The Golden Years
Art by Mary Engelbreit
The first time I thought about the phrase, “The Golden Years” was at the Life Enrichment Center. As I was washing up my coffee cup after art class, I noticed a sign in the kitchen, “Old Age is Not For Sissies.” I remember thinking, “hmmpf. That won’t be me.”
How naïve I was at that youthful age of 63! I happily confided to Tim, “Hey, we’re not sissies! We’ll have great “golden years.”
The “Golden Years” was coined in 1959 in an advertisement for a senior living community in Phoenix, Arizona, touted as:
"A large-scale retirement community to embrace a new way of life, a move away from families to a two-million-dollar golf resort in the middle of the Arizona Desert, enjoying a life of peace, harmony and prosperity.”
American Gothic by GrantWood
Sounded pretty much like our 2023 Sun City Center, Florida, senior community, where
the elderly race their golf carts to the latest sale at Publix, their poodle dog's ears flapping in the breeze. Are the Golden Years an age or an attitude? Do we imagine ourselves to be old or youthful?
In our Golden Years, we continue to live in our beloved home, not a retirement community. We watch a lot of TV. In one recent documentary Arnold Schwarzenegger admitted in the “Arnold” documentary, “I’m 75 years old and I look in the mirror and say, “What the f**k. I find a new wrinkle under my pecs and I think, “I wonder if that can be surgically removed?”
Tim quoted a line from the documentary in his best Arnold Schwarzenegger Terminator accent, “I am old, but not obsolete.”
I think about Arnold's complaints as I apply my latest skin cream which removes age spots, and supposedly, wrinkles. The mirror is no longer my friend. My mother stares back at me from my reflection and I clearly hear her voice, "Janie, do I look old?" I had lied to protect her vanity. "No, mom, you don't look old. You're still beautiful." And she was, no matter her age.
That Golden Years description from 1959 was different from friends living their "golden years." Some had moved from Tampa to be closer to their families, while other families moved to Tampa to be closer to their older loved ones. Family members enjoy all that the LEC has to offer, from art classes, to yoga, creative writing, poetry, paper clay classes, field trips and a plethora of creative offers. (Go to LECtampa.org for a list of classes and activities).
A few examples of active Golden Years lives:
One Life Enrichment Center artist recently broke her tailbone in a highly competitive game of ping-pong. While it took me four months to recover from my own broken tailbone twenty years ago, this artist returned to class in less than two months, retrieving her revered seat in Tim’s art class.
My 92-year-old friend taxis her younger friends to luncheons and outings, for those who can no longer drive. That includes me, who occasionally elicits her services due to my shoulder pain. She is a talented artist and author who has published in Pages of Our Lives Anthology and the annual LEC anthology of art, poetry, photography and creative writing. She is living her golden years to the fullest.
Tim works hard to keep up with his LEC students, who challenge him, taunt him and create masterpieces in art and words in Life Enrichment classes. These friends and students are often older than ourselves and amaze us with their energy and abilities.
What is our daily Golden Age schedule, you may ask?
We struggle out of bed, put on our walking shoes and sally forth into our neighborhood. I laugh at our conversation, which rarely varies as we begin our daily morning constitutional:
“How’s your hip?” My beloved asks.
“Eh. The usual.”
“What about your feet?” I rejoined.
“Pretty good, since I’ve been using the compression socks.”
“What about your shoulder?” He nudges my shoulder, pushing me off balance, due to my bunioned feet.
“Great, since my steroid shot. It’s like a miracle.”
“Yup. That’s science.” Tim replied.
“What about your back?” I queried.
“Good, as long as I don’t overdo.”
Neighbors on the way to work accept our waves and respond to our “Good Morning!” greetings. Tim and I chuckle to one another, sharing their thoughts, which some commuters have stopped to share with us, “What a cute couple you are, walking and holding hands.”
We know what they’re thinking. “What a cute little old couple, still holding hands.”
Yes. That’s us. A cute little old couple in our Golden Years, still holding hands.
We return home to coffee and Raisin Bran or a big breakfast orchestrated by Tim. We watch Leave it To Beaver, not the news, to reconnect to our wonderful fifties childhoods. We laugh over June’s breakfast admonishment to the Beaver, “Be sure to be home in time for dinner.”
We read, discuss and argue about articles in the New Yorker, Smithsonian and National Geographic. We decide what to make for dinner. I write. Tim draws and paints. We are a joyous art colony. We watch lots of TV: YouTube, Netflix, First Responders, PBS, Crime. We take naps. We discover new restaurants and try new recipes. We connect with friends.
Recently Tim was playing his favorite LP’s, John Mellencamp among them. This line really struck me: “Life goes on, long after the joy of living has gone.”
Nope. That’s not us. The joy of living continues. One day at a time. No matter our age. We’re living the life. We live our lives in golden moments. We’re older, but not obsolete. One step in front of the other as we live out our Golden Years. What more can we hope for? Ask us in ten years.