Key to Golden Years: Laugh Like a Child, Don’t Take Things So Seriously

By David L. Podos

“A man growing old becomes a child again.”   Sophocles

David Podos is a life-long resident of Utica and a retiredadjunct instructor at Mohawk Valley community College. He has written about health-related issues for In Good Health for the past seven years.

I feel that to pay constant attention to my growing older is akin to watching paint dry.

The question is: why would I waste my time doing either?

The answer often is more challenging. It can be a conundrum until we take a look with a different perspective.

The paint on the wall will dry and my staring at it won’t make it dry one iota quicker.

Every moment of our lives we are aging. It will continue until our “expiration” date is up regardless of how much I kvetch about it. So, why waste time with such things?

Of course, for many people, myself included, entering into their golden years often can bring a sense of peace and contentment, but on the other hand it can bring dread from facing serious illnesses, financial challenges and loss of loved ones or friends.

Then there are the reminders that your youth has long passed you by.

I am reminded of this most mornings as I wake up, get out of bed and take my first step, tepid at first, as my legs might be hurting from the walk I did on the treadmill the day before. Perhaps my back is bothering me from my workout on my Bowflex or my knees just seem unwilling to bend. With some effort and persistence these annoyances decrease as my morning routine increases.

One such morning after making coffee and setting the table, I found my thoughts drifting off and I get a flashback where I see myself as the runner I was, lean, fast, in my early 20s — and the voice in my head bubbles up and says, “remember when you could run 10 miles like a deer, without even being short of breath?”

Time, an odd construct, each person experiences time in their own way. For many physicists time is not fundamentally real. But for most of us it is very real. If you want to experience the passage of time and see just how old you are or how fast time has flown by, take a few minutes and look at some of those old photo albums you have tucked away over the years.

A while back my wife was rummaging through old picture albums, took one out and came to me and said, “recognize who this is?” It was me in my early 30s. At first, I didn’t recognize myself, then I said, “that can’t possibly be me.”

The other day I was having coffee at my local Dunkin’ Donuts when a friend of mine whom I hadn’t seen in quite some time walked in. We spent the next 10 minutes talking about our aches and pains. When he left, I thought, “isn’t that old people talk we just had?” And the answer boomed inside my head with a resounding yes!

But I guess I should be grateful.

Several months ago, I had my annual physical. I always get a bit apprehensive when my doctor sits at the laptop in the examination room going over my blood work. He is silent as he moves from page to page. I get a quick glimpse of charts, number formulas and other medical jargon as I look over his shoulder, watching as he scrolls further down. I have no clue what the medical terminology means. He finally turns and says, “So, David, you’re going to be 71 this July?” I say “yes” with some trepidation in my voice. He says, “Perfect bloodwork, actually this is the kind of blood profile I see in my patients who are in their 50s” A big smile comes over my face!

For me, some of the big advantages of having reached my 70s is not having to work full time anymore, not having that dread hanging over me as I slug off to a job I either despise or having to work for a psychotic boss (and I have had a number of them). Really, who needs that stress?

It has also given me a sense of what is important in my life, who I want to associate with, what hobbies I want to take up and what risks I am willing to take as my time horizon for how many years I still have left on this planet inevitably dwindles downwards.

This can be both a blessing as well as a curse. For instance, if the money I have invested tanks, (stock market crash) how long will it take before I can make up the loss? At 33 who cares? At 70, it’s a big deal. Time now isn’t my friend but my nemesis.

I think of my dad often. He died five years ago just shy of his 98th birthday. He could be a real jokester when he wanted to be. One of Dad’s jokes was to go into a store and when he took his purchase up to the register he would reach into his pocket and take out a small cloth sack which contained a number of washers, ask the person at the register if he could pay with them, all the while chuckling away, just like a kid.

Maybe that’s the secret to a long life well lived as we enter into our golden years: laugh like a child, don’t take things so seriously no matter how bad it might seem, all things pass. So, I guess Sophocles was right. Growing old you become a child again.

Now, I just have to find some washers and a cloth sack.