Featured Letter: Welcome to Planet Senior Citizen

Published November 1, 2009

Landed immigrants who hope to become Canadian citizens are required to know a number of basic things about the country they are going to adopt, and rightly so. However, when your turn comes to take out senior citizenship, you will in all probability find yourself a stranger in a strange country without a road map.

I had associated with senior citizens at work and play for most of my life, but none of them ever bothered to tell me what life was going to be like on their side of the fence. On the other hand, I never thought to ask. Then, one day, out of the blue, I turned 65 and found myself in a place for which I had not been prepared.

At first I didn’t feel any different as a senior citizen than I did when I was a junior citizen. But gradually other people began seeing me in a different light. It gave me quite a jolt the first time a middle-aged man addressed me as “sir.”

Senior citizenship, I discovered, is not just an age; it’s also a condition and an attitude. Some senior citizens are burdened with so many health problems they cannot enjoy their so-called golden years while others are lucky enough to live happy, active lives. And mentally, I discovered, there are “old, old” people and then there are “young, old” people.

As I progressed in my new life, I found it irritating that I couldn’t hear as well as I used to and that I had to endure the nuisance of taking pills at certain times of the day. And it was hard indeed to accept that because of my high cholesterol, many of the foods I had always loved no longer loved me.

I learned to tolerate people who treated me as though I wasn’t playing with a full deck. Like the teenage cashier at the supermarket who, when I signed the credit card receipt at the top because I had forgotten my glasses, assured me, in a most condescending manner, that it was, “all my fault, dear. I shouldn’t have given you the slip upside down.” Then there was my grandson, asking me if I remembered the sinking of the Titanic. And my daughter wondering if I was okay to drive home, hours after I’d had a glass of wine with dinner.

There is, of course, a plus side to senior citizenship: discounts at stores, restaurants and movies, to name a few. Then, there are the young women who call me “honey,” and “dear.” Yeah, right now when it’s too late. There is sadness in realizing that a lot of the things I purchase will probably last me forever. And, sadder yet, hearing my grandchildren speculate on what life will be like 50 years from now.

As for all that freedom I dreamed of having when I was younger, like staying out all night and not having to get up early for work the next morning, well, now that I have it, I no longer want it. It helps to have a sense of humour when you hear senior citizen jokes: The bad news is you are going to get worse; the good news is it won’t be for long. And, If you weren’t going to die, you’d have nothing to look forward to.

Recently, all the TV stations announced a severe smog warning, and advised children and senior citizens-especially seniors with heart trouble-not to venture out of doors unless it was absolutely necessary. Being a sometimes childish senior, and with a bum ticker to boot, it sure threw a scare into me, I’ll tell you. In fact, I wouldn’t have dared set foot outside the door into that poisonous brew except I had to go bowling.
Happy trails!

William Bedford



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