Slipping into the world of "senior" life can be traumatic or almost unnoticed.
Traumatic is like when they give you a golden watch (or an iPad these days) and wish you bon voyage on your cruise of senior life. Unnoticed is when you're 10 years past the departure date into seniorhood (new word, just made it up), and one day you notice that hiking isn't as effortless as in the past and that when skiing, you are a lot less aggressive than last season.
There's no clear definition of what age turns you into a senior. Can be as young as 50 if you've made your million and can retire to sail your boat around the world. Most people would probably give 65 as the beginning of seniorhood, although that figure is changing as Social Security rules are boosting the age for payments. Whatever it is, it's a new world that you probably never envisioned.
Part of it is financial. You may have less money, but then you suddenly find out that the movies can be cheaper, the shows at the Brewery Arts Center cost less, that riding the JAC bus can be free. And skiing can be less expensive in these days of $100 lift tickets. And since you've got more time free, you can safely invest in season lift tickets at Heavenly or Squaw Valley. Four days on a season pass and you've made up the cost of four days of lift tickets.
Along with Social Security payments comes Medicare. You have to make some co-payments, but doctors' visits are mostly on Medicare. (Footnote: This may be changing with elections ahead and a possible switch from fee-for-treatment to a voucher system where seniors get a cash payment, currently set at around $7,000, when replacement insurance for Medicare is around $15,000. Watch the political climate on this.)
But happily, there's more you probably never thought about.
For instance, when you drove by the Senior Center on Long Street, you never knew what all went on there. You probably thought it was a place to go and dodder when you had nothing better to do.
Wrong. Lots going on there. Lunch all week long, sign in and prove your residence and dine along with a lively group of feisty seniors. Political talk abounds (Carson Democrats come and bus dishes once a week; GOP not playing yet) and while bingo may be your idea of nothing to do, it's there and often a lot of casual fun. Plus all kinds of classes, from yoga to Tai Chi, and a library if the Carson one isn't handy to you. And classes in computers - and computers you can use when your home one crashes and you can't boot it up.
There's plenty of opportunity to perform volunteer service, a way of helping those who may not be as fortunate as you. The Retired Senior Volunteer Program can always use aid in organizing events or helping the handicapped get around.
Seniorhood never existed back in the 1950s. It's a relatively new development in social services. And just like we veterans who never dreamed we'd be using the Veterans Affairs services in Reno as we aged, you can examine the excellent facilities there and, who knows, you might be eligible for treatment. (It varies with when and how you served.)
When you no longer have to report to the work site or office every morning, you find time for things that you may not have considered. Bike riding, for instance. Hiking Prison Hill maybe. Enjoying the beauty of Lake Tahoe at a beach (OK, so there are some nude beaches there, and you may not be the hunky specimen you once were or the classic beauty you enjoyed, but who's watching?)
Seniorhood is an honorable estate, one that you've earned or lucked into. It's a time to expand your horizons, do things that you never thought of before. Become involved in politics perhaps, but then you've been voting all those years. Reread the Bible. Reread "Gone with the Wind." Reread the U.S. Constitution. The Bill of Rights. Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. You'll find truths in all of them. And it's better than the alternative.
I look forward to exploring seniorhood with readers. I'm sure we won't always agree - I enjoy tossing political bombshells now and then.
We've had lots of news of late concerning the Affordable Care Act (pejoratively called Obamacare) recently largely upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. The problem is that most of us have little idea what's in the law - who has had time to read the entire document? I've been going over it and what it means for seniors and others, and I'll discuss it next column. No bias, just a factual look at the sections without political cant.
• Sam Bauman is a regular contributor to the Nevada Appeal.