At 68, I’m Just a Disordered Senior

I’m turning 68 this month so have decided I should probably plan my future.

I’m not planning a new career. I’m just a pensioner who wants to do some new things before I reach my expiration date. It’s my bucket list. I’ve mentioned it before but these things can change on you, especially when COVID messes everything up. In fact, I don’t even remember what was on my earlier list. It was in my head only. I didn’t write anything down because that makes life more interesting.

The biggest shock to me in retirement is that I am now in charge of planning my day. While working, your days are mostly planned for you and out of your control. You only get to plan how you’ll use your precious few free hours when not working.

Now, you’d think I’d be satisfied in my retirement doing nothing, which includes sitting in a lounge chair watching old reruns on MeTV. After all, isn’t that what you aim for while still working? I can assure you that it will always be on my bucket list because it’s a work in progress. It’s one that I’ll be working on to the end. Unfortunately for everyone, it’s also one that can easily take over all your time if you let it. Remember, you are in charge of planning your day when retired so you have to remind yourself to stay focused.

So I know I need to do other things each day. And that’s where the quandary is. What we do once we retire is based partly on how much time we think we have left. A bucket list, to me, contains adventures with wider horizons than some mundane task like painting a room. I suppose it could be on someone’s list. Certainly not mine. Catherine and I want to do some traveling. But how much time and energy will it take for a trip somewhere? Is it more of a challenge than we want?

These decisions depend on how much is left in our tanks and how we want to spend it. The tanks are just symbolic measurements of our remaining funds, time and energy. Remember that your health is a strong contender for the tank contents. So for a lot us it comes down to bucket list versus tank.

Assuming you’re not suicidal, you don’t know when you’ll die. So the rest of your life becomes a gamble on how to best utilize whatever remains in your tank. And it’s hard to measure. You probably shouldn’t base longevity on how long your relatives lived. Anyone around my age no doubt had relatives that died much earlier than we expect to.

We measure age as a quantity of time. Time is exact. A second, minute, hour all have accepted values. But age is relative. A 40-year-old today is considered much younger than a 40-year-old 100 years ago.

I remember relatives who, to a five-year-old in 1960, looked really old. They were in their early sixties. One died at 67 and the other at 69. Of course, now that I’m that age, it seems young. Just a cursory review of my family tree points to early deaths for a lot of them. Many died in their fifties, some even in their forties. A few managed to get into their eighties. Back then, people in their seventies or eighties seemed really old and some were already in a wheelchair in a rest home. They, of course, didn’t have the medical options we do today and a lot of them smoked.

Everything we do is measured in time. Yet, astonishingly, some physicists have suggested that time does not even exist. Some of these physicists believe that time is just our way of measuring entropy, the change from order to disorder. Sounds a lot like aging, from ordered youth to disordered senior. In the U.S. you’re officially a senior when you turn 65 according to the Social Security Administration. And by then you will be in some state of disorder.

The relative importance of time reminds me of a discussion in “It’s a Wonderful Life” between George Bailey and his guardian angel Clarence. Clarence admits he has no money because it’s not needed in heaven. George replies, “Well, it comes in pretty handy down here.” Time may not exist in heaven either but it sure comes in handy down here. Hey, maybe time really is money.

I’m a senior citizen with the knowledge that my tank’s low fuel warning light could come on at any time. So I want to enjoy what’s left and then, some day, coast across the finish line.

I’ve got some planning to do.