aging / art / documentary / writing

Am I Old Yet?

another project

another project

The other evening I watched a documentary on Netflix–Andrews Jenks, Room 335. Have you seen it?

A young 20-something man moves into a retirement community in what must be Florida. I grew up in Florida surrounded by retirement communities. I also spent a great deal of my childhood with my grandmother. Getting along with older people came easy to me. I loved my grandmother. She fascinated me. I’ve never found age to be an issue when making a friend.

In any event, I’m no longer anywhere near 20 and yet I’m not near retirement age either. I wonder how I’d have felt about this documentary if I were 20 years younger? Twenty years older?

I wonder how I would feel about the documentary if I weren’t feeling particularly mortal these days. Call it post cancer awareness or something. Maybe my obituary project has gotten to me. But in any event, parts of the documentary brought tears to my eyes.

I couldn’t help but wonder how not one of the denizens of the retirement community seem to have any interests in writing or art or music. No one talked about books they wanted to write or music they used to play or stage plays they could be in. This could be because of what the documentarian chose to leave on the cutting room floor. The documentary can’t contain every bit of film after all. What if I do manage to live long enough to be in one of the communities and I’m not writing or making art anymore? Does it matter?

When my grandmother finally sold her house and moved into an apartment building for retired people, I was upset. I cried for hours. It was as if my grandmother had publicly stated her intention to die one day. I didn’t want to think about her dying. And she seemed perfectly fine to me. She could do everything for herself. Why would she want to live like an old person? I was in high school.

The building had several things for safety. The management had ways to check on the residents and emergency buttons for residents who might have fallen in the bath. But at the same time, my grandmother often said that she wasn’t old. She still got on stage and danced, after all. How old could she be? She was one of the few residents who opened her windows too. This probably has less to do with age, but my grandmother complained about the old folks who never opened their windows. My grandmother stood up straight and held her head high, all those years of ballet and tap never forgotten.

If you’re striving to be an artist, a writer, a musician, an actor, or a whatever-it-is, where do you think you’ll be at 80? I understand the need for retirement homes. I realize that it is easier for caregivers to have their chargers under one roof. Care is easier that way, isn’t it? If safety and care are your priorities, then they work. But I can’t help but feel we are better off being surrounded by different people. By different people I mean different in many ways–different races, different religions, and different ages. I don’t know how Andrew Jenks talked his way into the retirement home, but it seemed that both he and the residents benefited.

Anyway, that’s what I’ve watched recently. How about you?

5 thoughts on “Am I Old Yet?

  1. Marta I really enjoyed reading this. Thank you.

    We say that age is largely a state of mind -and I do believe that, but, age is also a state of body. Even the hale and hearty have nervous children, who need to know that their parent, their loved one is some place “safe”. The reality is there is no place that is safe from the inevitable. There might be a place that causes others to worry less about their aging folk.

    • It’s like the quote I posted the other day on FB. Safety is what we want for the people we love, and autonomy is what we want for ourselves.

      Thanks for reading!

  2. When I was a lot younger I always said I’d like to open a home that had the elderly on one side and children on the other with a communal are between. I was sure that both sides would benefit. The young would get the benefit of some sage advice and the elderly a reminder that they didn’t have to give up on life just because they were retired.
    Like your grandmother, some people move into homes for practical reasons rather than running a large house but they can still retain a large degree of independence and that’s what those capable should aim for.
    I was 64 on Sunday and don’t feel ready for the knackers yard yet. I live in sheltered accommodation though and people would expect a degree of giving up, no chance, I still have my computer and a blogging arm as well as an internal view of myself as younger.
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx

    • Yes, taking care of a house is a big job. That’s why my grandmother gave it up. The place she moved into allowed a great deal of freedom, and it was an apartment building, not a gated community. I spent a lot of time there.

      Don’t give up and keep writing.

      Also, Happy Birthday!

  3. I love my home too much and need to be surrounded by our animals. I could never live in a place that would confine me with their rules. Not much into the company of people other then my s/o. I do like your idea if one went into a retirement community, that there would be diversity. There should be center where people could just go to spend time if they needed community.

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