Armchair Mayor column published in The Kamloops Daily News,
Saturday, March 14, 2008
I call it, “seniors creep.” That gradual realization that you’re getting older. There are the obvious signs — age spots start showing up, the hair turns colour, and you find yourself renting a cart instead of walking the 18 holes.
But if you didn’t notice these things, The System is there at the ready to remind you that you’re past your prime. Maybe it’s the arrival of your new Care Card, the silver one (of course) that says in tiny letters, “For Seniors.” I figure they put it in such small writing in the belief that, since your eyesight is probably failing, you won’t see it and get insulted.
Or maybe it’s the cheery notification from your life insurance company, wishing you all the best on your 65th and, by the way, your premiums will be about four times as expensive as they used to be. Why don’t they just come out and say it: “We’ve calculated that you only have a few years left, so we’d rather avoid paying out your policy when you croak.”
At 64 and a half, you get a note in your pay envelope that says, “This is to inform you that you are no longer eligible for Long-term Disability coverage.” Wonderful — when I bust a hip I’m on my own.
If that doesn’t wake you up, the letter from your credit card company apologizing for no longer providing medical coverage on your next cruise should do the trick.
These are what they call the Golden Years? Here I thought this was the time I was supposed to be on easy street, with The System taking care of my every need. After all, I built this country.
There are occasional upsides, of course. Like when the package arrives in the mail from the federal government asking if you want to apply for your Old Age Security payments and Canada Pension Plan. But, of course, if you’re between 60 and 65, you can’t get CPP unless you quit work.
So, let’s sum up: I’m supposed to stop working for a living, but I can’t afford insurance premiums and am no longer worthy of the same benefits everybody else gets.
However, I do get a shiny new Care Card and cheaper haircuts.
If all of this isn’t enough, I’ve been invited to moderate a forum on seniors issues Monday. The Seniors Information, Referral and Resource Society is putting it on, and lots of people who deal with seniors’ stuff will be there to talk about things like independent living and elder abuse.
I’m trying to convince myself they asked me to chair the thing because they think I’m a good moderator, but I have a feeling they just feel more comfortable with another guy with grey hair in the room.
Speaking of which, I remember the day I discovered my formerly thick mop of hair wasn’t what it used to be. I was filling out a form that asked my hair colour.
My secretary, Leah, came into the office and said, “You made a mistake on your form. Your hair’s not auburn.”
“Is so,” I said.
She shook her head and told me to look in the mirror. “It never was auburn, it was brown. And now it’s not brown, either.”
“Well, it was auburn when I started this job,” I mumbled, taking out a pen and writing in, “Auburn. With some Grey.”
I’ve groused about this before, about how I hate the term “senior.” Three years ago, when I hit 62, I wrote about some of the people in town my age who were still working: Al McNair, Alexander Watt and John DeCicco. And they’re still at it as we speak.
At 63, I described myself as being in the Labour Day of life, heading through a late summer towards the somewhat chillier weather of October.
Now, apparently, I’m heading toward New Year’s eve. I’m the old geezer in the editorial cartoon, the one who’s about to be replaced by the young spud representing a brand new year.
If all of this didn’t make it clear that I am entering the grey zone, no doubt was left when, during last fall’s civic election campaign, a supporter of one of the young candidates disdainfully called me “old man.”
Quite honestly, that stung. This young jerk, who wasn’t old enough to know much of anything, was insulting me based on when I was born. He may as well have uttered any number of racist or phobic insults.
That’s the way it is with “seniors,” apparently. Everybody talks a good game but the bottom line is you’re a pain in the ass who suddenly turns from a revenue generator to a cost centre, and everybody runs for cover.
There’s nothing wrong with getting older. I’m quite content with it. I just wish people would stop reminding me.