Opinion

People to see, things to do, places to go | OPINIOIN

I came home from my daily workout at the Y this morning to stumble aimlessly about the kitchen. The tasks of measuring out oatmeal, pouring juice, setting out pills and heating tea water pulled me somewhat back on course. There has to be more to it if this retirement stuff is to keep me on my toes.

It’s good to be busy. Otherwise, the world of Sudoku, TV, crosswords, casinos and naps will gobble up my days. Feeling particularly aimless this morning I bypassed TV to open my notebook to see if I could put some needed structure in my day, that is, I made a list.

The problem with my lists is that I can’t recall fully half the things that I should be writing down. They’ll come to mind again. It’s just that too many notions that ought to be noted down slip from Active Memory to Inactive Memory. You’ll notice that lots of seniors carry little notebooks to help with this. Think of them as auxiliary memories.

As to reliability, notebooks are almost failsafe. They contain no batteries to recharge. If one turns up lost, a buck buys a replacement at the Dollar Store. Information sharing is a matter of ripping out a page. Together with the calendar that lives beside the kitchen phone, a notebook does a fair job of keeping me from blowing appointments.

While youngsters under age 60 might write off notebooks and to-do lists as evidence of encroaching senility, they’re actually our equivalent of digital memories. Back when we were reporting for work and getting kids off to school, we had to stay more alert to keep life from slipping into chaos. Deadlines and appointments still work to keep us on our toes.

Re-play me returning home from the Y to yawn, stretch, and wonder what to do next. A nap? Not yet. Retirement is not going to turn me into a couch potato, not when there’s time and opportunity to tackle things past obligations pushed onto the back burner. There’s still plenty to do if you don’t mind not getting paid for your efforts. Actually, not getting paid is sort of liberating. After all, what’s the worst a boss can do? So here we are with a heady mix of available time and a world full of opportunity.

Or I could let that available time pattern itself after The First Law of Garages that says, “Whatever junk is stored in a garage will swell up to fill all available space.” Just so, if I let more than a token amount of junk-activities enter my day, I will become a couch potato. No way! There has to be more to life than Duck Dynasty and Honey Boo Boo.

Advertisers want a piece of me. We seniors represent a growing sector of the economy that has them salivating for the contents of my bank account. They’ve discovered that seniors treat pets more like grandchildren and they spend on them accordingly. The Petfinder website says the first year of dog ownership costs a minimum of $766, rising to $10,350 for well-heeled pamperers of money-pit pups. On the other hand, ads for Depends, Fixodent and Medicalert bracelets don’t turn seniors on, focusing as they do on debilitating effects of aging or ways to make the long goodbye less stressful.

But seniors still hold a lot of  money. Globally, we will control $15 trillion by the 2020 so the trick for marketers is to get us to shop as never before. Good luck with that. We geezers have pretty much everything we need and are at an age where we hesitate to buy green bananas. It drives advertisers nuts that it’s so hard to get us to spend.

We have other ways of getting a kick out of life. Mick Jagger is still shimmying at age 70. Diana Nyad completed her epic swim at age 64, and 92 year-old Gladys Burrill became the oldest person to finish a marathon. We still buy stuff but not because of sales pressure. One survey showed that the peak age-group for new car buyers now lies between 55 to 64. It’s also shown that ads have almost zero effect on why seniors buy particular makes or models. Of course there’s seniors’ hearing loss to consider but that’s not why sales pitches fall on deaf ears.

What sellers fail to understand is that we don’t need more stuff. We’ve seen the effects of stuffication and it isn’t pretty. What oldsters need are ways to fill their days with meaningful activity. Volunteers at Providence Hospital’s visitor’s desk do important work. So do literacy teachers at the library and workers at Marysville’s food bank. Communities can’t get along without us and we don’t do well without something worthwhile to do.

When more old-timers and communities figure this out, life will become better for everyone.

Comments may be sent to robertgraef@comcast.net.

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