What do I want to be when I grow old?
And, what are the gimmicks that will give me the answers.
The expression has been a part of our vernacular for as long as there have been expressions: What do I want to be when I grow up? But that’s not what I’ve named this article. Instead, I said: What do I want to be when I grow old? Those of you reading this have probably already grown up. But now comes the even more difficult question of growing old.
We live our lives in the present. From the outset, we live in the now. As children and adolescents the farthest thoughts might be of tomorrow. Our thirties and forties and maybe even fifties bring us to further thoughts, maybe of months ahead – to a planned vacation or an upcoming event. And then it happens: sixty and beyond. Now I’m all grown up and all of a sudden I’m old. What happens now?
Old age in America fascinates me. I mean, we’re all going to get there (we hope) and yet we do everything possible to avoid it. Oh, not just to avoid it, but to actually erase the very notion of it. We botox it away. We tummy tuck it, lift our faces and necks and freeze off age spots. We end up not looking like ourselves on any given day but we make sure to take advantage of all the “senior discounts” available at the supermarkets, fast food restaurants and car washes on other days. So, I guess on certain days of the week it pays to be old. And that too is an interesting phenomenon to me. Why do we even have discounts for people at the local (usually high end) store just because someone is 60 years old? Is that to celebrate the fact that they made it? Or is it just another way to get certain folks – of age—to shop there on those particularly slower days. I guess in that instance you could say that growing old is a gimmick for capitalists.
We don’t even know what to call people who are old. Or should I say elderly? Or older American? Or senior? In this case I guess you could say that growing old is a gimmick for linguistic professionals.
Under the premise that we are all going to get old, how do we answer the sixty-four thousand dollar question of just what we want to be when we grow old? We know we want to be financially sound. It would be nice to be wealthy but that’s a gimmick for selling old people on the idea that what’s in their wallet or their safe is what will make them happy. We know we want to be surrounded by smiling friends, but that’s a gimmick for sunny retirement communities. We know that we want to be healthy when we grow old. But there doesn’t appear to be a gimmick for that. We’re either healthy or we’re not. They can replace a hip here, a knee there, or even a valve here and there, but being in good health and remaining so is not an issue that can be addressed upon approach. It’s a subject that must be broached many years earlier.
So, start today. Give yourself your own gimmick. Make a plan. Think about your diet. Think about exercise. Look: in the mirror, in the closet, in the refrigerator, in the old photo albums. Ask yourself what you want to be when you grow old. The answer can be found in those places.