Wednesday, November 28, 2007

All Those Old People--and I'm One of Them

I usually think I'm dealing with old age well now, but sometimes I wonder. This time the occasion was a "Lifestyle" meeting on downsizing and interior decor for future residents of The Clare, my soon-to-be senior facility.

Always the interested observer, I noticed a few things that made me uncomfortable. First, the presenter lacked skill in giving her slide-illustrated lecture. I don't suppose an interior designer is generally expected to do such things well, and some will blame it on the computer. However, in these days of the ubiquitous Power Point, I was surprised. Was this a second-class presentation from a lifetime care facility said be to the newest, the best, and surely among the most expensive?

While I admit that I'm not exactly young and vibrant, many in attendance had faded a great deal since the first future residents' meeting I attended several years ago. Earlier I admired all the active seniors, but this time the rapid passing of time and the effects of aging impressed me more. It doesn't help that among the few future residents I've met, one couple had to withdraw and move to asssisted living elsewhere at least a year ago, and another woman died of cancer.

I'm ashamed to say that the halting speech and irrelevant questions asked by some of those in atttendance bothered me, too.. These are, for the most part, people who demand the best and can afford it, but I sympathize with project management in their struggle against impossible odds to satisfy everyone's exacting requirements.

I began to think about the larger question of that final senior move, even if it's to a luxury senior apartment. As an independent loner who has been retired since 1999, downsized into a condo, and reinvented myself, mainly through writing, I made my decision to move because of the Clare's location and because I had no family to take care of me later. I believed it was important to make my plans while still relatively healthy.

It bothers me a bit that even the well-meaning staff of this high-end facility seem to assume that future residens will live endlessly social lives filled with theater and opera and elegant dining, perhaps enlivened by lifetime learning university classes and travel. All that is fine, but I've been doing it for years. It's not enough. Do my writing activities make me too independent for this community? I still hope to find some kindred spirits there, but if not, I'll take comfort in the fact that I'm doing fine now, and my new apartment will have a better view.

The necessary lifestyle changes brought by age are probably disturbing to all seniors. A quote from Charles Darwin seems appropriate here: "It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change." I'll try.

Copyright 2007 by Marlys Marshall Styne
Photos: Clare web site (left) and the author


Catana said...

You've raised an issue that I think about a lot -- how to cope with the well-meant helpers and the generic expectations and responses, as if every senior wants and needs the same things. I've never fit anybody's idea of what's normal, and I know that if I'm in a position where I'm physically unable to take care of myself, I'll have all kinds of "normal" activities foisted on me--the games, the socialization, TV, etc. If my mind is intact, that kind of environment will drive me to madness and suicide. But this is something I guess we're not supposed to talk about.

seniorwriter said...

I'm glad to hear that someone else has these kinds of concerns. I think I'll be all right as long as I have my computer and reading material (even audio books if I should lose my eyesight), but I'll never fit into anyone's stereotypical idea of old people. No bingo or bridge games for me!