Elder Life Crisis

Myths & Realities of The Golden Years

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Wisdom from Lord deVere

Reality Check… (Re)Defining The Golden Years

On our 65th birthday we walk through the door marked “The Golden Years” and regardless of whether or not we like what’s on the other side of that door, there’s no going back.

Don't believe all the hype about how great "The Golden Years" are going to be. As goldminers know, all that sparkles is not what it appears. The closer you get to some things that appear golden, the more you see the gold isn't real.

What's so golden about an age in which you're too old to work at jobs you're qualified to do? Sure, a prospective employer can't discriminate on age but put an unqualified youth and an over-the-hill dynamo up for the same position and youth will win out every time. I believe the usual excuse for not hiring the dynamo is that he or she is "over qualified."

What's so golden about an age that botox can't help? An age when mirrors should be banned from every room in the home. An age when "age appropriate clothing" means below the knee, long-sleeved, and high-necked.

We have a new peer group focusing directly on us in the media: Tony Bennett, Betty White, Henry Winkler, Robert Wagner. They’re old like us and they’ve been enlisted to be our new best buddies, to help explain to us in simple terms how we’ll benefit by getting a reverse mortgage on our house, how we shouldn’t wait any longer to put aside some money for funeral expenses, how much we need to tap into our inner happiness while we are still mentally able.

Our mailbox is full of solicitations from AARP, the National Cremation Society, local funeral homes. We receive invitations to investment seminars for seniors, massive mailings about Medicare supplements.

You might enjoy spicy fiction but younger family members now think you need to read books such as Peace of Mind Planner: Important Information about My Belongings, Business Affairs, and Wishes, Get It Together: Organize Your Records So Your Family Won't Have To and ABA/AARP Checklist for My Family: A Guide to My History, Financial Plans and Final Wishes.

Youth is the flavor of the day for products from fast cars to lipstick. Even wrinkle creams are pitched by botoxed women in their 20s and 30s. Teen girls with flawless skin worry about wrinkles.

But some products and services don’t do well with youthful models: incontinence pads, personal mobility vehicles, erectile disfunction products, hair transplant services, burial insurance.

There’s plenty of reason to be depressed about being “elderly,” particularly when just the day before, when we were 64, we were full of life, ready for anything. We had a future. A day later we were elderly. On paper. In the eyes of youth. Maybe in our own eyes.

Some people are able to make the transition without any noticeable problems. Some people aren’t. Personally, I have a problem with being thought of as elderly. I don’t feel elderly. I know what elderly looks like and it isn’t me. But I have reached a numerical age that defines me as elderly. All of us at 65 and higher are defined by that number regardless of our physical, mental, or emotional health.

When a woman in her late 20s wanted to join my Midlife Club forum in order to get support in dealing with her 65-year-old father who she had diagnosed as going through a midlife crisis, I responded:

At 65, he is now at an age where he qualifies for senior discounts, Medicare, Social Security, AARP discounts, and would be referred to as “an elderly man” in the news. He may be stressed about facing the big void ahead; he may not see any future for himself. He needs to feel enthused about his current age but that’s not easy to do for many people.

I suggested that she search for a forum dealing with Late Life issues. Then I began searching for such a forum or any information that I could point her toward that dealt with elder life issues. What I found was depressing.

All information dealing with elder life issues was provided for caregivers of people too old and infirm to help themselves. There was nothing to inspire or motivate those of us who are fully functioning at elder age. At least for now.

It’s that undefined future that terrifies us.

It’s the bungee jumping 91-year-old great grandmother who inspires us.

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