Let's be real. We live in a CCRC with a lot of old people. I don’t know how we got here. I don’t know how we got old. Just yesterday, I learned to tie my shoes and read. Just yesterday plus one, I graduated from college, worked, got married, and had babies who grew up. Just yesterday plus two, I worked, traveled, retired, volunteered, helped with grandchildren, moved, worked part-time, moved, and somehow ended up here. Don’t despair. I’m not unhappy – just in shock.
Old is relative. There is a wide range of ages here. Technically 55 is the bottom of our scale and we have residents over 100-years-old. That’s a range of over 40 years. It is really funny how some things have turned upside down. In my previous life, youth always trumped age. In our CCRC some folks look at 70-something residents as “Oh, you’re just a young whipper snapper. What could you know?”
Of course, just as anywhere/when else, we all have some knowledge in common. We all also have our own unique storehouse of information and abilities. Just because we all have grey hair (unless we have no hair), doesn’t mean that our individuality has disappeared. Sometimes, in some circumstances, we are reduced to ‘the old people in the front of the bus’.
I believe that it is easier to retain my individuality by living in circumstances in which most of my fellow residents understand the challenge of doing so. I have more friends than ever before.
On the other hand, I am finding it a challenge to keep up my supply of compassion for friends who are having difficulties. When I lost patience with my teenagers I could, in rational moments, remind myself that they will grow up. This is different. I need to learn new coping mechanisms.
Many days go by during which I am busy with activities. However, it will not be long before another friend has a fall or an illness. Every day my own infirmities remind me of the year. I don’t need a mirror to tell me. I often joke that we are a very important part of the economy because we keep the doctors in business. It’s not really a joke. Of course throughout my life, as in anyone’s, there has always been something happening. Accidents, childhood ills, family deaths, etc. happen. I think that I have just become more sensitive to these things now.
I want to be a caring sympathetic friend. I want to offer solace. I want to help. Just sometimes, the well runs dry and I need to retreat.