Senior Moments 

by Richard G. Johnstone Jr., Editor

Richard Johnstone
Richard Johnstone

It’s become a widespread, if woefully misguided, catch phrase for forgetfulness … absentmindedness … that far-away look you sometimes have in the middle of a conversation … the pause that’s longer than expected when answering a question … that all-too-frequent clarifying question to your spouse, “What was that you said again, honey?” You know, that reference to “Senior Moments” (as if such moments are largely the province of Seniors!).

I have many such moments, whether it’s forgetting that third item on the mental “to-do” list, or forgetting the point I’ve been trying to make after getting conversationally off-track with stories and anecdotes of obvious enormous interest to me, but only mildly engaging to the listener.

Thing is, I’ve been having these “moments” for years, and at age 49, I’m still four months shy of the Golden Anniversary birthday (and already the recipient of a membership offer from AARP and its many attendant benefits, which I unabashedly accepted, and which are all mine for a modest membership fee, of course).

Perhaps Senior Citizenship for me will actually mean MORE retention of mental points, and MORE ability to conversationally navigate several byways in making a larger point. And that’s precisely the point of this column, and this month’s overarching theme of Senior Citizens.

You see, the notion of Seniors as doddering, stodgy residents of rocking chairs is as outdated as leisure suits and mullets.

The Golden Years may not always have a Midas glow, but then again “Retirement” no longer means retiring from the brisk, rewarding flow of everyday life. Working part-time, volunteering, traveling, starting a second or even third career … these are but a few of the exciting options that more and more Seniors are exercising every day, adding zest and fulfillment and rounded edges to lives that earlier may have been focused mostly or exclusively on caring for, raising, or providing for others.

With breathtaking (and life-giving) medical advances, a standard of living that on average is the highest the world has ever seen, and safer and more efficient automobiles and other labor-saving machinery, the average life span of today’s Americans is nearly twice what it was a mere hundred years ago, when the average life expectancy was about 47. Today, the average life expectancy for men is about 76, for women about 79, and of those who reach age 65, men will live on average to age 82, women to age 85. Amazing.

So those who retire in their 50s, after 30 years or so of full-time employment, could easily be facing (or, we hope, enjoying) as much time in retirement as they did in full-time employment! And even those who work until 65 or beyond frequently still have another 20 years or longer of life without a full-time job.

So much time to have, so much desire to spend it wisely, so much concern about making the retirement nest egg last, so much worry about not being a burden to children or grandchildren. Life is surely different, but it’s just as surely no less complicated in the Golden Years.

The majority of our readers are age 50 or over, and many still remember “when the lights came on” in Virginia’s rural areas, thanks to neighbors helping neighbors form member-owned electric cooperatives. We’ve always been focused on meeting your needs, first and principally for electricity. But we’ve also always been concerned about and involved in addressing the larger needs of the community, for affordable health care, affordable housing, outstanding schools, good roads, and a diversified job base, to name but a few of the items that make any area livable and desirable and healthy, economically and socially, generation after generation.

For three generations, electric cooperatives have helped improve the quality of life in communities all over the Commonwealth, by being locally owned, locally controlled businesses providing a critical service to areas that otherwise would not have had access to that service. There are still some areas of Virginia that even today would likely not have electricity if making a profit were part of the equation. With a cooperative, of course, it’s not: We operate at cost, and if there are any profits (we call them “margins”) at the end of the year, we later return them to our members based on their electricity usage.

And thanks to electric service that’s been both affordable and reliable, Virginia’s rural areas, small towns and emerging suburbs have grown and prospered over the last 65 or 70 years. In many cases, because of all the advances mentioned above and the general prosperity Virginia has enjoyed, Senior Citizens have been able to live comfortably in the communities where they were born, or grew up, or worked, or did all of these things.

The Greatest Generation is still around, though sadly in numbers that diminish daily. Members of the Baby Boom generation that I’m a part of are still largely in awe of the accomplishments and courage of the generation above, even as the oldest members of our generation turn 60 next year.

We hope you enjoy reading our special coverage of Senior issues. These issues will affect us all and apply to us all, if we’re lucky enough to reach a “certain age.” The good news today is, that “certain age” as a marker of ability or options or mental sharpness is rocketing toward irrelevance.

So here’s to Senior Moments: May we all reach them and enjoy them abundantly!


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