Thursday, February 13, 2014

Getting AARP Card Makes Me Age Quickly

(From the February 13, 2014 issue of the Grand Haven Tribune)

I was routinely going through the daily mail one day recently when something stopped me cold. I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry. I had received my AARP card and an offer to officially register my membership.

AARP used to be the American Association of Retired Persons. That’s right, used to be. Apparently people of a certain age are too weak and tired to breathe the full name, so the acronym is used. Sort of like a verbal cane, I guess.

AARP also sounds like the sound I made when it really hit me that I turn 50 later this month.

I wonder how AARP knows that I am so close to being a man of a certain age. I mean, I myself didn’t really know it. In my mind I feel like I’m 38. Of course, in my mind I still have a full head of hair and can run 5-minute miles. People have said that age is about your attitude or all in your head. So I fully embraced that concept.

But this little invitation in the mail was a cold, slap of reality. It was less an invitation than a taunt: “Dude!” it said. “You are OLD!”

Years ago, I thought 50 was old. But the closer I got to that significant number, the less old it began to seem. Having received the AARP mailing, though, I was forced to take stock. 50 years. Five decades. The big 5-O. My life passed before my eyes. I got out my reading glasses to see it better. Sure enough, I have been around that long already.

Thanks AARP for confirming my increasing infirmity. Now I can’t explain away the aches and pains, the tired feeling and other aging symptoms as merely the result of being busy or working hard. No, I’ll just have to admit it: I’m getting old.

Now I will have to live cautiously. What other symptoms of age will I start to exhibit? I’ll fight as long as possible to hold them back. I certainly won’t be doing a comb-over—I don’t have the resources for that. But if you see me about town with my pants hiked up closer to my neck than my naval, please let me know. It is odd, come to think of it, that there’s a correlation between pants height and age. Young people wear them closer to the knee than the waist. I’m not sure why that is.

Meanwhile, if you see a car moving slowly and straight with a turn signal on, I hope it’s a tourist and not just me. I also will try to go to bed after 8 p.m. and not rise before 5 a.m.

I joke about all of the above. I do feel quite young and spry in spite of receiving the AARP letter. It is a little puzzling that AARP, which is supposed to be for retired persons, is targeting someone as young as 50. I know very few people who can retire while still in their 50s. That’s another reason the AARP invitation seems premature to me. I have at least 15 and probably 20 more years to work. This became obvious to me recently when meeting with a colleague who will retire next year. We were talking about some issues at work, and I felt myself getting a feeling of resolve and a look of tight-lipped determination. His face was an aura of bemused bliss.

But, even though I am nowhere near retirement, there are some “benefits,” according to the AARP material. I can get publications, health benefits, discounts at restaurants and hotels, and representation in Washington to fight age discrimination. Hmmm. I’ll have to think about that. Those things might be more useful when I am actually retired.

Interestingly, the same week I received this information I heard someone on a news program say that 70 is the new 50. Well, that’s good. Even old guys like me need something to look forward to.

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