2017: Reasons to be cheerful

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?


SewingLibrarian said…
The sea-change in the way genealogy is practiced has allowed me to research my ancestors in a way that was impossible 30 years ago. Not just DNA testing (I haven't done that yet), but the sheer numbers of records that are available online is astounding! I'm grateful that the Church of Latter Day Saints makes their extraordinary resources available to anyone, not just their own membership, and I try to pay them back by volunteering at the local family history center once a week.
I second the recommendation of the FIT testing! :-) And always the Canadian Healthcare system - not perfect but I thank my lucky stars that I live here every time I read posts from US bloggers about how much their insurance costs, how they cannot afford to make a simple visit to their doctor - how much a simple break or what we would consider a bit of routine surgery sets them back financially - it never fails to shock me.
And I thank you for pointing out so many of the positive aspects of our daily lives that so many of us take for granted - I have found the recent ongoing negativity about so much quite exhausting - it's good to be reminded of how much things have improved in so many ways over the last few decades. And I don't find the negativity confined to us more senior types - I am often shocked at conversations I overhear on the subway from much younger types - I sometimes want to shake them and tell them to "snap out of it" - but - we each have to learn how to deal with life's knocks in our own ways and learn to appreciate all that life has to offer as we go along.
Madame Là-bas said…
I love it when a seat on public transit is offered. Since I stopped dying my hair, younger people are very courteous. The Canadian healthcare system provided surgery and support for my daughter, diagnosis and treatment of skin cancer for my husband and mother. The FIT test makes things a lot easier for all. I facilitate a book club at a community centre and our oldest member 90+
rides the bus across town to attend. Nary a complaint. Certainly housing and immigrants have become topics of complaint but that is because wages have not kept up with the cost of living and there has been no social housing built in the last 20 years. Thank you for a thoughtful post. I'm sure that it will inspire a lot of discussion.
Unknown said…
You are a treasure, as always.
Carping is a popular sport here in the US too.
How about Skype? I can see my loved ones even when they are thousands of miles away. How about mobile phones? You can have an emergency, or epiphany, or organizational task and take care of it anywhere, anytime.
If one is selective and rigorous, the Internet can be a wealth of verifiable data.
How about cameras and mobile phone videos recording abuse and violence that used to just get buried and never challenged?
Those are off the top of my head, but today will be a day filled with observing what-is-new-and-good. Thanks.
Great post!
The Internet!!!! Lots to hate about it, but the access to information (not the dubious kind) that it affords is something I treasure on a daily - nay - hourly basis.
Lynn said…
Wonderful attitude! I second the internet and cell phones which let us communicate with friends and family across the world as well as find information easily. Also, better medicines that allow us to cure and control medical issues that would have killed us 50 - 60 years ago. Stretch fabrics that bend when we do, as well as the fact that women don't have to wear dresses, hose and hats all the time. Perhaps most of all more acceptance of diversity -- certainly not perfect but so much better than when I was young.
Susan B said…
Smartphones are such a boon to travel! No need to be weighed down with bulky equipment and guidebooks. My phone also functions as a camera, map, information booth, and with a reader app can even be a book-on-the-go.
materfamilias said…
Hear Hear! I remember Heather Malick writing a column quite a few years ago, when she was still at G&M, in which she made note of things she wanted to avoid doing as she got older. . . carping would have been one of those (another was telling a favourite story over and over).
For me, the easy connection with my daughter's family in Rome is probably the change I'm most grateful for. But I can remember my mom getting us to try an avocado in the mid-60s when technology introduced us to a wealth of new foods. Yes, I know there are good reasons to stick to regional and seasonal food, and I try to skew the balance towards those, but oh, I feel so lucky to live with such culinary richness. I could walk two blocks in my neighbourhood this afternoon and come home with more spices than the local grocery store could ever have imagined "back in the day."
And what about mufflers that don't have to be replaced several times over the life of the car? Our car is 17 years old, still on its original muffler, and I remember when you'd scarcely get 5 years from one.
What a good prod your post is -- I could go on and on with all the improvements (although, sure, there are a few practices or products I get nostalgic for).
Unknown said…
Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful.
I can't tell you how many times I have had to explain to younger folks that while it seems as though not much progress has been made, the progress that has been made has changed the fabric of Western society.
I remember my mother thrusting her arm across my chest while in the car if she had to make a sudden stop, as if her arm could protect me in an accident (before seat belts). I remember having to say the Lord's prayer in school in spite of the fact that my teacher and several of my classmates were Jewish. I remember as a new entrant into the working world having to endure listening to dirty jokes made by my white haired bosses who had just come back from martini lunches.
There is so much to be grateful for in our modern life. Yes, there are still problems; we humans are great at creating problems, and better yet, whining about them. However, we are also great at finding solutions for them even if one small step at a time. This, as I tell my students (ad nauseum) is why they must understand history-not to perseverate about present setbacks, but to realize that in time, it will all "sugar off" as we say in Vermont.
Now, my spell check funtion on my smart computer is indicating that I have spelled a few words incorrectly for which I am sorry, but I have said enough.
Thanks again for the post. Carol
materfamilias, I think you (and others) would really enjoy Rachel Roddy's blog in the Guardian, "A Kitchen in Rome" - not only typical home cooking recipes but a look at daily family life in the city.

I can't seem to copy it (I'm not on my own computer) but it is easy to Google or go to the Guardian website and search for Rachel Roddy or "A Kitchen in Rome". Yes, there is nasty stuff on the web, but a lot of pleasant and useful sites as well.
Paula said…
The internet, smart phones, comfy fabrics, quality cars, medical advances, ethnic food availability, giant rolls of toilet paper...I could go on but 64 is a good place to be.
Today I went to a dentist with an old cracked filling and tooth with hairline fissures. Two hours later I walked out with a permanent crown. I wish I could add the video I took of the tiny robots milling my crown as I watched. Making the permanent crown took exactly 12 minutes from a chunk of what? White stuff to my perfect little crown. Wow!
Duchesse said…
Sewing: Fascinating addition, thanks!

Margie: It is true our system (and similar in other countries) is a boon to so many who would not have had care otherwise. And even when though I do pay for dentistry I should have mentioned modern dentistry compared to what I knew as a child (never given local anesthesia.)

Mme: I do notice how I am dressed makes a difference, too In jeans I get fewer offers but when dressed up a bit I guess I look more like my age, or possibly even older.

Unknown: You have joined others ho laud technology. When I was small I wondered what the big breakthrough would be. For most of us in terms of everyday life, it is in telecommunications.

The Widow Badass: I am looking forward to when assistive devices meet the Internet (cheaply and with ease of use), because as we age, and do not see or hear with such acuity we will still want our Net.

Lynne L: Not one woman has nominated pantyhose!

une femme: When I worked in tech, in the early days the engineers would tell us our whole life would be on our phones, from making bank deposits to arming our home burglar alarms to making videos. We could only kind of believe them!

materfamilias: Oh yes, getting every sort of food. Or what about being able to order a sweater from France and having it show up on your doorstep three days later (granted that is expedited shipping.) Funny about the avocado, I remember my mother bringing mung bean sprouts home the first time. My father refused to eat them.

Carol: All her life, when a passenger, my mother rode with her seatbelt held out, away from her dress. She thought death was preferable to wrinkled outfits, I guess. I love that saying/

lagatta: Thanks for that link, for all of us!

Paula: Too funny, I remember when 4 rolls was a big pack!

Leslie M said…
Ditto for everything already posted. I can add backup cameras on newer automobiles, induction stovetops (boils water in seconds!), microwave ovens, photochromatic eyeglass lenses, and changes in fashion that no longer require one matches necklaces to earrings, rings and bracelets. Thank you for reminding us to focus on the positive. This will be beneficial for us living in the US for the next 4 years.
Duchesse said…
Nelson Bartley: From what you described to implants and invisible braces, modern dentistry is a wonder. In my parents' time, hardly anyone expected to keep their own teeth all their life.

Leslie Milligan: You said it, sister. Who imagined we could carry all the music we wanted on an iPod or on our phones? And goodbye to perms. Can you even buy a home perm anymore?
Julie said…
Not just the internet for knowledge and research, it can be the avenue for those of us who have limited social interaction. It keeps our minds and spirits active.
Duchesse said…
Julie: The internet has gotten a bad rap, because of cyber-bullying, trolling, and other behaviours. Certainly it has been an enormous aid for social interaction. Perhaps the positive effects (which I have seen firsthand in my own family) have not received the credit they deserve. Thank you for pointing that out.
s. said…
Lasik and improvements in various necessary eye surgeries such as treating cataracts! Advances in fertility treatments and acceptance of single motherhood, allowing me to become a first-time single mother at the age of 44! The abolition of smoking on airplanes, in workplaces, restaurants and cafes! Kobos, Kindles etc. which allow me to take out library books from the comfort of my own home!
Northmoon said…
In addition to all the wonderful technology available now, I'm grateful for the women's movement. Because of the demand for equal opportunities I had a professional career with good pay and benefits which means that I have a comfortable retirement even though I don't have a husband. Baring a calamity I won't spend my old age in poverty having to eat cat food.

I still remember being told in high school that women shouldn't bother with advanced university courses because they were just going to get married and look after a family. Also being told at one of my first office jobs that I couldn't be promoted to a sales rep because some man might rape me when I visited him in his office! Seriously! Attitudes have changed a lot.

CARP is a lovely acronym isn't it?
emma said…
Improved birth control!
New advances in medicine - if I had been born in 1926 instead of 1956, I would have died from sepsis when an endometrial cyst burst inside me in my Twenties. Emergency surgery saved me!
More career options for women. It's not perfect...but it's so much better than it was.
Affordable laptop computers, so I can research and write almost anywhere!
Digital cameras - you can crop and enhance your photos yourself. And you can weed through photos. No more dropping off a roll of film at a photo lab and waiting for a week to get them back - and paying for the ones that were out of focus!
Duchesse said…
s.: Your contribution of your of single motherhood at 44 takes the Smile Award!

Northmoon: Even though the Association has broadened its mandate, they kept the acronym, good for them!
I remember one member of my thesis committee saying, "I don't give a rat's ass about your degree because you are never going to use it." I quoted him when, about 15 years later, my university asked me to contribute to a survey about women students in that particular college. I got a note of apology from another (male) prof who did not make the remark, but was present and said nothing. I like to think that remark would not be made now or at very least he would be called on it.

emma: At a dinner party not long ago, every guest said they would likely have been dead without advances in medicine in the last 45 years or so: one from rheumatic fever, two during their births, one giving birth, one who survived a car wreck, someone with an aneurysm and our host, who had survived an infection thanks to a brand new drug, penicillin. I am glad you got this life, twenty is so young.

All: This has been so much fun! If you have more thoughts, please return to add. I take heart from these observations.
Nothing is too small: spandex (in small doses), mobile libraries, community autos, magic sponges, Netflix...
Am I allowed a tiny carp about dental care being about the ONLY thing not covered under our otherwise exemplary health system?

I'll add something positive though. I have soft cr*ppy teeth because I was allergic to cow's milk as a child and there were very few alternatives back then (moreover cow's milk was a sign of postwar prosperity so its consumption was practically mandatory). Nowadays allergies are taken far more seriously - yes, some people have fake "intolerances" or allergies, but taking real ones seriously can be a lifesaver. And there are far more food and supplement alternatives available now.

A close friend of mine, who is a pensioner now, was physically kicked out of his home at the age of 16 in rural Québec sometime in the 1960s for being gay - I don't even know how this was known or suspected. He moved to Montréal and had a very hard time at first, but was one of the pioneers in that movement here. Later, he moved back to a smaller city in his home region and retrained as a healthcare worker, spending years taking care of elderly people in a longterm care facility - and was an excellent, careful and humane worker. Nowadays, while the kind of violent prejudice he experienced 50 years ago is not unknown, it is far rarer and attitudes have changed dramatically

And as for Rome, materfamilias and la Duchesse, thanks to the net, skype etc, I can keep in touch with my friends from there and elsewhere. I've been conversing with a client about a project, though the client is in London. There is a lot of nasty stuff on the web, but it is a great boon in many ways.
Duchesse said…
lagatta: It would be wonderful to have every form of health care paid for: dental care, physiotherapy (which once was covered), all medications, vision care. But the country cannot afford to fund everything- unless we are willing to pay higher taxes. Dental care is covered if it requires hospitalization, as, for example, in the case of multiple injuries sustained in a car crash. There is the option to buy one's own dental insurance through professional associations or other affiliations if you are self employed. (But your policy has limits and does not cover cosmetic work.

I know someone who was discharged from the army because he was gay. He used to say, "I got a medal for killing twenty men and and a dishonourable discharge for loving one."
LauraH said…
Late to the party but I just wanted to say how much I love this post! Every time I hear that acronym, it reminds me not to be a complainer. Just back from three weeks in Lesotho, I am more grateful than ever for hot water, modern plumbing, decent roads, and diverse, healthy food. All the 'little' things make up a big part of my contentment and happiness and I try to appreciate them every day.

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