The Surprising Joys of Aging

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Striding purposely into a room, I suddenly stop, wondering what my purpose was. Chuckling, I return to my starting point and look around, usually in vain, for any clues to my original intent. Some people might find this memory lapse annoying and even worrisome, but I think it's rather amusing, just another of the benefits of aging.

Benefits? Yes, there are plenty of them, even some physical improvements that can occur in our advancing years. But more about that later. Most important to me are the age-related changes that make it easy for me to laugh at myself.

Take my hair, for example. (Not literally, please. I have little to spare). A couple of years ago, by some mysterious process, it seemingly began to reverse course, plunging back into my scalp and reemerging from my nose and ears. These days my barber asks, usually quite diplomatically, if he should trim and perhaps even part those nasal and auditory hairs.

Often, while I'm reading, with our cat curled up contentedly next to me, I suddenly swat at an intruder that has flown into my field of vision. Startled, the cat careens out of the room, leaving me convulsed with laughter. An annoying housefly? Not really. It's a "floater," one of those black spots or lacey patterns that sometimes drift across the eyes of many of our more mature citizens.

But I've become used to the floaters, as well as that low-volume, high-pitched hissing sound that I began to notice a year ago in the background of music from my stereo. Indeed, I was considering taking the stereo in for repair when it finally dawned on me that the sound persisted when the player was switched off. Turned out that I had developed tinnitus, a rather silly disorder audible only to the afflicted, that most seniors eventually learn to ignore.

Then there are the physical benefits that can accrue in later years. A year ago, for example, while driving into town, I suddenly pawed frantically at my face and realized that I'd forgotten my glasses, essential for distant vision since puberty. But what was this? All of a sudden, without glasses, I could read traffic signs and recognize pedestrians' faces at a distance. Elated, I called my ophthalmologist, who explained that "at a certain age" molecular changes can occur in the eyes' lenses that bring images back into focus. Miraculously, after decades of dependence on glasses, I now play tennis, drive and watch movies without them!

But wait, there's more. Some 18 months ago, I began to lose weight without any changes in diet or exercise. Worried, my doctor arranged for a battery of tests, which all turned out to be negative. Why was I losing weight? The doctor was puzzled. Stroking his chin reflectively, and after years of practice and specialization, he opined, "Well it probably has something to do with aging." Indeed. Now my weight has stabilized at a level close to what it was in college, I've picked up speed, and I'm playing the best tennis of my life. Go figure.

The list of benefits goes on and on: No penalties for withdrawing money from Individual Retirement Accounts. Some remarkable grandchildren. Senior fares on buses and airlines. Medicare. Being called "Sir" without benefit of knighthood.

Let's see. I know that I'm enjoying many other benefits of aging, but I seem to have forgotten what they are.