The Art of Aging Gracefully

This year, I turned 55. In some circles, this qualifies me as a senior citizen. At the outset, I want you to know that this is virtually impossible. After all, my birth year was 1954. Disneyland was born a year later, and NOBODY considers Disneyland to be a senior citizen.

There are two reigning theories as to the origins of the 55 means senior citizen phenomenon. The first goes something like this: The American Association of Retired Persons, (AARP or aarp - which is the sound of a breathing tube hitting your epiglottis), whereupon studying the demographics of America, realized two things: First, the AARP desired more lobbying power in Congress, and second, the Baby Boomer generation represented a cash cow of potential membership income. Solution? Lower the age of being a senior citizen! However, the more plausible theory concerns Dennys. On the sidelines, they studiously observed the success of the McDonalds, who revolutionized the food industry, capturing the stomachs and loyalty of children with Happy Meals. Dennys took this lesson to heart, going after the market at the opposite end of the chronological food chain - people without a sense of smell, taste, a lack of teeth, and who were sick of cooking Salisbury steak. Again, seeing the Baby Boomer bonanza bubble, they ingeniously captured a larger market share by simply renaming industrious workers in their mid 50s, senior citizens. Mind you - conspiracy theories, both. My relaying them to you has nothing to do with actual fact, or even research.

Enough history - What about aging gracefully you ask? The first step, for balding men (and women) is minoxidil. Minoxidil is a miracle ointment when applied to your balding patches morning and night. The manufacture expressly warns the product doesnt work for everyone. Further, minoxidil is most effective when used early in the balding occurrence, and if there is no evidence of hair growth within the first four months of treatment, minoxidil probably will not work for that particular user. I waited until I was 54 to start using minoxidil. At age 20, I had a receding hairline. Although the hair tried bravely to stay put, a 34 year battle resulted in my original hairline position retreating to the back of my head. Enter minoxidil - after 4 months use, minoxidil provided no evidence of effectiveness. I took pictures at intervals for documentary evidence - lest I fool myself. The photos from Days 1 and 120 appeared indistinguishable. Unlike pessimists at the minoxidil lab, I wasnt going to abandon the plan. After sixth months, the photos still revealed no change. Decision time: Was I going to face reality or throw good money after bad? Being a realist, I decided to continue treatment another 6 months. Perhaps I would provide the minoxidil folks with a breakthrough case. At just under a year, the crown of my scalp appeared to have activity. This activity, it turned out, was a chemical burn causing the few surviving follicles to stand up on end, getting as far away from the crime scene as possible. So, in conclusion, balding men and women need to make a decision: you can buy a rug, go for the miracle drugs, or you can just let nature take its course and learn to amiably accept the jokes, scorn, and rejection.

The second technique for aging gracefully can best be explained with this true anecdote: In for fingerprinting (Homeland Security now requires this for using a public restroom), a clerk asked a few preliminary questions. The clerk: Height? Me: 62. Clerk: Eye color? Me: Brown. Clerk: Hair color? Me: Painted or plain? The clerk looked at me dumbly and said, What? You see, the clerk didnt even know that my hair color was counterfeit. Painting your hair is very important in aging gracefully. A tinge of gray emotes sophistication, but thats as far as the admiration scale goes. Given the chance, the gray hairs come in like a flock of cowbirds, stealing nests from those songbirds who built them; your regular colored hair is just no match. Almost overnight, your skin takes on an ashen appearance; ashen reminds people of ashes; ashes remind people of bad things happening in the Bible, and there is nothing graceful about brimstone and fire. So, dont be ashamed to paint your hair. If your co-workers or friends snicker, simply find a group of people who dont know you, become lifetime friends, and theyll never know the difference.

This next suggestion is painful. Before continuing, I suggest you take a short break, get a glass of wine, and consume it with your favorite comfort food. If youre drinking cabernet, dark chocolate might be a good choice. Okay? Now, as we age, it becomes harder and harder to keep the weight off. Drinking alcohol and eating snack food is literally the death knell of many people in their golden years. Have you noticed this? When in my 20s, I could eat anything with no impact. In my 30s, I could do the same, gain an inch or two, resolve to do twenty sit-ups a week, play a rigorous game of croquet, and the weight gain would vanish. When I entered my 40s, the rules changed. I couldnt eat whatever with abandon. An exercise club was joined, and I had to finally cave and buy a larger waist size. Now, the 50s. Here, one eats less because most foods result in heartburn, youre still hungry, and you gain weight. When one exercises, the body seems to laugh and say Who are you kidding? Longstanding friendships with cartilage, tendons, and muscle seem to mean nothing; they all turn their back on you, become irritated - even inflamed. The solution to this spiraling betrayal? Hawaiian shirts and elastic waistbands. These articles of clothing are fashionable in some circles, and allow you to expand gracefully while still enjoying those foods and beverages which do not give you heartburn. Additionally, consider yoga or tai chi as a replacement for jogging, push-ups and sit-ups. They emphasize flexibility and allow you to actually catch some sleep while pretending to meditate.

The art to aging gracefully is filled with adaptation. We admire this trait in the animal kingdom, so why be ashamed? If tying shoes is difficult because of your gut, buy slip-ons. Cant turn your neck as far as necessary to see behind you when parallel parking? Buy an expensive car with a backup camera. Your glasses are never where you left them? Invest $50 on the internet and get 20 pair of reading glasses to be left in every possible location. The important thing is - dont get stressed over getting older. Sure you dont look as good as you once did; agreed, its harder to lose those pounds; of course most of your favorite foods are starting to act like toxins; granted, youre tired and dont have the energy of yesterday; no argument - body parts ache chronically. But these are not reasons to lose hope. A Chinese philosopher once said A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Just imagine how many steps youve already taken. Doesnt that make you feel tired? Im not sure what this has to do with anything but the point is... eventually things will worsen. Its time to realize that today is probably as good as its going to get. So, my advice? Get out a bottle of cabernet, a box of dark chocolates, surround yourself with some good friends, and say Do I know you?