Elderly as Insult

Richard Quinn

“HELP, I’VE FALLEN AND I can’t get up.”

It wasn’t too many years ago that I viewed that commercial as humorous. No more. A few days ago, my wife slipped on a curb and fell. No serious injury, just a cut on her lip and a scraped leg. But she couldn’t get up. Thankfully, my sons were there to help. I couldn’t do it on my own. My wife’s arthritis makes it difficult for her to walk long distances or climb stairs, hence our move to a one-floor condo.

I still play golf a couple of times a week during warmer weather, and I hit the ball reasonably well for my age. I easily pick the ball off the green, but reaching to the bottom of the cup is challenging.

I like to drive my car. I find it relaxing. Given that we can’t travel to Europe, we’re planning another road trip, this time to Florida. After driving several hours, getting out of the car is a mini-project. There’s a general stiffness that takes a few minutes to wear off.

For all of the above, there is one thing in common—aging. It wasn’t until a few years ago, when I reached age 75, that the aging thing started to kick in. Now it’s a daily reality. I’m raring to go at 5:30 a.m., but by 3:30 p.m. a short nap is no longer a joke but a necessity. Well, not a necessity, but—if I stop moving—a fact. It’s just automatic: I sit, I sleep.

Don’t get me wrong, we try to keep active. We both track our steps every day—I love my Apple Watch. We usually log two miles or more. While I was quarantined—both times—I walked two miles each day inside our condo. The view was a bit boring, I’ll admit.

There’s no way to escape aging. Well, there is a way, but not a desirable one.

What bugs me more than the minor physical decline is the vibe I get from others. I can tell from the way they talk to me and offer to help that they’re thinking “senior citizen.” Elderly—oh, how I hate that word. How easy it is for people, especially salespeople, to look at you and conclude you fit the senior stereotype: low income, living on a fixed income, in need of discounts.

I know I look old, but do I look poor as well? Sometimes that perception is insulting. You’re spoken to as if you can’t afford the purchase being considered. I get a bit of unspoken satisfaction in knowing that my income is higher than any salesperson with such an attitude.

The fact is, most seniors are doing okay financially, often better than the general perception. The median income for seniors is little different from that of younger Americans. Seniors with a perceived low income are likely to have been lower-income all their life. Many seniors tell me that they live comfortably on less than $40,000 a year in retirement.

My one money concern is that something will interrupt our plans for leaving a legacy to our children and grandchildren. I also think about making our finances easier to manage. To that end, I am in the process—finally—of consolidating our accounts with one financial organization.

Yes, there are the aches and pains, the occasional need for assistance, and the annoying attitudes. Still, those of us who have earned the senior badge and are still able to enjoy life—and who are financially secure—are very fortunate indeed.

I remember that every time I see someone—including my sister—in a wheelchair or struggling with a walker. Or when I think about my friends and colleagues who were unable to live to enjoy the elderly “insult.”

Richard Quinn blogs at Before retiring in 2010, Dick was a compensation and benefits executive. Follow him on Twitter @QuinnsComments and check out his earlier articles.

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