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Aging gracefully: Don't speak of overcoats or bowels
by Michael A. Horvich

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The old saw says, "You know you are getting old when you begin to talk about the state of your bowels." As a young, newly employed elementary school teacher, my mother often would ask me, "When are you going to be a grown up and buy yourself an overcoat?"

At a garage sale, a much older customer lowered himself into a chair to rest, making loud sighing, groaning, aching sounds. My friend Roger labeled those "Old Man Noises" and warned against making them ourselves.

It is said that "you are only as old as you think you are" and "old age is only a state of mind." It is said that if you "act old, you are old."

Well here I am, now 73 years old—and I am older, born in 1945, for which you have to scroll down quite a way when filling out your age in an online form—and it amazes me how many years there are in that list between when I was born and today!

Excuse me, but I have to admit that I am more aware of my bowels, now own an over coat, feel the aches and pains while resisting "old man noises" and realize that short of thinking or feeling or acting old, the body has a mind of its own as it slows down, breaks down, lets you down.

My podiatrist told me that my feet needed more attention because "It's like having a car for 73 years and never being able to change the tires."

My skin doctor tells me that dry skin and itching is normal for a person my age. My age? So the lotion bottle has become a permanent fixture on the sink counter.

At my yearly visits to the eye doctor, she talks about farsightedness getting better and nearsightedness getting worse, which is usual as one gets older and one must keep an eye ( so to speak ) on one's cataracts, which begin to cloud.

While I usually do not talk about growing older, keeping it privately to myself, it is nice now and then to discuss the symptoms with friends of the same or similar age, just to compare notes to know that you are not alone in your years, and it is possible to learn something you did not know about living with aging. Writing also helps one process the situation.

Another thing that happens as you get older is that you go unnoticed. People are not attracted to you, are not sizing you up as a sex partner, are not necessarily interested in what you have to say. Luckily fantasy still exists. Even though you have given your best to society during your prime years, you are deemed somewhat useless. The young do not understand who you are in today's world and you do not understand who they are.

I find myself saying what my parents used to say with dismay, as well as, at times, with disgust: "This generation ... I just don't understand them!" Ironically, there are so many more things I now understand about my parents and the changes they went through as they aged, but hopefully I am doing it more gracefully, having learned from watching them getting older while not becoming curmudgeons.

You know, these are my hips and they can ache if they want to. These are my rotator cuffs and they can hurt when they want to. This is my lower back and if it needs to go out of alignment, I give it my permission. This is my headache and I am entitled to it, although I might share it with a few aspirin.

My body has served me well for 73 years. Short of major surgery, which luckily exists if necessary, there is no neighborhood service shop that can oil my joints, retread my feet, tune up my muscle composition, rotate my blood vessels, alter my body mass or refill my visual ability.

I am grateful for all the signs of being old which means I am still alive: Enjoying the changes in the seasons, the holidays that come and go, a play or an opera or two, the excellent meals prepared by friends or enjoyed at the newest neighborhood restaurant, a good deep afternoon nap; I love them all!

Does the quote "Keep calm and carry on," which was a motivational poster produced by the British government in 1939 in preparation for World War II, ( and never actually used until recently ) apply to aging as well? I think it does!

Michael holds his BA in Liberal Arts and Sciences from the University of Illinois at Urbana, additional degree work at the Hunter College in New York, his MA as an Education Generalist with a concentration in Gifted Education from the National Lewis University in Evanston, and an Advanced Certificate in Education Administration and Supervision, also from the U of I in Urbana.

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