The association that is the Canadian equivalent of the American Association for Retired Persons (AARP) has a better acronym, CARP. It's probably my all-time favourite acronym, because if there's one thing age 50-plusses do with abandon, it's carp.
You meet a positive senior, you think, Must be the meds. Optimism is as rare as an unfurrowed face, content is kept to a discreet murmur, and the present cannot compare to times gone by.
A bookstore manager told me, "We've had great response from the customers, except for one type who complain about what we carry, how we display the books and our return policy. That's fair, but they take so much time making their point." I knew what she would say next: "They are all retired folks."
Being older is like being in a relationship: you'd better pick your spots, and if you whinge about everything, no one will want you around. Recently a friend complained that she always gets offered a seat on the bus or subway. Below her complaint was chagrin at being seen as an older person. She said, "I always turn it down." For me, the offer is a gesture of civility, and I have no problem being seen as someone who might need it. Stand or sit: to each her own.
But I carp plenty, sometimes here: clothes aren't made as well as they once were, fair employment practices have eroded, and don't get me started about the rise of personal debt. But as 2017 rolls in, I am grateful that two friends and a nephew who have faced harrowing diagnoses over the past year are doing well thanks to advanced medical treatment that didn't exist forty years ago.
I'm grateful for the access to information, and especially to culture, provided by technology. When I visited my home town last fall, the present owners of my childhood home spoke of their delight with their recent move. I, however, remembered an isolating—if beautiful—place, which I ached to leave so that I could see a ballet or professional theatre performance. The Internet would have helped.
Fleece-lined socks, the ubiquity of recycling programs, Greek-style yogurt at the corner store, jeans with stretch, safer cars, more acceptance of diversity: these are welcome differences from "the way things used to be" when I was around twenty, anticipating adult life. And I must add: the FIT test, which screens a segment of mature adults so that not everyone requires a periodic colonoscopy? Brilliant.
I am grateful for things that were beyond my imagination (my nephew's bone marrow transplant, which used cells from a donor in Germany), the trivial (nail-buffer blocks), and social movements that keep us moving toward a better world, such as efforts to register voters and resettle migrants.
If I focus mainly on what has changed for the worse, I can easily slide into that peevish-elder mode, the one many younger adults expect, the caricature too often validated.
So, I invite you to help me. What's come along in the last thirty or forty years that has made life better for you or your community?