schoolhouse in Bracebridge has been refashioned into modern condos.

It’s always gratifying to see projects such as The Distillery District in Toronto become vibrant and colourful destinations in our community. Or the refurbishment and gentrification of such former industrial neighbourhoods as Liberty Village or The Brickworks alongside the Don Valley Parkway. In St. Thomas, Ontario, a handsome old railway station in the centre of town is being restored to provide commercial space. This past summer we attended a wedding reception in the grand hall of the former Hamilton, Ontario railway station that had been carefully and tastefully restored.

Just this weekend I read in the newspaper about a condominium project in Bracebridge, Ontario created from an 85-year-old brick schoolhouse that no longer met modern requirements.

Additional buildings adjacent to old school offer a variety of living spaces.
Additional buildings adjacent to old school offer a variety of living spaces.

The developer, McMurray Street Investments retained the main structure and added architecturally compatible new elements to create a beautiful low-rise residential complex within walking distance of the downtown shops, library and the waterfront.

Beauty can be achieved in the most unusual places. I’m always encouraged and delighted when I see these old buildings dusted off, tarted up and given new life. I think that’s justification for Boomer Broads buying a new pair of shoes or that colourful winter coat you’ve had your eye on, don’t you. When we were in France, my honey bought me a vintage crystal brooch at the Marché de Puce, the Paris antique market, but I can’t wear it yet because he’s earmarked it as a Christmas present. So when I do get to show it off during the holidays you can be sure this old sow’s ear is going to sparkle like never before with a little help from some fresh paint, some new highlights on the roof and a little wine to loosen up the creaky old joints. It’ll be worth the investment.




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P.J. O’Rourke’s, The Baby Boom

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