“Once we get outta the ’80s, the ’90s are going to make the ’60s look like the ‘50s.”
That quote is from Huey Walker, Dennis Hopper’s character in the film, Flashback. Like most people, I thought he was talking about the decades, but as I just turned 65, I now believe he was talking about aging. Hopper, who is now 84 and made the film Easy Rider 52 years ago, knows more about that subject than I do, almost twenty years more.
As we age, we all tend to characterize each phase by the decade, teens, twenties, thirties, etc. In each decade, we also face a shift in what we consider old. I remember playing foosball when I was 17 and balking when some old guys came in. They were in their twenties.
But the sixties are a pivotal decade. I retired. I down-sized. And at 65, I received my first social security check. I am now what the British refer to as a pensioner. And, living in an over-55 community, I’ve discovered you stay in that category for the rest of your life. Ther are many people here the same age as my father, but I’ve come to think of them as peers and contemporaries, a status my dad will never enjoy.
I’ve discovered something else about the sixties that I’ve never heard of before. Maybe I discovered it. More likely, it’s one of those secret rituals that only people of a certain age are allowed to know about.
The sixties are a training ground for getting old. Life starts giving you little glimpses, a few at a time, of what the coming decades will be like. And, I got to tell you, it ain’t pretty.
Things start happening in the sixties, and you become aware of things you have never given any thought to.
Acid reflux, gas and the passing thereof, and that most irregular of daily habits, the bowel movement. The entire gastrointestinal tract becomes a subject of fascination. Spots begin randomly appearing on your body, giving rise to awkward positions holding a mirror, and another trip to a dermatologist. You start giving thought to and planning for, formerly trivial activities.
Like standing up.
You have reached the age where it is physically impossible to stand up without making some sort of noise, oral or otherwise. Bending over? Forget about it. I wouldn’t bend over for anything less than a twenty.
But I’m only 65. There could be another 30 years left. Think about it. I could still have the same amount of time I spent getting here from my mid-thirties. So, all this stuff is just the beginning.
It’s life getting me ready, a training ground for what’s to come. I need to learn to do things all over again that I have taken for granted most of my life.
Like walking. Pay attention. That crack in the sidewalk that once stubbed your toe could break some part you didn’t even know you had. But it doesn’t really matter. Random injuries will just occur for no reason. A professional baseball player may miss a few games due to a torn rotator cuff. Sometime in our sixties, one will just tear itself, just to piss you off. Along with your knees, hips, and back. Pretty much any moving part. If you were a car, you would have junked it by now.
So, living in this community is a great learning experience. I highly recommend it. But not when you are 55. I don’t know where they came up with that number. You don’t want to live here until you hit sixty and preferably retired to get the full benefit. Then you need to be observant. Watch what’s coming. Like a train wreck, you can do nothing about.
The weekly card game is over, and the four players stand up. You can guess their age by how long that takes. Speaking of which, when did I lose the ability to stand up without using my hands? I guess somewhere in the sixties.
Plans and conversations about plans change. Ask a guy in his thirties what he is doing Saturday.
Well, I want to get up early and get in a long run before my golf game. Then I have to come home and cut the grass. After lunch, I was going to stain the deck so it can dry before I grill steaks for dinner. after dinner, we’re going to take in a concert and probably swing by Starbucks for a late-night frappucino.
Once you get older and especially retired, one thing a day is it. Today, I’ll probably go to the grocery store. Then I’ll need a nap. That’s it. You can do seven things in a week. And that’s pushing it. You don’t want to strain yourself.
Of course, I don’t have to dwell so much on what’s coming. When you are young, you think about the future. You plan for the future. You save for the future.
Well, guess what? This is the freaking future. I sure as hell didn’t plan for this. So being in the future, what’s next? Maybe I should get a Delorean and travel back in time. Talk to my younger self. “Don’t do that” would be most of the conversations.
I’ll tell you what’s next; tomorrow is what’s next. That’s as far as I plan. I don’t need to plan for the future anymore; I’m in it. I don’t need to save for the future; it’s time to spend. It’s time to do that complicated algebra problem where Y is how much you need to spend each year, and X is the number of years left to spend it.
So, all you young whippersnappers out there (what the hell is a whippersnapper?) pay attention. Enjoy life, but look forward to the golden years. I don’t know why they call them that — the golden years. I’d say the golden years are somewhere between 58 and 62. That’s about when things start to break and fall off.
That’s when the training begins for the last fight of your life.