Connections: You’re Kidding Me

Our bodies give evidence of our having grown older, sure, but have our minds inevitably followed suit?

Does a person really revert to childhood in old age? Clearly, that can be true in extremes, as when dementia sets in. But what about ordinary aging, the kind that I and many of my friends now testify to? Our bodies give evidence of our having grown older, sure, but have our minds inevitably followed suit? No way.

I have a longtime friend who is 10 years older than I and has always been a role model. If she can do XYZ — yoga, political activism, attendance on the boards of various organizations — I can, too. Of course, maybe I’m indulging myself in wishful thinking on that score: Although we share the good fortune of both our sets of parents having lived into their 90s, there are genetic differences between us. Her father was a wrestler; mine went bowling. My friend was always athletic; me, not so much.

Given that my friend and I have had more up-to-date health care than our parents did in the course of their lifetimes, we should probably live longer than our parents did, barring any unfortunate accident or lightning-strike malady.

I asked my friend the other day if she wanted to make it to 100. “No way,” she said. 

But as for me? A hundred? Oh, yes, I want to hang in there as long as I can.

My mother, who dabbled in real estate as a career late in life, was very active long after most of her friends had decided to throw in the kitchen towel and stay homebound. She was an absolute card shark, outwitting her grandchildren at bridge and canasta, when she was 93 and 94.

Given my optimism about my own longevity, I absolutely refuse to entertain the possibility that I could wind up bedridden, or disabled with Alzheimer’s disease, at some point in the future. Hanging around a nursing home? You have to be kidding me.

Nevertheless, my husband, whose mobility isn’t what it once was, and I have been watching time pass and begun talking about suitable future living arrangements, with an eye toward what might come. We took a look at a brochure the other day for Peconic Landing, the planned community in Greenport that welcomes people over 62. Peconic Landing offers living quarters that can be simple apartments or more elaborate cottages, with all services and conveniences (snowplowing, linens, cleaning, landscaping) handled by the management, as well as guaranteeing continuing health care for those who eventually come to need assistance. It also promises a relay of cultural activities, concerts, and lectures.

It doesn’t sound that bad, I suppose, if you can afford the high costs. But my main intention as I age is to stay as close as possible to my grandchildren here in East Hampton and Amagansett. Revert to childhood? Forget about it. Stay young by hanging around with children? That’s what I’m talking about.