What Growing Old Isn’t for Sissies is all about

A few weeks ago I asked my newly retired neighbor Jerry how his retirement was going. It had been fifteen years since the last time I walked out of my office door and I felt like an elder statesman.

“Pretty good but I’m having one problem,” he said.  “I just can’t figure out a schedule for which days I want to do which things.”

“Schedule?” I said.

“Right. Schedule.”

“Jerry,” I said, “I don’t think you get the concept.  Retirement is when you shed all schedules.  I mean, put your dental appointments and such stuff on a calendar, but schedules?  No way.”

Well he and his wife both appear to be quite organized people, so I’m sure he went home and told her what the nutcake next door had just said.

I am told that, like Jerry, some people have a hard time transitioning into retirement.  I’m not one of them.  It took me about seventeen minutes.  Officially I retired on the last day of September in 1999.  Officially. But it really began about six months earlier when I developed a pattern of sneaking out about eleven a.m. to visit the driving range.

During my final months of self-employment my work hours became so erratic that my editorial assistant joked to a friend who was visiting,  “He comes in late, but he makes up for it by going home early.”

When I finally did retire, I had one totally unexpected regret. That Friday I drove over to a corporation yard in our retirement community to get some firewood.  It also serves as a huge parking lot for our employees.  It was about 3:30 when I got there, getting-off-work time for our hundreds of gardeners and maintenance people and others.

They were raucous, and why not?  It was Friday!  There was joking and laughter and Mexican music from amped up boomboxes.  I couldn’t understand a word of the talk or the songs because they were all in Spanish. I watched the guys as I loaded the firewood into the trunk of my Altima.  And after a while, I felt a real sense of loss.   They were doing something I could never again do — celebrating the end of the work week.   All of a sudden Friday wasn’t something I could look forward to.

Retirement is like that — you discover things about it that you had never anticipated. That’s a long lead-in to an explanation of what this blog is all about — not retirement per se, but being up there in years.   It’s about people who make the lives of seniors better. It’s about hurdles we face as seniors. And it’s about people who teach us that being a senior doesn’t mean giving up but rather plunging forward with as much enthusiasm and creativity as ever.

Attitude is so important. I once interviewed two fellows in their seventies who volunteered in the morning in the dining room at the local senior center.

“You do this every day?” I asked.

“Every day for five years,” one of them said, “and then we stay for lunch with the rest of the crowd.”

“That’s great, “ I said.

“Not so great really,” he replied. “You have to get out. You have to do things. Once you start sitting by the window, it’s all over for you.”

You will get to know lots of interesting oldsters in this blog. For openers meet one of my favorites, Ann Timson, a 75-year-old grandmother from Northampton, England. She proved that some people will still get involved regardless of their age, their arthritis or the potential danger to themselves.  Ms. Timson was in a Northhampton shopping district one day a few years ago when she noticed a commotion across the street involving a half-dozen or so young men.

“At first I thought one of them was being set upon by three others,” she told the Daily Mail. “I was not going to stand by and watch somebody take a beating or worse so I tried to intervene.” But when she got closer she realized it was a robbery. The gang was using sledgehammers to smash the windows of a jewelry store. So Ms. Timson ran up to the men and started whacking them on the head with the only weapon she had — her purse.

Sarah Jane Brown, a jewelry store employee, told Sky News, “We were terrified. We locked the door. We hid under the desk. We were really scared. And then, we looked outside and, God love her, she was running down the road, with her handbag in the air, banging them on the back of their helmets with her handbag.”

One of the gang fell off his scooter and was detained by a passerby. As of this writing, four others have been arrested. Well done, Granny Timson.

She and her handbag became famous throughout Great Britain and beyond. Eventually she put that handbag up for auction on Ebay, and it fetched 125 pounds for UNICEF.

There is one senior I will not be praising in this blog. He is the so-called Geezer Bandit who has held up 19 banks, mostly in the San Diego area, and is giving us seniors a really bad name. His pictures make him appear to be in his 70’s or 80’s, so maybe the guy is enrolled in one of our senior workout classes so he can be fit enough to perform like a youngster.

If the San Diego police really want to catch him, I have a suggestion. Get on the phone to Northampton, England, and hire Ann Timson and her new handbag to come over here and stake out local banks.

Dave Riley

About Dave Riley

Growing Old Isn’t For Sissies is about aging. It’s stories of how some older people achieve remarkable successes, how some people make the lives of others better, and how all seniors have hurdles to face — maladies, loss of loved ones and more.