We all face the problems of aging in different ways, some more successfully than others. This was driven home to me last weekend when I visited old friends in the Bay Area. They are contemporary in age, both lived/worked overseas for many years. I’ve skied and hiked with both of them and have known them for 40 or more years. Both are financially secure. Let’s call them Rod and Jerry.
Rod lives in and owns a $300,000 condo in Silicon Valley. He hasn’t any friends (they all died or moved away). He reads three newspapers daily as well as magazines and a few books. He watches TV on a small screen from a corner nook from a recliner, pop-up chair.
He used to cook (after years in France) but now dines on frozen dinners, no salads or milk or juice. He goes out once a week for eggs Benedict, driving himself. One glass of wine a month. He’s fluent in French after working in Paris.
He doesn’t communicate other than by phone; his younger son recently dismembered my friend’s dial-up computer (but failed to disconnect the internet service at $42 a month). I pointed out without a computer he had no use for internet service and had to explain how to cancel it. (I brought his PC tower back with me to see if it was usable for him. It isn’t, so I suggested he buy an inexpensive laptop so he could email his four children in France). He’s not computer literate, so I thought a laptop would be fine for him, but not a dialup, which was part of the reason he didn’t use his PC.
Rod is still mentally alert, although he has trouble remembering things (don’t we all?). He doesn’t go to movies or theater or art shows and doesn’t travel at all.
Around home he wears sweat pants and a couple of layers of shirts; he takes a light jacket with him when he goes to a restaurant. He did so when we went out Saturday for eggs Benedict.
While he drives his 10-year-old car skillfully, walking is a major problem. He tires quickly after, perhaps, 30 feet, and has to sit down and rest, despite being generally healthy for his age. He gets plenty of sleep, staying in bed to around 10 a.m. Breakfast is cereal and perhaps coffee.
Rod was always an active man; we skied Nevada and California until he gave it up along with hiking 10 years ago.
Rod seems to be socially isolated, cares nothing for politics. He’s content living alone, reading books and watching TV. I’m hoping when he gets a laptop and begins communicating with friends and family in France he can emerge from his isolation.
But it’s up to him.
Then up in Marin Country is my other old friend, Jerry, a successful businessman still active in commerce with his own trading company. He lives in a million dollar home along with wife (they are not friendly) and son (hooked on games).
Jerry does business in Japan and China, where he distributes a high-tech product. He’s constantly investigating new opportunities such as undersea research devices.
He has had to give up golf after having both knees replaced. Back problems like mine force him to wear electronic devices which radiate jolts to his nervous system easing the pain (they work, he gave me a pair).
Jerry walks a mile a day around his swimming pool, and he lifts light weights and eats sparingly but well. He drives an upscale car and often dines out, usually with friends.
He has a wide collection of computer friends and is constantly using his top-level computer system.
Jerry is very much involved in politics and science. He has an extensive library of books about economics and Islam, follows the shifting tides of war and is a regular library for me on studies of terror.
He’s fluent in Japanese and is financially involved there. He enjoys his collection of Japanese and Chinese art and sometimes buys new pieces.
Jerry is very much involved in the world, has many friends and greatly enjoys jazz and has a formidable collection of CDs and LPs.
He’s a bright conversationalist and has wide ranging opinions and ideas. He’s physically active and very much part of the world today.
These are different men, but both face the problems of aging, one obviously more successful than the other. I think attitude is the key for both.
And I’ve decided I need to go out more than I have been. I enjoy talk and opinions, despite aging.
It’s a matter of choice; we have to age, but how we do it is up to us.
Sam Bauman writes about senior affairs, among other things, for the Nevada Appeal.