For those of you planning to live forever, reconsider. At 78, every day I feel my body is betraying me. I exercise, eat properly, keep active, but my stamina keeps dropping, muscles disappear, energy levels crash. I wash and detail the SUV, the next day I feel like a gang beat me up. What would 150 feel like? I don't want to think about that unlikely future.
For geezers, life is a daily challenge. It is a fair assumption nobody gets out of this alive, but we do live much longer. Are local authorities ready for us? More than 18 percent of Mesa County is 65 or older (28,190 seniors). Senior numbers are rising quickly. The U.S. is now 15 percent senior and will be around 24 percent by 2060.
Seniors face frequent and unanticipated awakenings. Suddenly you worry about things your grandmother mentioned — but you probably weren't listening. Living "normally" means unwilling adjustments. Only a young person could have coined the phrase "growing old gracefully." We can live pretty well, but needs change, sometimes radically.
Accommodation with pain is necessary. Whether relying on over-the-counter pain relief, opioids, medical marijuana or meditation, pain can be unrelenting and exhausting. I learned to ignore most pain and keep going. Maintaining mobility then became a concern. Joints don't work well, muscles wither, stamina disappears, formerly unknown diseases become daily companions.
Lots of people you know die. Last August a death cascade started — friends, acquaintances, relatives. It started with Paonia's Ed Marston — only months older than me, we grew up a few miles apart and shared many viewpoints. I met him in Crawford at age 60. Ed survived major heart surgery, but months later a mosquito bite and West Nile took him in a week. Senior immune systems get weaker. Then, for months, every few weeks someone died. I'd heard about this from my mother who lived to 89. Now I understand. I try to ignore obituaries, but sometimes can't resist. Most people dying are five years older or younger than me. Mortality becomes real and how to live now is the present challenge.
Perhaps you are looking for increasingly rare handicapped parking. I remember not long ago mostly empty handicapped spaces; not now. Despite unhappy knees and back, for years I resisted a handicapped placard. That was for old people, not me. I convinced myself I am 20, though a rather decrepit 20. Finally, I swallowed my pride and got the placard. Now I worry people think I am faking because I can walk well for short distances, and sometimes much longer ones. Every time is different. People can't see the pain. Maybe I should pretend to limp.
Now I am righteously upset about scarce handicapped parking. A supermarket on 24 Road has most handicapped spaces where seniors have to back into the highest traffic area. No one realized seniors can't easily turn our necks to see traffic behind us. Handicapped only get two spaces per block on Main St., though seniors are likely to shop at bricks and mortar retail. People just don't realize senior needs until they join geezerdom. I didn't.
As Mesa County attracts retirees, there will be more demand for senior transportation, such as home to destination and back mini-buses. Such services have to be provided or heavily subsidized by government. More push button automatic doors will be needed. Will stores and restaurants need corrals for walkers?
Years ago there was a call for more gerontologists — specialists for seniors. The call went unheard. Internists became senior specialists by default. But there aren't enough internists. With more seniors, where are internists coming from? Without foreign born doctors (29 percent of all U.S. docs), it may take longer to see a doctor. Will limiting immigration cause an even worse doctor crisis?
Attracting retirees is good business. We bring outside money through Social Security, Medicare and investment income and support local businesses, especially the medical industry. We pay school taxes, but don't use schools. We help as volunteers. Active seniors supplement the tourist industry. The senior property tax exemption only is available to a limited group who own their home for 10 years. Little appears to be spent on senior needs.
Local authorities have established senior agencies. The Sentinel publishes an annual guide. But, is it enough? How many seniors are aware of these groups and have used their services? What more can be done?
A month ago I suggested hospital CEOs contact me about creating customers' panels to discuss improving senior health care. None did. What do other seniors think about doctors and the sufficiency of senior services? Are your needs being met?
Gene Goffin is retired and lives on Glade Park.Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.