Turning 65 in America: Welcome to Medicare, Weakened Filters, and Being Called Dear
Just in case I had temporary amnesia and had forgotten my birthday was rapidly approaching, I’ve had about a million phone calls to remind me, and I’m not talking about calls from friends and relatives. Maybe I’m exaggerating the number (but not by much), but you can’t turn 65 in America without health care scam calls and incessant nagging to sign up for Medicare.
I’m not complaining about Medicare. Medicare is a good thing, especially for many people who previously couldn’t afford health care insurance. So, what am I whining about? I guess it’s the feeling of being officially old. I don’t know how it is in other countries, but in America, the age of 65 seems to be the line in the sand between middle aged and old. We can tell ourselves age is only a number, getting old is a privilege denied to many, and we’re always the same age inside, but come on, we all know those are sayings to placate us grouchy old people. We can’t deny the truth.
Even on days I manage to avoid mirrors and calendars, I’m reminded of my looming “old” status by those constant phone calls. Another of the more irritating developments in the last year is the increasing number of times I’ve been called “dear” by waitresses and cashiers. ”Dear” is not the worst thing I could be called, but it’s obviously a term of endearment reserved for the elderly.
Last night my husband and I made the unfortunate mistake of wearing similar sweatshirts from our alma mater when we went to grab a burger. We realized it wasn’t a good idea as we were leaving the house, but we were both too tired (another symptom of aging) to go back in the house and change clothes. The waiter made the dreaded comment about how cute we were. Ugh. Past the age of four, cute was not a word used to describe me. It’s an adjective that seems reserved for children, petite women, and old people. I am now in that latter category that apparently qualifies for the use of the words cute and sweet. We have reached the age where people look at us and say things like, “Look at that old couple. Isn’t it sweet they still hold hands and talk to each other?”
The patronizing remarks are cringe-worthy, but I ignore them because I know they aren’t malicious in intent. I remember thinking similar things when I was younger. I clothed them in remarks of admiration, but looking back, I see they were rather condescending.
Last year when I turned 64, I wrote about the ten things I’d learned. I remember feeling optimistic about getting older, and I still felt relatively young. How has a mere 365 days made me feel so much older? Why am I letting society’s definition influence my self-image? I‘m fortunate that I don’t feel old, at least not most days. But in addition to the Medicare solicitations, I’ve noticed other reminders. I find myself saying things I previously would have kept to myself. My filter isn’t working properly, and I know this is a warning sign. If I don’t carefully monitor myself, I’ll be that lady in a robe and curlers yelling from her front porch, “Get off of my lawn, you little thugs!”
My husband and I are helping each other not to become cranky old people. If we catch each other complaining about small things or reminiscing too much, we remind each other with gentle verbal nudges. I’ve noticed a few friends my age saying phrases like “Back in our day,” “Kids today have no respect,” and “That’s not how we did it.” It’s easy to glamorize the past and forget our grandparents and great-grandparents said the same thing about every generation. Believing young people are disrespectful to their elders, listen to crazy music, and are dooming the world is a thought as old as time itself. Cavemen probably voiced the same complaints when their young offspring neglected the fires because they were too busy writing graffiti on the cave walls.
As I enter this “Medicare” phase of life, I hope to stay positive, keep my filters intact, and try not to bore my grandchildren with exaggerated tales of my glory days. My grandfather lived to 101, and my dad made it to 98. If I am lucky enough to inherit those genetics, I still have many good years ahead. I won’t lie about my age or avoid birthdays, so if you see me, please wish me a Happy Birthday. I’ll happily accept those well wishes with grace, but please don’t ask me if I’ve signed up for Medicare (I have) or call me dear.