You can call my husband and me many things at this stage of our lives. We both were sexagenarians a decade ago and are septuagenarians now. We look forward to being octogenarians, nonagenarians and even centenarians.
But today, among other things, we’re generally thought of by the younger population as seniors, elders, grandma, grandpa, an old lady, an old man, an old friend, retirees, oldsters, gaffers, antiques, veterans, old timers, matriarch and patriarch – to name only some of the appellations that come with the accumulation of age.
As a former English teacher, I’m laying aside the noun definitions and moving into both the positive and negative adjectives that now may describe those of us entitled to live in Sun City Center, a retirement community.
We’re probably all familiar with a few of the negative ones that accompany the aging process, such as declining, wrinkled, decrepit, rickety, doddering, antiquated, old fashioned, faded and time-worn. But let’s explore some of the positive descriptors of people I see every day in my neighborhood.
In the clubs and activities here, I see people daily who are spirited and curious, hungry to learn and do more. I see experienced seniors reaching out to transfer their skills to others who are fledgling crafters, weavers, writers and painters. I see wise men and women sharing their weltanschauung, their understanding and apprehension of the world, with others in classes and lectures at the Community College – and still others in support groups sharing the wisdom gained from the trials of life that all of us experience at one time or another. We have matured and earned the respect that is shown us. And many of us appear to be more mellow now that the challenges of raising a family and earning a living are behind us.
There is an aura of respect I’ve discovered living in a senior community. Often in the gym I find myself looking with admiration at men and women who appear to be older than I and are pushing the limits of their physical abilities. And there are also those in the gym who are dedicated to maintaining their wellness and who discipline themselves to exercise regularly and stretch their endurance.
I see my peers challenging themselves mentally in the library, game rooms and myriad clubs and organizations, each of which has a specific focus that enhances understanding and stretches the mind.
Just as with time, a vegetable becomes crisp and a fruit gains sweetness and flavor, we too can ripen with age and become more delicious. But with produce the maturity is automatic, dictated by nature. With mankind the process can be much more deliberate. That’s why we have chosen to live where we do – to ripen and remain well-preserved in both mind and body for as long as we can.
Freelance writer Judy Kramer can be reached by email at [email protected] She is author of the book “Changing Places: A Journey with My Parents into Their Old Age.”