I look around and I see a group of people nearing sixty. Most of my friends were born in 62, like me, so we’re fast approaching that age. A few others are slightly younger, and a few of the men are older by a few years. So, sixty it is for us. Someone was saying the other day, as a joke: “From my birthday on, if I’m run over by a car, they won’t say ‘a man was run over by a car’, but ‘a sexagenarian was run over by a car.’ You always see it I the papers and on TV!” We all laughed, but I’m sure no one found it really funny.
It seems as you get older you start losing your personality. After some time, you are no longer referred to as a “man” or a “woman” but as an “elderly citizen”. People look down on you, complacently, as if you were already losing your faculties; they even speak to you in a slower mode, as if you couldn’t hear them well. And they mostly ignore you – they see nothing useful in your contribution to society. This happens even more after you retire – you’re out of the production game, you no longer matter.
Worst of all is that with age come sickness and disease. Usually after forty your eyesight worsens and it’s a steady, non-stopping process – until you have your cataract operation, that will leave you like new, thank God for it! But several other ailments begin to plague you, and consider yourself lucky if they are minor, like cervical pain and painful joints, arthritis, or tendinitis, because some friends have been diagnosed with cancer these past few years – all of them, thankfully, are cured, and the last one has a good prognosis. But it’s scary, to say the least. Of course, most of them – the men, especially – drag along their high cholesterol, others their diabetes, or their high pressure. And most of us women still occasionally feel the heats and sweating of our early menopause years, not to mention other, more unpleasant, and so better not mentioned, effects.
Many couples are feeling their sex life fade away, losing interest… others, being lonely, have simply decided to remember the good old times and forget this part of their lives. After all, even if you meet someone at sixty it’s not going to be the best sex of your life, so better not harbour any illusions… more, in these last two years the probability of meeting someone new, interesting, with whom to begin a new relationship has been next to zero, with all the lockdowns and lack of social life.
And coming back to the legions of lonely women, who have decided they have had enough of unsatisfying relationships and will rather be alone, or those who have lost a much-loved partner, or even those who would still like to find the love of their lives but have no illusions about that… even if they lead active social lives and have many friends, there must be those moments of loneliness. The other day I found a phrase that said something like “You begin to feel lonely when you realize you are not the most important person in the world to anyone”. It made me stop and think.
Naturally, the problem is that you’re sixty or more. When you felt lonely, in your teens or twenties or even thirties, it was just a question of time until somebody new came along and you were lonely no more. Now, loneliness comes to stay, and you better face it, accept it – and try to make the most of it. Because I also know people who still cling together although they cannot bear each other’s sight, just because they have a house in common, or other assets, or children and grandchildren, and they simply don’t have the courage or the strength to begin anew… at sixty. And to be fair – to begin what?
So, my friends, let’s stop all the silly talk about sixties being the new forties – they’re not. Twenty years ago, I was fit, didn’t wear glasses, did not have 99% of the ailments that now curse my life and take me from doctors to physical therapists and clinical tests and MRIs and such. I could still move my neck to both sides without difficulty and wake up without this permanent pain on my right shoulder. But the problem is – it can only get worse. I cannot imagine how it will be when my friends begin to die – hopefully I will before most of them. Losing your lifelong companions must be the most horrible thing and if I start thinking about that then I will be truly depressed. So, I’m going to shake all these stupid, ugly thoughts about soon being sixty from my mind and live for today. I’m still healthy, with a few minor health issues that may be a nuisance but will not kill me, as far as I know. My friends are fairly well and those who aren’t will be treated and cured; the lockdown is over, we are all vaccinated, the numbers of infected are going down and discos will be opening next month. And now that I think of it – I still have more than a year to go before I turn sixty!
Photo bt Sven Mieke on Unsplash