Probably the best that can be said for living to be eighty years old is having had eighty years of experiences. Personally I have enjoyed most of them, and even the unpleasant times had some fun qualities. Actually one of the worst times for me happened just two months ago when a friend committed suicide. What was so stressful about that event was that it seemed so unnecessary. She was only fifty-seven, and in perfect health, and my personal experience is that those years in the sixties and seventies, that she missed, were as good as any, and better than most. It was her much acknowledged adverse childhood experiences that apparently made her core inner life into a continuing hell of repression and denial. What was tragic for me and others I know was that she was a source of great inspiration to literally hundreds of people, because of her rising above her personal problems with a can-do enthusiasm.
Over the years I have known many who died, in fact most of those I knew from my early years are long gone, and some were tragic deaths, but none of them seemed so voluntary and unnecessary as that suicide. I can list fourteen friends I know that were shot with guns, and most died, but it wasn’t so sad. A really cool guy in Berkeley was a drug dealer, his occupation was unknown to me, but that got him murdered. A friend of my childhood, whom I played cards with a lot as a kid and who cheated all the time with me, got killed playing poker in Reno, Nevada. Two hunters I caddied golf for in Spokane got killed with a single bullet by the unintended discharge of a dropped hunting rifle. My roommate in college got shot by his father while deer hunting, but survived. His brother shot himself in the leg while practicing his quick draw with a pistol. It goes on and on like that with stupid accidents so I’ve made it a point to totally avoid guns and fast cars too.
Although I had a dangerous occupation in my mid twenties, as a USAF pilot, by the end of that adventure I had learned to put on my long eyes when it came to taking risks, and to take risks only when there are real gains more than equal to the potential losses. Never take a risk from which there is no recovery. I was talking to some eighteen-year-old young men last week, and they mentioned without my prompting that they were aware that they took unnecessary risks. To which I said, if at your age you think you are taking risks you are actually taking really big risks.
I find that at my advanced age I take more pleasure in the good things that come my way and not so much displeasure in the day-to-day annoyances. Everyone, even the science, acknowledges that we slow down as we get older, but that isn’t much of a problem because there is a natural tendency to adapt to new limitations in a month or two, and aging takes years. One major thing I have noticed while doing improv is greater difficulty in doing memory tasks where there are major interruptions that must be attended to with words and actions, and then a need to remember some alternate set of ideas that must to be returned to quickly. The idea of a few seconds ago just isn’t instantly there. That isn’t so much of a problem in the various conversation groups I attend because I take notes, and can then easily hone what I want to say, and present it more coherently, but with improv forgetting a trivial detail a game ender.
Perhaps it is because I have lived my life exploring the cutting edge of things, and often well over, or even well past, the bleeding edge of technology, that I find it easy to move over into the new set of life problems associated with aging. I just see things as problems to be coped with as best I can. People more set in their ways, with a more conservative mind-set, might find coping with their eighties more of a challenge, because things will be changing and with our modern technology-driven world they will be changing fast.
Old age isn’t for sissies, it’s for flexible, fun-loving, personal-purpose finding people.