Contentment: The reward of longevity

Norbert Rug

I thought I would feel completely different about growing older.

I thought I'd worry more about gray hair and the spare tire that would collect around my midsection after I retired. As I enter my 70s, I can't muster more than a shrug about those things. a meh. Last I remember, I was in my 20s, so I don’t know where the last 50 years went.

Instead, what I find terrifying about getting older is that I've lost the capability to comprehend what people do and why they do it.

Up until recently — more recently than I really want to confess — I didn’t know what a "meme" was. I had to look up the word on the internet and even now I am not really sure I understand what memes are. It was about a week ago, when I decided to dig deep down into my own oblivion, that I discovered Drake is not just a male duck.

I need a good strong drink and a warm bath to reduce my stress every time I need to recall a password. I have trouble using the four remotes that control my TV, devices that my seven-year-old grandsons can use in their sleep. Remotes are bad enough. I see we can now turn our lights on and off, lock and unlock doors and adjust thermostats with a smart phone. I just want to make a phone call!

I also have no idea how to use Snapchat, WhatsAPP, Tumbler or Venmo, whatever those are. I have a Facebook account, mainly because I want to let people know how things are going, to see how they are doing, find recipes and promote my writing. I have a Twitter account that I only use to stay in touch with a granddaughter who is now going to school out of state.

I'm hearing that cutting back on social media is becoming trendy, so I might just find out that I am, for one brief second, accidentally on-point. We will see how long that lasts. What should I do now? Try to close up the void between the generations, or embrace it?

A few years ago, when I first started to sense a technological gap opening between me and the youth, I tended to enjoy it, much like an old person who's reached that spot in life where it's perfectly acceptable to dismiss all new music as racket or trip a passerby with my cane just because.

People a few generations behind me are now becoming parents and CEOs, and I am becoming exactly what I've spent the past 40 years accusing my elders of being, angrily befuddled by every new skill needed to get by in life.

When I was in school, “pop culture” just seemed like a course you took for the easy credits, not something that was fun, but I did pay attention because it was fun. Part of the charm of becoming an adult was that I could stop working on the oppressively boring task of keeping up with pop culture or remembering trigonometry, history and the periodic table of the elements.

Now, though, it turns out that there's even more for me to try and jam into my brain. The problem is I've been in an elective educational coma for a few decades, having reached my total interest level in modern culture. I don’t know how many Kardashians there are, nor do I care. Just the thought of trying to catch up on everything I've missed now is exhausting.

I'm a member of a generation that can remember a time before texting, email and chat rooms. I learned these things slowly during my 40s, and it wasn't a problem. I scoffed at, and even felt bad for, anyone who was older and said they weren't prepared to try new stuff.

We have a very negative stereotype of people in their 70s and that stereotype is usually incorrect. Elderly people are very likely to describe the last five or ten years of their lives as the happiest years.

It may come as a surprise to some, but studies have shown that seniors are among the happiest segments of the population and they are frequently more contented than people in middle age. Older people frequently have a very healthy sense of satisfaction that comes from their achievements. These accomplishments don’t need be great feats.

In the lyric, “A working class hero is something to be,” John Lennon explained it succinctly. Achievements like being happily married, raising healthy and happy children, serving in the military or retiring from a company after years of dedicated service, may see ordinary, but they can be the basis of contentment in old age.