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My View: Growing old and loving it

By Marge McMillen

Who is that girl? She looks so familiar, and still I can’t quite place her. It’s then that my reflection shouts back at me, “It’s you, silly.”

“Me?” When did I become so old? Where is that pretty young girl that was there yesterday?

I am a senior citizen. I’ve been one for a long time, and it still surprises me. I miss those admiring looks and compliments I used to receive, but then, one must be cognizant of the alternative.

Some cultures revere their elders. They treat them with great respect, while the U.S. idolizes the young.

Forty, 50, 60? You might as well crawl under a bush.

Seventy, 80? You’re as good as dead. And still one must put it in the proper perspective.

Who of you young folks wouldn’t sign a paper right now if you were guaranteed a life that lasted 90 healthy, vibrant years? That would mean you’d have to face the sad fate of being old, and learning what it feels like to be disrespected. Would it be worth it? I think I hear a resounding “yes.”

To be perfectly honest, I dreaded the thought of being old when I was young. But here I am, and guess what?

I’m enjoying life to the fullest. I have many friends who are sharing this old-age experience with me, and it’s great to have company that can empathize. We laugh and joke about our mutual aches and pains and sagging body parts.

We count gray hairs and as a woman (thank God I’m a woman!) use makeup to cover the facial ravages of time.

Many of us (me, me!) still dance, take resistance exercise, arthritis classes, walk, clean house and do yard work.

We keep mentally active solving puzzles, playing cards (bridge is my favorite), voraciously reading books, both informative and fun, watching game shows and trying to beat the contestant with the correct answer, etc. You young folk may think of us as one banana peel away from death, but we are, in fact, vibrantly alive … and enjoy being so.

Most of us have worked hard all our lives and have been frugal and planned for our future, so we are now financially secure. We have no children to raise, no jobs to get us down, and no worry about the future because we are now living the future.

We don’t have to set the alarm, though granted, most of us don’t sleep as well as when we were young, so who needs one?

We lucky ones have family and friends who love us, and whom we love right back.

OK, to be fair, there are drawbacks to growing old. There are, as already mentioned, the aches and pains you couldn’t imagine when you were young, and the loss of looks.

But what really hurts the most is the loss of loved ones that we have outlived. Many of us are widows and widowers, and almost all of us have lost some of those very dear friends.

And so, yes, there are trade-offs, but, again, better than the alternative.

So my message to you young folk is: Enjoy your youth, your good looks, your physical prowess and your energy, while you have them. They will fade. Love those you hope to share a life with, and those who won’t be here forever.

And don’t be afraid to say “I love you” to each and every one of them.

But, best yet, don’t be afraid of growing old.

It really isn’t that bad. In fact, I’m enjoying every minute of it.

Marge McMillen, of East Amherst, is enjoying growing old, despite the aches, pains and losses.
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