Friday, January 08, 2010

Spare Me!

This morning, The New York Times has this headline: “Seeing Old Age as a Never-Ending Adventure”, accompanied by this teaser: “The limitations of age are being tossed aside by active men and women as the global travel and leisure industry races to keep up.” Then we read about a 90-year-old who sprained her ankle hiking in Africa and an 89-year-old who wing-walks. We are told, “Intensely active older men and women who have the means and see the twilight years as just another stage of exploration are pushing further and harder, tossing aside presumed limitations. And the global travel and leisure industry, long focused on youth, is racing to keep up.” Ah! There you go...”older men and women who have the means...” and “the global travel and leisure industry”--a marriage made in Shangri-la-la-la. The rest of us who don’t have the means...okay...MOST of the rest of us, see being in our 70’s and 80’s as a great trial and challenge. And not the least of the annoyances of being old is listening to the chatter that comes from old people. We fall into two main categories: The complainers about aches, pains, unloving children and grandchildren, and the determined Pollyannas who thank Jesus every five minutes for allowing them to live and chastise the complainers the other 55 minutes of every hour. A complainer-subset is the knot of elders that competes with each other to tell the most horrible story about hospital or caregiver abuses. And a thank-you-Jesus subset is the clot that competes with the aches-and-pains competers but end their horror stories with a smile and a testament that “God is good!” Although the upbeat and sunny article in the NYT doesn’t say so, you can trust me that the elders of means who are taking these daring and brave jaunts into the unknown also fall into the two major categories of old folks. They either complain like bloody hell or they smile bravely and cast sunny rays of shame on those who don’t smile bravely at infirmity and aging. And you can also trust me that these elders of means who are providing a nice profit to the global travel and leisure industry are also causing their travel keepers to load up themselves on antacids, mood elevators and blood pressure medicine because of the worry caused by the old folks. No matter how dimly I view this cheerleader view of the super-aged and their adventuring spirit, there is a golden lining. For the few weeks great-granny is tramping across the frozen Arctic, she’s out of her children’s and grandchildren’s hair and they are ecstatic. And for those same few weeks that some travel outfit has to pack medications in coolers, tend to throwing away adult diapers and search for lost dentures in snow drifts, the travel minders are making a very good living.

1 comment:

Barry Schwartz said...

The article on curmudgeonry is slated for next week. :)