When I’m 64
When I get older losing my hair,
Many years from now.
Will you still be sending me a valentine
Birthday greetings bottle of wine.
If I'd been out till quarter to three
Would you lock the door,
Will you still need me,
will you still feed me,
When I'm sixty-four.
I could be handy, mending a fuse
When your lights have gone.
You can knit a sweater by the fireside
Sunday mornings go for a ride.
Send me a postcard, drop me a line,
Stating point of view
Indicate precisely what you mean to say
Yours sincerely, wasting away
Give me your answer, fill in a form
Mine for evermore
Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When I'm sixty-four.
Many people spend years developing a financial plan for their retirement. They sweat and save, worry and read articles, move their stock portfolios around some, keep track of current market conditions, and meet with financial consultants who tell them if they are on “the right track” , or not. It’s a constant topic of conversation among my baby- boomer friends, as we all start to top the hill on that long, winding road. Will I have enough money ? Which investment choices will produce the longest lasting financial gain ? How can I take care of my aging parents and put my children through college without sapping my own resources ? How do I want to finance the last quarter of my life ?
How many people, however, ever stop to think about how they will live the last quarter of their century ? Money questions aside, who ever stops to think of the many lifestyle choices available to seniors these days ?
When our grandparents were planning for retirement, they just saved all they could, and were lucky if they had a pension that outlasted the Great Depression. Women typically lived longer than men, and hoped their money lasted as long as they did. Questions of style and the meaning of one’s life rarely entered into the equation. Growing up, I had friends whose families took care of aging grandparents, moving them into the family home, where they parked themselves at a seat at the kitchen table or a comfy chair with the tv remote, and that was it. Waited around for the next meal, maybe read the paper.
My own grandfathers both died young, and my grandmothers remained pluckily independent till the very end, insisting on living in their own homes till well in their 90’s. Neither had ever learned to drive, but somehow managed to rely on the kindness of strangers and an occasional cab to get them to the grocery store, the beauty parlor, or the veterinarian for their pets . Granny Ruby was a wonderful cook till the very end, grew her own vegetables (a ”Victory Garden“ kept going long after WWII was over), and she owned a series of Siamese cats, which she carted to and from the vet visits in pillowcases (just imagine the kicking, wiggling, hissing and meow-ing.) Grandma Berta, of German descent, played bingo at the local VFW, spoke with heavily accented English, and raised parakeets. (I also had several “maiden “ aunts, Lily and Lula, who lived to well in their late 90’s in a house with over 100 cats, and about as many china figurines. When you visited them, there would be cats milling around, all over , in and out, cats sleeping in the frying pan that sat on the stove, which Lily would later use to cook dinner. Can you say politely, ”No thanks “ ?) Stylistically speaking, both Ruby and Berta both “froze” somewhere in the 1940’s, and to the end of each of their lives, even through the psychedelic 1960’s, never modernized their homes or their manner of dress. Their homes never had air conditioners or dish washers. They wore lace-up, heeled shoes and shapeless cotton print dresses in a fashion statement reminiscent of Eleanor Roosevelt, along with strange corset-like undergarments, stockings with garters, and hats.
My own mother seems to be following in her mother’s path. She did adopt the habit of wearing pants, her only nod to modernity, but has adopted the crazy sort of old "cat lady” syndrome, with too many Siamese all giving her house that certain piquant air . Like her mother, she is a good cook; however, Ruby ate a well balanced diet full of vegetables and fiber. My mom will call and tell me she is baking both cookies and a cherry pie, and she plans to eat them for breakfast. I keep attempting to stock her pantry with healthy foods, to no avail. Whenever I go visit , all the healthy groceries are mouldering on the shelf, and mom is chowing down on carrot cake or chocolate chip cookies.
As I spend more time caring for my aging parents, I think increasingly about how I want to spend my own “golden years”. Of course, there are many more options these days for those of us boomers who refuse to grow old. Even in my little town in the Midwest, there is an “active retirement community” of pricey homes for those upscale seniors who like to play golf. I don’t think that will appeal to me, however. I kind of like my modest home and plan to "age in place". I think I will use advancing senility as an excuse to release my inner self. Always worried about fitting in, I strike a much more externally conservative note than I feel , internally. I see many aging hippies around me, still wearing large swinging earrings from Brazil and Birkenstocks. They look pretty cool. There are many self -described "sweet potato queens" and "red hat " ladies clubs nearby. Modelling myself on some famous old broads, I think I would like to be one of those old ladies who dies her hair lavender or apricot, drives a Cadillac, has a tiny little purse poodle, wears lots of gold lame , leopard prints, velour jumpsuits, and flashes a lot of bling. Why not do outrageous things ? I don't care for heights, so sky diving is probably "right out", and I've never really been taken much with card games, (once got thrown out of a bunco group b/c of my remarkable ability to roll just the pair of dice I need at any particular moment ) , but I can see myself shopping, travelling to exotic locales, doing yoga, riding motorcycles, taking on lovers if my current one kicks the bucket.....What are you worried about – that you’ll die ? After all – 64 is the new 30.