Cheerful Old People

It’s a stereotype:  the elderly curmudgeon.  You know:  the old guy who yells at neighborhood kids whenever they get within ten feet of his yard; the gray haired woman who complains when you walk too loudly; the two old ladies who sit on the porch, whisper to each other and glare at everyone who passes by; and what have you.  It gives all older people a bad name.
Don't let that smile fool you.  He buries things in his backyard.
Most of us over-60 types are nice, pleasant people, but that doesn’t get you the same kind of attention that you can get by slugging people with a cane while simultaneously cursing in two different languages.  That gets immediate attention, although probably not the kind the perpetrator wants.

Even though we constitute a majority of the senior population, we nice oldsters deserve some credit for existing as nice people, because it isn’t easy.  Have you ever tried to be cheerful when your back is hurting, your arthritis is flaring, you have to go to the bathroom ten times a day and you only got about three hours of sleep the night before because you kept waking up every hour?  What if, in addition, you can’t get anywhere without a cane, a walker or a power chair anymore, when you were once your college’s track and field champion?

How many young people do you know who could avoid turning into a wet blanket under those circumstances?  I thought so.

I have a theory, and it goes like this.  It’s a good thing that age sneaks up on us slowly, because that gives us a chance to get used to all the ailments.  If you get used to having ailments, you can either minimize them or make the most of them.  If you minimize your ailments you can still be a fun person.  If you make the most of them, you can get out of doing things you don’t want to do, anyway.  In either case, you can have some fun.

I prefer to minimize ailments.  My ailments are boring even to me, so I can imagine how tiresome it is for other people to hear about them.  The subject of osteoarthritis is interesting to doctors.  I like to leave it that way.  There are more interesting things to talk about, such as books, movies, music, how we Baby Boomers shook the universe – that kind of thing.
These people know how to have a good time!
There is one thing, though, that can turn even the Little Mary Sunshines among us into temporary harpies:  being treated as if we are nuisances instead of human beings.  Yes, some of us walk slowly.  We can’t help it.  Go around us when you can, and get over it.  There are some among us who are in the first stages of dementia, and might ask the same question or make the same remark every five minutes.  Yelling at them doesn’t help, because they don’t know we are repeating something they already said.  If they did know, they wouldn’t say it again.  Besides, they are not going to remember five minutes from now that you yelled at them.  Smile, answer them and pretend you never heard the thing before.  If you are working in a place that is supposed to provide help to us, don’t snap at us for asking questions.  To you, it’s an interruption in your workday; to us it might be something critical to our lives.

Growing older isn’t easy, but that doesn’t mean the fun is over.

No, this attractive older woman is not me.  I wish it were.

Kathy Minicozzi is the author of "Opera for People Who Don't Like It", which is available on in paperback and Kindle formats.


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