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Thursday, 6 June 2013

The Art of Ageing

At what age do we consider ourselves old? Is it when society tells us we are or whenever we decide? I find myself pondering that very question every once and a while. Different situations bring it up. Anyone who has personally known me for more than a year will know that I have bad knees, a bad ankle and tendonitis that affects my dominant hand. Weather can determine how much difficulty I have getting up a set of stairs any higher than one full story and how much writing I can accomplish. I had surgery done on one knee at 13 and dislocated that same knee when I was 19. I tore the ligaments in my ankle six months after I had surgery on my knee, and the tendonitis is the result of 20 years of writing by hand and numerous muscle pulls during my two year stint at the CN Tower. I’m 25, but there are days when I feel like I’m 60. However, this isn’t exactly the point of this…

My social circles, as small as they are, are varied. I volunteer with a not-for-profit meetup group; a language exchange between Japanese students and Canadians. I also have a small group of fellow National Novel Writing Month participants, and I go to karaoke every Friday and Saturday nights. The friends I have met at karaoke are all, for the most part, older than me. The majority of them are 50+. My Friday night haunt has changed over the past few months, but one aspect has remained the same. People 50+ are ridiculously fun to hang out with!

I was in Oshawa on June 5th attending their annual Swing Into Summer event at Memorial Park put on by the Oshawa Senior Citizens Centres (OSCC). Memorial Park has a band shell, excellent for outdoor performances. The park is across the street from the John Street branch of the OSCC. My aunt, godmother and mother are members of the OSCC and my aunt is a member of a volunteer singing group called, “The Sing-sations”. The Sing-sations (all OSCC members) have performed, for free, in various parts of Oshawa and were part of a slew of performers at Swing Into Summer. Now, as you’d expect with an event put on by senior centres, there were many, many seniors present for the festivities. When most people hear the word senior, they see old, white haired men and women hunched over walkers traveling at 0.5 miles an hour. People think, ‘boooooring’. WRONG! These are people who grew up in an era of dance halls and drive-ins. These are people who learned how to do the polka and the waltz and the jive. You should see my aunt and uncle do the jive; they clear the floor! The only real dancing I know how to do is line dancing, which I love to do. These “old people” really know how to rock out. When I got up to dance with my aunt to a couple of tunes the headlining band, Big Black Smoke, were playing, a friend of mine (and my aunt’s) quipped: “You know you’ve hit a low when you’re dancing with a bunch of seniors!” I laughed and replied, “It’s not the first time.” And it isn’t.

I am a member of the Royal Canadian Legion (the youngest at my branch) and my Friday night haunt used to be one of the branches (though not my home branch) where a friend of mine hosts karaoke. Many people would scoff at a legion and deem it a boring place where a bunch of senile old coots drink all day and night. But you’d be wrong. The members of my home branch, sure they drink, but they have a dart league, they play Cribbage, and have fun on Sunday afternoons at karaoke. But this other branch I visited, debunks every misconception about the legion. The dance floor is always occupied by line dancers, couples and those who can only shuffle their feet to the music. Those senile old coots are a riot and I can only hope I am as spry as they are when I get to be that old. Which leads me to believe that growing “old” is only a frame of mind. It is said that you are only as old as you feel. Some days I feel much older than my current age of 25, but other days I feel as young as I am. My favourite saying related to age is this: “You do not stop playing because you grow old; you grow old because you stop playing.” Playing can be anything – playing card games that stimulate the mind like Cribbage or Euchre, going to a Saturday night dance every week, knitting, crossword puzzles, playing Bingo, doing a 300-piece puzzle with a friend, going to karaoke… Playing is doing what you love to do even when you’re 80. My great-aunt is 85 and she still walks about half a mile to do a little bit of grocery shopping. She doesn’t do it nearly as often as she used to, but she is still active. My grandmother passed away in 2007 at the age of 87, but she was line dancing every Saturday night and still driving her car at 85. I really don’t think this generation of seniors should be classified as old. Experienced yes, but not old. These “old” people gave birth to the generation that preceded ours and you know, many of them still know how to have a good time. I want to be one of those seniors. I want to be a grandmother my grandkids would love to hang out with. I want to be a cool senior. I don’t want to stop playing.