When Did I Become Old?

When my Medicare card arrived in the mail, it was a moment that caught my breath. I contemplated checking my birth certificate to verify my birth year.  No, I knew it was 1953.  That really does mean I am sixty-five.

I wondered if that now made me old. I expected more “heads-up, here comes old age and here’s how you’re going to feel.”  Surely, there was a manual on the passageway to this stage of life.

No one prepared me for the significance of the arrival of a Medicare card. Did I miss something along the blissful way to old age?  The card itself is paper – saying, “You aren’t going to be around much longer anyway so no need for plastic or lamination…this will work for as long as you need it lady.”

The thing is I do not see myself as old. I do not call myself old.  I do not feel old – for the most part.  In general, I ignore numbers when it comes to age.  I pay more attention to weight numbers than age numbers.  Is that a good approach – pretending that age does not matter? Or could the truth be that old age simply scares me?

My attitude towards aging most likely comes from my childhood. I was slow to grow – late to most typical growing up things. I never yearned to reach teen years but dreaded leaving the comforts of being a kid.  I have a distinct memory of turning seven and being sad about not being six.  It seemed like a better number to be.

I was young for my age and at times embarrassed when that was pointed out. I was not sure what to do about it then, so I ignored the dilemma and figured it would all be solved at some point, which is exactly what happened.  I sure do not mind someone telling me I am young for my age now.  It certainly is not an embarrassment.

I have always made friends with those much younger than myself. I find them an inspiration to keeping a young mind-set.  I married someone seven years younger than myself. – To no one’s surprise who knows me.

There is a study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology that says negative stereotypes about aging may actually shorten our lives. Psychologist Becca Levy of Yale University reports, “…those with more positive self-perceptions of aging lived 7.5 years longer than those with negative perceptions.”

Ageism is the stereotyping of and discrimination against individuals based on age. The fear of death, the fear of disability and dependence are major causes of ageism.  In order to avoid thinking about our own mortality, we may avoid, segregate, or reject older people as a coping mechanism.

There are many reminders that I am in fact older. I struggle much more with quick recall of names or sometimes words.  I think I groan when I bend down sometimes, which horrifies me when I hear it.  I know I have issues with sleeping through the night but have no problem falling asleep in front of the television at any time.  My eyesight now means contacts, glasses for distance and glasses for reading, and still I cannot always read ingredients or directions sometimes.

I more often choose shoes for comfort, which irritates me since I have an affinity for heels. Plantar fasciitis reminds me why I have to go comfort over style, although I will push that envelope whenever I can.

I complain more often and my husband and I now have an agreement to stop the other from going down that road. “We sound like old people,” we both said one evening when each was describing their aches and pains.

Yes, I am stiffer. I have arthritis in my hands that sometimes prevents me from opening a jar, or using a keyboard.  It makes me crabby but it makes me more determined to fight against the progressive decline of aging.

“You’re only as old as you feel.” I want to live as fully as I can for as long as I can.  Reaching 100 sounds unappealing to me.  Greater longevity is not a goal of mine.  Fighting aging and working towards good health is a preferable approach for me.

I can exercise regularly. I can keep a healthy diet.  I can keep my weight at an acceptable number.  I can limit or eliminate all the bad vices like alcohol, cigarettes, sugar, and sun exposure.  I can make a best attempt at keeping up with technology.  I can keep in touch with what makes the next generations passionate and inspired.  I can keep an open mind to politics, religion, music, and fashion.  I can still travel, explore, and be curious.  And I can still wear my hair long if I want!

I will make concessions to working with aging, like comfortable shoes and glasses and napping to catch up on lost sleep. However, I intend to fight the aging process with full force.

So am I old, as my Medicare card may have indicated to me that day I was granted the benefit? Yes, I am.  However, I am not going to spend precious time worrying about it.  There is so much yet to be enjoyed.  Moreover, a positive approach to aging might just buy me a good seven and a half years of healthy living.

Speaking of Medicare, the annual Open Enrollment period runs from October 15, 2018 to December 7, 2018 for 2019 coverage. You can apply online at www.medicare.gov or you can make an appointment with a SHINE counselor through North Shore Elder Services’ Information Services at 978-750-4540.

The first time you can enroll is your Initial Enrollment Period. It begins three months before the month you turn 65, includes the month you turn 65, and ends three months after the month you turn 65.  If you do not enroll when you are first eligible, you may have to pay a late enrollment penalty.

Check back to our website for more information about the upcoming Medicare Open Enrollment.

Author Info

Jayne Girodat

Jayne Girodat is the Communications Specialist at North Shore Elder Services. Along with ten years in the position of Caregiver Support Specialist at another ASAP, Jayne was a long-distance caregiver to parents for the same amount of time. That experience serves as motivation to better understand the issues of aging and to engage people in conversations about those issues. Jayne's background in teaching contributes to her appreciation of social media as a tool to educate readers on aging concerns. "I love asking people questions. Everyone likes to be heard. When you ask and then listen, you'll find everyone has a story and some of those stories are gems. I think it is particularly important to hear the voices of our older adults. Those are the stories I really connect to and hope to bring to North Shore Elder Services' audience."

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