The community I chose is very environmentally lovely—I will use the term (delicately) as "high-end," with beauty salon, a resident-run boutique, a gym, library, bistro, putting green and saltwater pool with heated spa. Advertising brochures depict the place and others like it as highly desirable and designed to promote sales among the largely well-heeled among whom, I hasten to add, I do not include myself. They show snapshots of happy, smiling, relaxed seniors enjoying lunch or dinner seated at tables with snowy cloths and within easy reach of the cruise-style self-service central salad bar. Young waiters hover discreetly nearby, anticipating every diner's need.
However, despite these common depictions of the elderly as individuals who are serenely content, I can personally attest that this is absolutely not the case. In brief, our lives at eighty and beyond, in terms of quantity remaining, can be summed up of course as "not much." But what about quality? I have to tell you the answer is the same: "not much."
Why is this so? It is because if we live beyond eighty (and even earlier), we typically suffer from such an assortment of maladies that the capacity to enjoy life is diminished. We require the use of a wheelchair or walker or at least a cane to move around, and chronic pain is etched on many faces or is evident in our physical demeanor.
But what I have found most disconcerting is an absence of irreverent humor and appreciation of the absurd. Dinnertime conversation tends to be repetitious, without much reference to the outside world. It's almost as if we elderly have already left it and no longer find it of interest despite the breakthroughs and amazing discoveries in science, technology, and the cosmos. I hope I can avoid this loss of curiosity in what is going on "out there” and, at the same time, retain my enjoyment in silly stuff.
The stories that follow illustrate my attempts over the years to do this, but you must be the judge of my successes and failures.