Monday, November 22, 2010

80 is the new 79

What is important to an 80 year old is “right now,” not a week from Friday, next February, another survey or study or a panel discussion.
On a Monday, Garbo was asked to dinner on Saturday. “How do I know if I’ll be hungry on Saturday?” she asked.

by Leon Liberman

I turned 80 on October 24, which is United Nations Day, a little-known holiday that having lived in a half-dozen countries on four continents I think of as meant for me.

Old age doesn’t sneak up on you. It happens suddenly. It seems that overnight you go from a “beautiful eyes” pick-up line from someone sitting on the adjoining bar stool saying “nice shirt” before they change seats. It’s not without irony that when you hear someone whistle on the street, you look to see who’s behind you or what’s unzipped.

And a sense of humor or even the ridiculous is what’s needed to cope with aging. Without them there’s the temptation to become angry and resentful.

Well-meaning friends have told me that 80 is the new 60. Eighty is nothing other than the new 79. I don’t find comfort in hearing that age is only a number or you’re only as old as you feel so please stop your well-intentioned comforting. I know that I look, feel and act 80.

I’m probably more fortunate than many other 80-year-olds. My doctors care not just for me but about me as well. They share test and procedure results and along with my pharmacist, the unsung hero of HIV treatment, consult one another about the possibility of conflicting prescribed medications.

What is important to an 80 year old is “right now,” not a week from Friday, next February, another survey or study or a panel discussion. On a Monday, Garbo was asked to dinner on Saturday. “How do I know if I’ll be hungry on Saturday?” she asked. We thrive on spontaneity, reminiscence and acknowledgment. We want to share our valued experiences. We still have contributions to make.

More than a decade ago, a hospital social worker to whom I went with a confusing Public Aid problem, introduced me to Ann Fisher, Executive Director of AIDS Legal Council of Chicago, who immediately resolved the problem and has resolved many more since.

I volunteered to keep the Council in its good work and continue to do so. I’m a member of Chicago Area HIV Service Planning Council that assesses needs for HIV/AIDS funding priorities and evaluates how federal Ryan White Part A funds are distributed to the community. I serve on the Council’s Quality Management and Evaluation Committee.

There are opportunities to contribute and share for the aging—welcome opportunities.

Think of aging as a focus, 
not a limitation or a handicap.

I am thankful to have this blog to set things straight about aging and if you will bear with me, there’s something more I’d like all of you to know.

Not long ago, a major HIV/AIDS Chicago treatment facility now in deep trouble because of recent financial mismanagement and threatening to close if it doesn’t receive immediate funding, began a much publicized senior program which was funded in part by a Jewish non-profit grant. I couldn’t imagine what it could do that wasn’t already being done by the senior program at the nearby Center on Halsted so as Exhibit A, I contacted the facility for information and to let it be known that I might be of some use to the program as a volunteer.

I was put on to a young woman who was brought from the East to run the program. This had to be done at some expense. We met and she confided in me that all she had been instructed to do since arriving was to spend time in south side gay bars interviewing older if not aged clients. She was not familiar with the city or communities within it. I did my best to introduce her to some of those who it might be to her advantage to know.

The next thing I knew, she had been replaced by a much heralded advocate for aging gays, a woman who directs the SAGE program and was also brought from the East Coast at an even greater expense. It was my understanding that she would continue with SAGE in the East as well as directing the Chicago program.

Suddenly, there was nothing more about her or the program in the papers so I called and was told by a facility employee that the program which barely got off the ground had been shelved for financial reasons and that she, the facility employee, was responsible for what, if anything, remained of it. That employee later left the facility to take the position as regional SAGE director working out of the Center on Halsted. What a waste of funding which must discourage those who backed the program from considering grants for other HIV/AIDS and/or aging programs.

A suggestion for those who are responsible for programs for the aged: Pick a director who is a local, someone who knows what conditions and experience we have had, preferably someone who is not half our age who can relate to our concerns, problems and needs.

for those of you who are 80 
or pushing it, 
delight in your good fortune. 
Regardless of the shape you’re in, 
every day more is a bonus!

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