Other voices: Fighting the battle for the right to be old
Due to good luck and considerable perseverance on my part, I have reached my 85th birthday, a respectable old age one might think.
However, I am suddenly confronted with the disquieting news that, age-wise, “the 80s are now the new 60s.” This arbitrary pronouncement has appeared in several newspaper and magazine articles I have read lately.
My theory is that it was initiated by a committee of young, publicity-seeking gerontologists who looked at actuarial tables and concluded that, since the national trend is now toward a longer life-expectancy, it is acceptable to lop 20 years off a person’s documented age.
These are the same kind of people who will announce with false joviality that some frail centenarian is “100-years young.” How patronizing! How deceitful!
This tinkering, this re-adjustment of one’s lifetime cannot be compared to daylight saving time when we either spring forward or fall back an hour. (And goodness knows, that’s bothersome enough.) This revision is much more drastic. We are talking in terms of a score of years, or two decades! I feel as if I’ve panted toward the finish line of a grueling marathon, only to have loud-speakers announce that the race has been extended by an additional 20 miles.
Lest you suppose that because I state that I am an old lady I am weary of life and am preparing for imminent departure, I want to assure you that my intent is to live as long as I possibly can while still retaining my wits. I eat my fruit and veggies, practice tai chi and do the New York Times crossword puzzle every day. Despite this regimen, which ought to meet with AARP’s approval, I acknowledge that some slippage has occurred.
There is a wide difference between being a sprightly 65 and being a “well-preserved” 85. My synaptic responses have become more leisurely, my auditory acuity has diminished, there is often a significant delay in my reflexes, my balance is not always reliable and my joints do not move with the smooth fluidity they once did.
Therefore, I am unnerved by the prospect of being expected to operate with the same vigor and efficiency I did 20 years ago.
There has been comfort for me in the sunset years when I have felt entitled to smell the roses while somebody else pulled the weeds. I have had no misgivings about resting on the few laurels I have accumulated. Monthly social security checks have brought joy. I utilize senior citizen discounts.
Now it is being made to appear that I have received these benefits fraudulently. According to the new-age math, I was actually 20 years premature in my retirement and therefore not exactly eligible for social security or any of the other above-mentioned goodies. That is why I cannot accept this statistical “bonus” of two extra decades with any pretense of gratitude.
Also, in addition to my mundane worries about global warming and the head-long decline of civilization, I am presently subjected to the frightful anxiety of waiting until Social Security seizes upon this new “80s are now the 60s” nonsense as a basis for a sweeping revision of their policies.
Who knows if they may decide to demand immediate restitution, with interest, of all funds that have been paid to me. This will likely be accompanied by a statement in bold print listing the severe penalties to ensue if there is any lack of compliance, because, for sheer menace, there is nothing to be compared to a government agency in quest of one’s last dollar.
I am prepared to fight with every means at my disposal against the summary appropriation of 20 of my birthdays. Furthermore, I am not 85 years young.
I am 85 years old, and that’s the way I want to keep it. Who would ever have anticipated having to do battle for the right to be old!
Lucille Lovestedt lives in Grass Valley.
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