Sixty-Five Is the New Twenty-One, or Not

I was young. That is my excuse.

I was about 25 years old and working at my first library job. My supervisor, about twice my age, was talking about the crammed weekend she had ahead of her, wondering how she was going to fit everything in and manage to make an appointment with her hairdresser. Her gray roots were showing (or so she said; hair has always been somewhat under my radar so I had not noticed). It seemed like an easily solved problem to me; “So why do you bother?” I asked. I mean, wouldn't it be so much easier to just let nature do what it wants and have one less thing to jam into her free time?

She looked at me with surprise, amusement, and a bit of an eyeroll, hesitated, then shook her head and said, “All I can say is, you will know why when you are my age.”

The conversation turned to other things, but in the back of my mind was the question: Will I really change that much as I age?

And here I am, 40 years later.

Have I changed? I sure hope so.

First of all, you know how they say that wisdom comes with age? It does. Mostly, it comes in the shape of I cannot believe how brainless I used to be. Experience, just the experience that comes from staying alive for several decades, has taught me some things:
  • Most things get better by themselves.
  • What does not kill me does not really make me stronger, but it points out that I can cope better than I expected.
  • Plans never work out exactly. Be flexible.
  • I should keep my mouth shut, mostly.
  • Worrying changes nothing, but it can be useful anyway: imagining all the possible awful outcomes at least gives me a battle plan.
  • Of course there are stupid questions. I ask them all the time.
  • I need my glasses to find my glasses.
But maybe those do not count as wisdom, per se. Maybe they are more perspective.

Because after living in seven decades and twelve Presidential administrations, from the era of party lines and coal heat to smartphones and solar, of 78rpms to iTunes, perspective is one thing I have definitely got. I will define that as wisdom.

On the other hand…

While I am gaining wisdom I am losing my brain. I hate to admit it, but I had to write down the decades I just mentioned to determine that I have actually lived in seven of them (and I am going through them again in my head as I proofread this). I had to check Wikipedia to count the number of Presidents I have lived through. Mental math is leaving me. Names of books, movies, actors, capital cities, rivers—just about any proper nouns, for that matter—are leaving me as well. My phone calculator and Google are my best friends. I keep looking for an app that can tell me why I came into a room.

And it is not just my brain, of course. I forget when it hit me that I no longer go for a checkup expecting to be told I am fine, see you next year. Now I expect to be told I need yet another maintenance prescription. At least I can still be maintained…

My vision has taken a hit. Nearsighted all my life, to the point I would have been legally blind without my glasses, and now myopia and presbyopia are battling it out. Plus, a cataract in one eye is wreaking havoc with my depth perception. My hearing is going too. Typical conversation at home:

- What was that?
- What was what?
- You didn’t hear that?
- Didn’t hear what?
- That (squeak, boom, scratch, chirp, siren, thump).

True, half the time I have heard the squeak, boom, scratch, chirp, siren, or thump; I just had not been paying attention. But the rest of the time…nope.

I have never been an athlete, but I have always been sufficiently agile. Now if I am kneeling or sitting on the floor, I cannot—I mean literally cannot—get up without a grunt. (But I CAN get up, so it's cool). I used to run up and down stepladders at work to put up summer decorations; now I direct from the ground.

I will tell you something else. Most of my life people have seemed surprised at my age; apparently, I have always looked younger than I am (I know for a fact that I have generally not ACTED my age, but that is a story for another blog). Yeah, people do not do that anymore.

Must be the gray hair.

Because, you know what? It is still a whole lot easier to let nature do what she wants.

For more perspectives on aging, check out these books from the Mercer County Library System:
Ephron; Lopez, Marx
I Feel Bad about My Neck, and Other Thoughts on Being a Woman by Nora Ephron
(Available in book, Large Print, Book on CD, and eBook formats)
Nora Ephron brings her signature dry humor to this collection of humorous and thoughtful essays.

I’m Not Gonna Lie, and Other Lies You Tell When You Turn 50 by George Lopez
(Available in English and Spanish)
A male perspective on what happens when you realize you are old.

Let’s Be Less Stupid: An Attempt to Maintain My Mental Faculties by Patricia Marx
Baby boomer and New Yorker writer Patricia Marx’s experiences with “brain fitness” will leave you thinking—and laughing out loud.
Rivers; White

Don’t Count the Candles, Just Keep the Fire Lit by Joan Rivers
(Available in book and Large Print formats)
Ms. Rivers brings her signature wit (and plenty of one-liners) to her observations on growing old.

If You Ask Me (and Of Course You Won’t) by Betty White
(Available in book, Large Print, Book on CD, and eBook formats)
Everyone’s favorite older actress gives us a thoughtful and humorous retrospective of her life.

—Barbara S. at Robbinsville


  1. Said so well, thanks for a great blog post, Barbara!

  2. A well written and entertaining read! Enjoyed it!


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