Tags Posts tagged with "birthdays"


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By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

A dear friend of mine just celebrated her 65th birthday this week, and she regards it as a significant number. “How did I get here so fast?” she asks. She also recognizes that she is getting older. That might even be a little scary.

Yes, she is now covered by Medicare. This is both an asset and a shock. When she looks at her new Medicare card, she wonders how this could be. Is she really now eligible for Medicare? Her grandmother was on Medicare, surely not her. But there is her name; the reality is undeniable.

“Well,” she silently acknowledges, “it’s good to have that coverage.” But the sight still stings a bit.

Part of her response is the awareness that she is aging, that she has entered the first phase of the three-part delineation of older age. There is the young-older, from 65-75; then the middle-older, from 75-85; and the third segment, 85-95. Whoever decides and names these demographic groupings seems to have been unable to imagine any group beyond that point. Maybe it should be called “The Beyond Expectations Group.”

With her new realization comes a vow to concentrate on her health and to make the ensuing years hardy ones. She has vowed to pay more attention to her diet, to make better choices concerning what she eats. More fruits and veggies are in store. But no amount of blueberries and kale can eliminate aging. She has now followed through with her long-held intention to work with a trainer. And she is getting a new mattress to help her sleep better.

My friend is doing something helpful for herself. She is turning concerns of aging and the rapid passing of time into better health actions so as to control how she wants to age. Life for her will no longer be just on automatic pilot.

Although there are more older people in America than ever before, aging is fearful for 87% of the population, according to a survey of those turning 65 conducted by Pfizer. It’s called FOGO — fear of getting old.

Why are people afraid of getting old?

There are a number of reasons. Aging can diminish employment prospects. It is a given that older employees earn more than younger newcomers, and while it is illegal to discriminate by age, we all know that such bias exists. It is no wonder, then, that plastic surgeons do face-lifts to combat wrinkles and laugh lines, adjust sagging necks and erase any other evidence of aging. And it is not only women who undergo such procedures. Many men feel the need to blunt evidence of having lived into and past middle age.

People fear losses: of physical ability, of their good looks, of sufficient finances, of memory, of loved ones and consequently of being lonely, and even of their health shortly to be burdened with chronic diseases. Underlying all this is the fear of losing independence.

Interestingly, only 10% in the survey said they were afraid of dying.

Other cultures respect and may even venerate older members of society. Aging can bring people an enhanced sense of gratitude, a calmer demeanor, an awareness of what is truly important, greater ability to resolve conflicts and even an inclination toward forgiveness. Elders are assumed to have accumulated some wisdom just from more years of living and are respected for that.

Of one thing, my friend is sure. When we consider milestones, it seems like the time between them is little more than the blink of an eye. She clearly remembers the details of her Sweet 16 party, the fun of turning 21, her graduation from law school and now suddenly, to be in the Final Frontier is one swift stroke of time after the other. Blink and you are 65. And along comes the recognition that the future is no longer assured.

My friend does not want to go quietly into older age.

METRO photo

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Three men in my life, whom I would normally be hugging a lot this third week in July, are missing. Their birthdays line up nicely for a wonderful celebratory period. First comes my youngest grandson, then four days later my oldest son, and then two days after that, my youngest son. This has provided my family an annual occasion to get together with multiple cakes and dinners, noise and fun activities, usually at my home. But in this Year of the Pandemic, it’s not going to happen in yet another instance of how our lives have changed.

The sad news is that we miss each other’s physical presence. The good news is that we live in a digital age. It could be worse. Not only could we not hug each other, we could not even see each other over the many miles of separation. But thanks to Zoom and the other video platforms, there we are, at least in two dimension and we can talk back and forth with only a tiny lag between voice and picture.

Tuesday night my family did even more than that. When my oldest son was asked by his two boys a couple of weeks ago what he wanted for his birthday, he asked for something that they would make rather than buy. They met his request grandly. They pooled their particular talents, along with those of their friends, and created a four-minute full color animated video in which they mentioned many details of their father’s life set to original hip-hop music. It was a highly personal Happy Birthday card, sent through the ether and bathed in love.

For example, the video mentioned their father’s love of sailing — and in the same frame, of fruit. They slyly referred to his disposal of an unwanted shot of beer in the nearest flower pot. They alluded to his passion for tennis — and for peanuts, which he has been known to carry in his pocket on the drive into work. They generously included those who love him the most in the film, and they ended with half a dozen corny jokes that made us all howl.

Needless to say, in joyfully fulfilling their father’s wish, they brought us all together with the requisite laughter and hijinks. My grandsons and their friends, like so many of the young people today, are not working at their day jobs or are working remotely. In a way, this strange new existence made such a present possible because, coupled with the internet, they had the time and resources for such a creative gift. They were able to adapt to our altered existence and flip the messages that typically would have been sent in birthday cards presented at the party to Tuesday night’s video-sharing.

It makes me realize how quickly so many of us have harnessed our new lives. Many meetings and events are now held, in revamped fashion, on the internet. Education, only recently thought of as unusual if taught over the internet, now looks like it has found a home there. Doctors’ visits, requiring an appointment in a professional office, are now being conducted via telemedicine. Shopping, which has been ever creeping onto the internet, has now in just a couple of months become a way of life there — and not just for a book or a patio umbrella but even for food that is routinely delivered.

Will this exclusively two dimensional existence come to an end? Sure it will, perhaps sooner, perhaps later. The virus has been the driver, and whenever humans have figured out how to overcome the contagion, COVID-19 will just be another disease in the annals of medicine. But as far as the internet goes, you can’t put the cork back into the bottle. We will work more remotely, meet more remotely, be entertained more remotely and otherwise permanently embrace convenient exchanges that can be performed digitally.

One thing is for certain, however. Nothing will ever take the place of a hug.