You sometimes need a spur to get down to writing about something that has slowly been growing in your mind. Today’s “wonderword” puzzle — which I rarely do — was that spur. The 15-x-15 matrix of letters each day have “hidden” (vertical, horizontal, or diagonal, either forwards or backwards) words that share a common theme, which today was “senior citizen.” So what did David Ouellet, the “author,” think were good descriptors of our advanced-age ilk?
Before I share his shallow contribution to the field that I have been studying since before I turned 65, we should look at what is generally though of as our unique qualities in the eyes of those who are younger: needy, slow, old-fashioned, medications, recollections. These are not flattering, and Mr. Ouellet diplomatically avoided them. The alphabetical list one works from has “accomplishments” for starters. That’s positive, but it implies that the only ones ahead of us are the ones we recall. And that brings up two others, “memories” and “stories.” We are more likely to talk about our past rather than the trends and issues of the present. I suppose we are guilty, but this is more true when talking with younger people than with other seniors. Whose fault is that?
Let’s continue with “eligible,” which implies the needs thing, as it refers to becoming a “pensioner” and getting federal Old Age Security payments as well as many things that seniors qualify for, such as reduce fares on transit, or at cinemas, or on special days at some stores. In fact, “movies” and “travel” are in the list. Do we increase our spending overall when we get discounts? As far as movies are concerned, I would say no, since so few movies appeal to the older generation, what with cursing, nudity, and gratuitous violence so common. And seeing movies in theatres is not a great experience; even with loud sound, the dialogue is hard to understand because of the peripheral sounds that are meant to envelope you in concert with the picture. And the action is so fast (made worse by the wide screen). And the low light and tight spaces make the experience difficult, especially when you need to get to the bathroom multiple times during the two-hour run.
When we become “elderly,” we need “care” and this is probably what our kids and society in general cringe about. “Giver” is also in the list, but not specifically attached to “care.” So maybe there is recognition that, as much as we are income-poor, we are equity-rich and “time”-rich, and are among the more generous “groups” of philanthropists and volunteers.
The largest category, “interests,” reinforces the image of seniors having lots of “time” and having little constructive to use it on. So, “games,” “singing,” “dancing,” knitting,” along with “chess,” “bridge,” and “bingo” are nicely bunched together at the start of the list. And when we are ready for exercise, we don’t walk; we “stroll,” since we aren’t in a hurry and probably have lower stamina, arthritis, and slow reflexes slowing us down. “Hobbies,” for which there is no verb, is also in the list.
“Nice” starts a list of qualities we add to the general population. I notice that bus driver rarely look, really look, at my transfer to see whether it has not expired, but that is probably because seniors are “nice” and wouldn’t cheat. I also notice that younger rider often ask me for tips on using the bus, which relates to their correct assumption that my “age” means that I have spent many “years” using transit, which allows me to “advise” them and that we are “open” to such requests from strangers. I don’t know if “love” refers to the depth of feeling younger people have for us, or that we are not too old to still make “love,” something that I don’t mind being thought capable of. (There was a local seniors fair last week on the topic, with the main speaker being the Sex-with-Sue guru — I had a conflict, so I couldn’t attend).
Finally, seniors have a strong a interest in the past, supposedly. It goes beyond our own “memories” and being able to “remember” how things used to be during our youth, but is real “history,” full of “ancient” “ancestors.” One thing is for sure: we focus on “change”: abhoring that which has already occurred, and resisting any future changes. I especially like the word “respect”; but hope that the respect I get is for my “accomplishments” and not just for my “age” and my “giver” reputation. My activities are still few in numbers as I prefer to form and act through groups to make change for all ages, but especially for the age group that is so subject to — and fascinated by — “change.”