By Peter Galvin, MD
Today’s column is geared towards older men, but hopefully women will also find it of interest. I know older people who say that age is just a number, but I take umbrage whenever the media refers to someone my age as elderly. At the age of 55 we can become eligible for senior discounts, but at what age are we generally considered to be old? The consensus is at age 65. Some people dislike any reference to old age, but in this article, “old guys” means gentlemen aged 65 and up. If you do an online search, you’ll find plenty of tips for old guys including eat the right foods, get some exercise, and take care of your teeth (assuming you still have them). Some online advice offers guidance on dress – don’t try to look young and hip is a common warning – and even dating. I offer a few more suggestions gleaned from my many years of interacting with older people and my own experience as an “old guy.” Here goes:
- Be Comfortable with Your Physical Self – after all, you’ve been using that organic contraption, i.e., your body, for a long time now. You are what you are. For comparison, take the average two-year-old. He walks around without a shirt, gut hanging over his underwear, blueberries smeared on his face and hair, and hands as sticky as flypaper. If he can be comfortable, so can you.
- Dress Up Rather Than Down – astound your friends and family by foregoing the sweats and shorts. Put on a jacket and tie when going to worship or a birthday party. Try using a cane or umbrella too. You’ll not only look natty, but you’ll have a weapon if needed.
- Watch Less TV – older people watch far more TV than younger folks. TV is a waste of life. Read a book, take a walk, join a club, or go sit in a café and watch the world go by. Call your grandkids often and get out of the house.
- Avoid Discussing Your Health – If someone asks, “How are you?” say “I’m fine.” They are just being polite. They really don’t want to know about your trick knee or how many times you get up at night to pee.
- Tell Stories – share your past with children, grandchildren, and friends. They will remember your stories after you are gone. Try inspiring them but avoid comparing today to “the good old days.” Our past had good days but also had racial segregation, hippies, Vietnam, blue leisure suits, and typewriters. Mine had slide rules too.
- Don’t Leave a Mess – get rid of all that stuff you’ve been saving like old magazines, boxes, and bundles. Don’t leave it for your kids to clean up after you’re gone.
Finally, prepare for the music to end but don’t dwell on it. Make sure your affairs are in order and enjoy the time you have left. Those who are bedridden or in great pain often welcome death, while others fear it like the plague. Just “do not go gentle into that good night.” Make sure you’ll be remembered for all the right reasons.
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