Wednesday, October 29, 2014

FPU Class #6 - Think about the things you don't want to think about.

I've been thinking a lot about growing old gracefully recently. Well, really as gracefully as possible because, just like childbirth, you can make a plan but life probably won't follow it.

I could chalk this elder obsession up to being in my almost mid-30's and pondering life's course, etc. but, truth be told, I've been a worrier and a hypochondriac for as long as I remember. I mull this stuff over pretty much all the time. Should I live to a ripe old age I will surely regret the amount of time I spent worrying about dying. Unless, of course, I have cognitive impairment then it might not have been a waste of time but I won't know the difference anyway.

I've been taking notes about growing older over the years and I've made myself a few pointers to remember. Or maybe a few pointers to write down on a card that can be tucked into my dog hair covered sweater to be read every time I forget its in the pocket.

First, and most importantly: I know what I'm going to wear.

Think crisp button down, popped collar, white/grey hair in a ponytail, big round glasses, maybe some bangs. (In reality I'll probably be too lazy to iron a shirt and will wear oversize sweaters and jeggings but I've got 35-40 years to nail this). Think Diane Keaton.
Minus the tie and jacket.
Or this lady.
I will, most likely, never bother with hairdos.

Or my favorite lady on a cruise who wore her monogrammed slippers to dinner because, "Dammit I'm 84 and my feet hurt."

1. So fashionable clothes that are cool, age-appropriate, and comfortable: check.

The ladies in my family tend to live a long time (one side does at least) so I've gotten to see first hand what it's like to grow older. I've come to the conclusion that it's silly to beat about the bush about getting older. As is wishing the human condition will change. Old people remind everyone of the inevitable. Therefore, the olds make the youngs uncomfortable. But I believe there are ways to keep your invitations to the under 85 parties coming. For example, I've noticed that no matter how old you are the under 85's don't want to be interrupted in the middle of a sentence. I've noticed they also don't like to be told they are being interrupted because, "I don't care. I'm 94. I'll talk when I want" (I totally just made this story up. Pure fiction. Totally.)  I used to want to be a bawdy, who-gives-a shit-80 year old but now I think I'd rather people invite me to the under 85 parties. So.

#2. Speak when spoken to or when there is a genuine lull in conversation. If you can't hear said lull, maybe buy a hearing aid. Kind words trump all. Remember manners still matter no matter how much seniority you pull.

I've also noticed that a certain 94-year-old in my life is more fun to be around when she isn't discussing a) wanting to die or when she will die or how she will die or b) various maladies.

So #3) No one wants to hear about your never-ending illnesses. (I should probably take that hint now).

In the midst of all this elder thought I watched Elaine Stritch's documentary Just Shoot Me. It's a can't-stop-watching film. Elaine follows Rule #1 with an incredible outfit of just black tights and a white shirt. She is ready to break into song and dance at any moment. She pretty much never follows #2 but because she is famous people put up with this. She can be downright nasty. But I don't think this is new to her dotage. I think this was her personality. I will most likely not be famous so Rule #2 still applies to me.

Elaine's main problem at 87 is diabetes. Heartbreaking scenes of delusion, fear, and panic are all due to diabetes. She is courageous and soldiers on for so long but it's as vivid a portrait as I've seen outside of the nursing home: getting old ain't for sissies. So there is #4 in my series: Stay as freaking healthy as possible.

And #5: Guard against loneliness. No one wants to be the one calling and nagging their family about visiting. In the land of the young and healthy it's a total bore. The problem with getting older is that everyone is always dying so you have to constantly reinvent your social circle while staving off the depressing fact that all your friends are always dying. My grandmother, in general, is a great example of this. She reads her Kindle at the largest print, she has many social groups with younger people, and she socializes at her nursing home. Unless she is already in a pity spiral (see #3) she only calls to check-in. And pity spirals seem to only happen after she has hit the Dubonnet at a nursing home party. I noticed this with Elaine too - drinking made aging way worse. So Rule #4b: Even though being buzzed through the winter of your life sounds super fun (and was my original aging plan), it might not help you stay alive or happy.

This is a long and winding road to say that FPU Class 6 is about INSURANCE. Mainly about all the insurance you need if you or your spouse were to get sick and or die. It stinks to think about but it did put a fire in my belly to get life insurance so Lil' D is taken care of should I not get to try out my rules of aging in real life. Also, Long Term Care insurance once you hit 60 is vital according to Dave. JTS says this is controversial but I've seen first hand how expensive nursing homes are and also how essential they are to maintaining the ever important social network.

Bottom line: Growing older requires some proper planning. You can't know whether you are going to still be sound in mind or body and for how long but you can do the best you can to get ready for what may come.

If the year is 2070 and you need a friend, I'll be the one with small dogs, large glasses, reading mystery novels to my heart's content or hopefully I'll get my first choice in aging: sleuthing in rural Maine.

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