I Get It--I'm Old


               On my last birthday I turned old. I know this because of several things. First, a few weeks
before my birthday I was helping my granddaughter Ellie practice for a spelling test. One of the
words was “old.” I went down the list, pronouncing each word and using it in a silly sentence, then having Ellie spell it. When I came to “old,” before I could come up with a silly sentence, Ellie very matter-of-factly said, “Like you, grandma.”
                Ellie is in the first grade. She thinks anyone over the age of 15 is old, so her words alone didn’t clue me in that my looming birthday would brand me as old.

Then on my actual birthday, my husband took me to see a movie. As we approached the box office, he looked at the price list and announced, “Look, as of today you qualify for the senior price!” Senior discounts are such a quandary. Who doesn’t like saving money, but having to admit you’re “a senior” in order to do so…hmmm.
                It didn’t bother me when I turned thirty or forty, and fifty barely phased me, but sixty—sixty was a different story. As one of my friends said, “There’s no sugar coating sixty.” Still, I didn’t
completely face the fact that I was old. I heard people around my age say things like, “Sixty doesn’t seem as old as it did a few years ago,” and I agreed. We baby boomers have dyed our hair, created phrases like, “Fifty is the new thirty,” and pretended we were much younger than the calendar would insist. And we wanted, no we expected, everyone to go along with us. After all, we are used to getting our way. We are used to being in charge. We are used to being a big enough force to sway the market. We are used to thinking we’re invincible.
Then along came the coronavirus.
             At first it was a little hard to get very worked up over news of a new virus in China. After all, as baby boomers we’ve lived through SARS, the bird flu, and the swine flu. We made it through Y2K, the end of the Mayan calendar, and a multitude of “end of the world” predictions, which seem to pop us at least once each decade. We survived a recession in the 1970s, a recession in the 1980s, a recession in the 1990s, and the great recession in the early 2000s. When you’ve been through that many crises, it’s easy to become skeptical and even a little jaded. 
              But then the coronavirus started doing something none of the other crises we’ve been through has done—it started targeting people specifically in our age group. It was this, seeing reports of people age 60 and older being in the “high risk” category, that made me truly come to the realization that indeed I am now officially old. My sister texted me a meme which said, “That moment when you’re worried about the elderly and realize that you ARE the elderly.” That pretty much sums it up.
                So my fellow baby boomers, here’s the deal: we may think 60, or even 70, isn’t as old as it used to seem, but we’re the only ones who think that. All the Gen Xers and Millennials and Gen Zers make jokes about us not being as tech savvy as they are. They laugh at us for using outdated lingo and not understanding their lingo. They snicker if we grunt when we stand up or can't remember why we walked into a room or have to use reading glasses to see the print on our arthritis medication bottle. They think we are old. And they are right.
                With coronavirus here, those same generations who laugh at us are now asking us to be careful. They advise us to stay home as much as possible, to social distance, and to take care of ourselves. They’ve even created special times at stores so we can shop in newly cleaned facilities when the risk of infection from the virus is most minimal. I think this means that despite all their jabs and teasing, they actually like us and would like to have us stick around for a while longer. So let’s see if we can oblige them. Let’s all wash our hands and settle ourselves comfortably in our homes. We are boomers. We are old. At least for now, let’s own it.
               

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