One of the great discoveries for many of us these past 18 months of the pandemic has to be the marvels of Zoom. For those of us who are retired and not needing to be part of a virtual office, it has allowed us to safely take classes, participate in all sorts of cultural and religious events and, most importantly, stay connected to friends and family.
For me, it has allowed for a get-together with cousins (one of whom I’ve never met and several whom I haven’t seen in years) living all over the country. We live in blue states and red states and pretty much cover all the possible time zones in the country.
Conversing with first cousins who remember some of your most embedded childhood memories, of people and places, is remarkable. Meeting first cousins for the first time is also amazing.
It’s a silver lining of the pandemic and I’m looking forward to it ending, once and for all, to be able to meet or get together again, in person. Finally.
If, like me, you read a newspaper –or 2, watch or listen to the news, get emails and push notifications from reliable news organizations, listen to news podcasts (also reliable), or get emails or texts from family members or friends, you’re probably getting Covid updates many times in a day. Some may contain new and important information for you personally. Some of it you’ve heard a zillion times before. And some of it, frankly, seems to contradict other disseminated information.
“ENOUGH!”, I mutter, as I yank my ear buds out if I’m listening to a news podcast or slam down the lid of my laptop, if I’m reading a newspaper online. I’m Covided-out!
My news blackout period holds until I receive the next push notification on my phone on, you guessed it, Covid.
I live on the Upper West Side in New York City, near Riverside Park, one of the city’s most beautiful parks. There’s no question that my daily walks through Riverside Park during the pandemic’s lockdown were how I managed to enjoy a regular exercise routine. Those walks also helped keep me from feeling isolated.
However, last spring and summer, like most New Yorkers, I wore two masks outdoors all the time. I’d walk past blooming trees and bushes in the spring and couldn’t smell their fragrance. I remember once taking a walk after a drenching spring rainstorm and, with no one around, briefly removed both masks to inhale the smell of the wet earth and trees. It was truly a memorable moment.
Now, however, since I’m vaccinated, I’m not wearing any mask outside, and the smell of the park’s trees, flowers and earth are everywhere on my walks.
It’s extraordinary how the many deprivations caused by the pandemic cause us to appreciate what we have in ways we may never have before.
I got on the M72 bus last week on Broadway, heading east to York Avenue, pulled out my Kindle, and resumed reading a book I’m really enjoying. I was looking forward to the long ride and a good read. I found one of the coveted single seats on the right side of the bus and settled in. As luck would have it, 2 women sitting a few feet away in the handicapped seats behind the driver, resumed their conversation at a fairly high decibel level as soon as we pulled away from the curb.
I tried to read but it was difficult and I put my Kindle down in my lap. Mercifully, one of them got off at West 72nd Street and Central Park West. I was delighted as I swiped the bottom of the reader and resumed reading. But no sooner did one of the loud talkers get off, then I heard a women get on and immediately begin a conversation with the driver. “Uh oh,” I thought. This bodes ill.
She proceeds to swipe her card, sits down and then within seconds she begins a conversation in a very loud voice with a woman in the first single seat right ahead of me. I’m cooked. I grab my Kindle, abandon my seat and move further back in the bus.
This second women manages to keep up a loud steady stream of words as it heads all the way to York Avenue, although in doing so, she forgets to pull the cord to get off the bus at the stop before on First Avenue. She starts yelling at the driver to stop the bus so she can get off. The driver can’t and won’t do that. I chuckle to myself in the back of the bus.
Here’s the moral of this story: Don’t talk so loudly on the bus so other passengers get annoyed and wish you miss your stop.
The older I get, the more convinced I am that two of the most powerful words in our vocabulary are “thank you”. I’m chagrined to say that they’re not really spoken enough. I’ve also heard this from friends.
It’s just so simple to say it, or to write it in a note, which is much more powerful than in an email or text. Yes, it’s quaint to write a note and put it in the mail, but a handwritten note of thanks is probably one of the nicest communications any of us can receive.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve also gotten to know quite a few of my Baby Boomer peers. I think, on the whole, they can be divided into 2 groups: those who accept aging as a natural part of the life cycle and those who don’t. In that latter category are my friends who visit a hair salon every month to color their hair. They don’t like to reveal their age, to anyone. They get insulted if offered a seat on the subway or, for that matter, get referred to as “elderly”, “old” or “senior”.
Even though I fall into the first category (probably the only thing Meryl Streep and I have in common), and am comfortable with my burgeoning wrinkles and graying hair, I am enormously sympathetic to those denying friends because of the rampant ageism that marginalizes older people, gives them short shrift, assumes they’re senile and doesn’t give to senior citizens the same respect and attention given, say, to younger people.
This post won’t right those societal wrongs but I think it’s important to call it out for what it is: another form of discrimination.
It’s interesting to note that according to the U.S. Census Bureau, this country will reach a new milestone in 2035. It’s predicted that year that older adults, age 65 and over, will outnumber children under 18 for the first time in U.S. history. Fewer babies and a longer life expectancy means that as a country, we’re graying faster!
Given those trends, it seems to make sense to fight back against the stereotypes and adopt a broader acceptance of the inevitable part of our life cycle as humans.There certainly will be more of us around.
Inertia is a powerful force. We may be sitting on the sofa reading the newspaper or a book, and finding it an extremely pleasant way to spend the time. Especially if it’s raining out. Also, if you went to the dinner you were invited to attend, you’d need to change clothes. Yes, you RSVP’d that you’d attend, but now, upon reflection, were you really that excited about spending time with group of people who were acquaintances but not really close friends? All these thoughts may go through your head and keep you sitting on the sofa while plotting some convincing excuses for why you can’t make it.
However, this is a pitch to recommend getting up off the sofa, changing clothes and getting out — even if the people you’ll be meeting are not your BFF’s.
It seems pretty obvious that as we get older, there’s enormous value in socializing and spending time with other people, especially if you live alone. We’ve all read that having a network of friends can help us live longer. Apart from the human companionship, there’s quite a lot to be said for changing it up and doing things that are different. I’m no expert on the human brain but those synapses in our brains like change and get all fired up when we do novel things. Perhaps meeting at a new restaurant, trying something different to eat, having some interesting conversations or meeting some new people would all help to keep our brains sharper.