When you’re young at heart

A while back I attended a day’s worth of presentations from local agencies on services for senior citizens. I heard from physical therapists, hospice workers, and in-home health care providers. I wandered around picking up freebies from the booths—things like plastic reading glasses and refrigerator magnets advertising podiatry. Good times.

The workshop was called “Optimal Aging,” but the first speaker explained that a few attendees had obviously misunderstood the content, because they told her they were looking forward to hearing her tips for “optional aging.”

Optional aging. If only it worked that way. But even though we change on the outside, we often remain much the same inside.

My mother railed against the inevitability of aging and death. Toward the end of her life, her body failing, she’d tap one long, index fingernail—painted fire-engine red—to each side of her head and say, “I still feel 29 between my ears.”

Age is just a number, as the saying goes. But for baby boomers like me, that number is getting a tad high for our liking. Nonetheless, we insist on staying this side of the hill, investing in anti-aging creams and trendy hearing aids in neon colors. Our theme song could be “No Time at All” from the 1972 Broadway musical Pippin. The character of Berthe, a 66-year-old grandmother, sings, “I believe if I refuse to grow old, I can stay young till I die.”

A similar sentiment is attributed to anthropologist Ashley Montagu: “The idea is to die young, as late as possible.” I bought my husband a license plate frame bearing that quotation a couple of Christmases ago.

Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young” never fails to touch me, especially when sung by Joan Baez. Here she is, young and beautiful. Today, at 74, she remains beautiful, still singing, still true to her beliefs and her cause. An inspiration.

Copyright © 2015 by Paulette Bochnig Sharkey
All rights reserved.


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5 Responses to When you’re young at heart

  1. Sharie Van Gilder says:

    Enjoy your insight and personal notes. Very impressive research, too.

  2. Roger Wise says:

    My mother was a published poet and in her last book is the following gem:

    When I was one, I was just begun
    And when I was two I was fairly new
    When I was three, I was barely me
    And when I was four I was not much more
    When I was five I came alive
    And when I was six, I was full of tricks
    And now I am seven and clever as ever
    I think I’ll stay seven forever and ever

  3. Riff Noggin says:

    There’s a wonderful book, The Ageless Self (Sharon Kaufman, anthropologist), about how we remain much the same on the inside. Forever Young, indeed.

    About that senior fair… Granted these are service agencies, but their cultural notion of aging is narrowly decrepitudinous. What I and others need are concise no-nonsense how-to’s on tech-living: how to decide on a fancy phone and service provider, how to find a decent airfare in less than 30 clicking hours. How to keep up with it all. These are the kinds of “un-abilities” that can sideline seniors — and translate to mandatory social aging.

    May you always be free from the patronizing condescension of amused young professionals when you remain sharp, hip, and outspoken.

  4. Jessa says:

    We also threw him an over the hill party at age 40 though…. Don’t forget how unamused he was by that one!

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