I am a Baby Boomer, one of 75 million Americans representing 26% of the population. As a child, I hula-hooped, watched The Mickey Mouse Club and rode Champion my invisible golden palomino through the neighbors’ flower beds. As a teen, I swooned over The Beatles and danced “The Twist.” My hair was parted in the middle and hung down nearly to my waist. I wore mini-skirts, white go-go boots and hip-hugger pants. Today my wardrobe consists of polyester pull pants, loose blouses and jackets that cover my expansive middle.
As I rapidly slide down the short slope of the actuarial life table, my brain and body have become sluggish. Instead of becoming frustrated, I decided to embrace the aging process and take advantage of its perks; people give up their seats on the Metro for me, I enjoy the impertinence of telling a strange young man he is handsome and I rarely open a door for myself or carry my own packages. I make an effort to keep up with the fast pace of changing technology, although I am embarrassed to confess I recently told a sales associate at Staples I needed a new ribbon for my printer.
While searching for fun and stimulating ways to spend my golden years, I checked out some recreational opportunities at a Senior Center. I perused their catalog and found several things that piqued my interest. Among them were yoga, bingo, crafts and day trips. They also listed an afternoon senior get-together the following week. I signed up and paid the five dollar fee.
I arrived at the center promptly at 1pm, checked in and was then escorted to a large room already filled with people sitting around eight foot long brown lunch tables. Everyone was handed two sheets of paper. On the pink sheet we were instructed to circle words such as January, February and March hidden inside a cluttered alphabet. On the blue sheet was a word jumble where we unscrambled words like elephant, fireman and encyclopedia.
At 1:30, snack time was announced. We were invited to help ourselves to coffee and cupcakes. A few minutes later we were told it was game time and to settle down and return to our seats. Our first game was “Let’s Make a Deal.” We had the option of choosing what was under box number one, box number two or box number three. I chose box number two and was rewarded with an orange Kazoo.
After all the boxes were uncovered and everyone received an orange Kazoo, we were given ten minutes for potty time while the staff set up the next game. Once again, we settled back into our chairs and played a rather unstructured game of “Wheel of Fortune.” Our prizes consisted of unsold candy made by the members of the center as a fund raiser for the spring craft show a few months earlier.
At three o’clock the staff thanked us for coming then sent us home. I was disappointed time ran out before I got a chance to color a picture of a kitten or build a little house out of Popsicle sticks.
The senior center has an upcoming open forum inviting people to offer ideas for improving their services and programs. I plan on attending with a few tiny suggestions that might make next year’s afternoon senior get-together a bit more interesting.
My first proposal is that the word jumble include terms more pertinent to our generation such as: ruenkdaetr (undertaker), ycopoclonso (colonoscopy) and ysraemgerduasy (samedaysurgery). The coffee and cupcakes were nice but I would recommend an open bar or even a cash bar. That leads me to a few game ideas. Perhaps every time a staff member uses the phrase, “That’s OK, I’ll clean it up” we could toss back a shotglass of tequila.
The prizes should be a little more befitting the neighborhood elder population. A key chain flashlight, container of Metamucil or a pair of battery powered heated socks would all be appreciated and likely trigger some fierce competition among us old folks. I might even suggest adding a naptime and allowing us to choose a naptime buddy.
D. Sherwood Chamberlain is a professional speaker and writer specializing in the history of America’s First Ladies. You can view her website at: http://www.deborahjonessherwood.com.