What do you like, and what do...


What do you like, and what do you enjoy, about growing older?

Now, before you rush to judgment, protesting that it's all down hill after 50, let's state for the record that this column views the glass as half full. If you truly believe the same glass is half empty, then turn please to the crossword puzzle or, if you choose, the obituaries.

Meanwhile, we members of the Blue Sky Brigade are about to get busy, laughing at ourselves and the inexorable aging process. To help with this exercise, we call upon Sun Belt retirees Louise and John Beddow, both in their young 70s, yet as active as any pair of adolescents, with travel, courses, family visits and volunteering.

First to the podium is Louise, wife, mother and member of the Women's Army Corps (WAC) in World War II, with service overseas in Italy. "It may sound strange," she begins, "but I like my looks more than when I really and truly cared how I looked to other people. Today, I no longer have to play the 'fashion slave,' wearing fancy outfits that aren't in keeping with my personality and, blessedly, I don't have to walk around all day in pointy-toed shoes.

"Instead, I can be pleased with who I am and how I want to dress. In that same spirit, I can be pleased with our three daughters without feeling responsible for what they do. And I no longer feel that I have to volunteer work; I just do what pleases me. In my younger years, in my role as the stay-at-home mom, I was always saying yes to one or the other volunteer organizations, because I felt it was my obligation, my duty.

"I suppose the word to describe how I feel and how I behave these days is 'freedom'! I do what pleases me. Remember when the hippie generation used to preach, 'If it feels good, do it'? Well, that's Louise these days. And if someone wants to label me as selfish, that's OK, too.

"Moreover, I don't feel guilty about not fulfilling what I am supposed to accomplish. For example, society expects us women to be homemakers and chefs, the food servers. Well, I don't cook as much as I once did. You know the line: 'What does an older woman make for dinner? Answer: The reservations.' I'm doubly fortunate: 1) I have good digestion and eat anything. I love food. 2) I have a husband who squires me to dinner, often."

Husband John, a former hospital administrator who has completed 15 college courses since retiring, and insists on zipping around his hometown of Melbourne, Fla., on a motor bike, signs in with a long and specific list of why he enjoys adding years to his life. Louise, the family secretary, explains that "John tends to think of external things, while my reactions to the questions were internal. You know, how I feel about myself."

John wastes no time declaring that he's "glad to be alive. I'm glad to have Social Security and Medicare, and I like all the senior specials, the marked-down prices available in restaurants, motels, car rentals, air fares, ballparks and other recreations.

"I like having senior banking privileges (no check charges, extra service), I like senior centers, I especially like discounts on drugs and medications. You know, Louise and I are 'official cheap persons.' We'll travel 20 miles to save $3.75 on a bed-and-breakfast place. So you can imagine how I feel about free college admission and elderhostels, where we get to travel, to learn, to have a vacation, all for a sensible and fair price. In fact, our next hostel is in Italy.

"Then, as an older adult, I like being able to speak on any subject without fear of being wrong. I know I'm not always right, and I've grown to the point I can readily admit I'm mistaken. I cherish long-established relationships and I can truthfully say that I have more affection for my wife today. Further, our children are mature, productive, responsible citizens -- and that's a source of pride.

"Lastly, we seniors vote in great numbers and so we have a measurable impact upon our government. That also affords us a good feeling."

* Tribune Media Services

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