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Celebrating older folks

August 20, 2015
By Joyce Schenk , Westfield Republican

In my mid 40s, I took what I considered a short- term job. It was in a nursing home. I was sure my days would be spent in what everyone told me was a "depressing place," so I kept looking for a position I would be happier with.

But ... I stayed at the nursing home for a dozen years. It was the best job I ever had.

The reason, of course, was the patients. The folks who lived in the nursing home ranged from the 60s to over 100.

Like people everywhere, some were sweet tempered, some were grouchy, some were quiet, some boisterous ... but in every case, with these seniors, what you saw was what you got.

No one tried to make an impression. None pretended to be anything but what they were - down to earth oldsters who had lived long, productive lives.

I came to love each and every one of these very special folks.

And, in that long ago time, looking at the seniors with my 40-year-old eyes, I judged "old age" to begin with the 80th birthday.

Years later, when I reached the age of 60, I decided old age must start at 90.

Today, now that I, myself, have celebrated that pivotal 80th birthday, I'm thinking that anything over 100 qualifies for the term "elderly."

But no matter how you evaluate age, plan on celebrating the priceless older folks in your life on Friday, August 21, National Senior Citizen's Day.

The day was designated by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to honor the elderly population "for all they have achieved throughout life and for all they continue to accomplish.."

When it came to Senior Citizens, President Reagan could certainly speak from experience. His years in the Oval Office (1981 to 1989) began when he was almost 70 and ended when he was 78.

I admit I've had a hard time accepting the designation "elderly." Although I was happy to join the supportive AARP when I reached 50, I still felt far removed from such labels as senior, golden ager, oldster and others.

Most folks consider the age when one can collect Social Security as the official entry into "old age." But, now that the age for full benefits has been bumped up to 67, that target date has become a bit fuzzy.

It's been suggested that age-related labels be bypassed all together, yet one magazine decided to settle the question by polling its readers for their suggestions.

Among the entries for age-ness labels were New Agers, Respected Elders and my favorite, Generation Botox. There were those who were hung up on young-old versus old-old versus oldest-old and various other combinations.

At this point, I suspect the best way to identify those who have been aboard Planet Earth for the longest periods of time is to simply recognize them as National Treasures.

Happy Senior Citizen's Day to all my fellow Treasures!



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