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Take A Lesson From Youths

Story ID:6636
Written by:Nancy J. Kopp (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Musings, Essays and Such
Location:Manhattan KS USA
Year:2010
Person:Nancy Kopp
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Author Note: The following essay was published in the December 2010 issue of Ozarks' Senior Living


On a recent trip to Florida, it was hard not to notice that senior citizens seem to form a large part of that state’s population. After two weeks, I found myself slightly depressed at being around so many folks who’ve lived as long or longer than I. Later, when I told my son about these feelings, he laughed and said, “But Mom, you’re old, too.”

I responded pretty fast. “Watch it! One of these days, you’ll be there, as well.”

I found it a joy to be back in our university town where 23,000 students mingle with the town folk, sprinkling their youth over us like pixie dust.

The late teens, early twenty-somethings are occasionally loud and sometimes rude, but more often smiling and helpful. How can that be anything but good for the rest of us? I watch them in shops and restaurants, out walking and jogging, and I benefit from the energy and enthusiasm they display on a regular basis. And yes, I think of my own happy, young years when I see them.

The college crowd finds pleasure in so many more things than those on the other end of the maturity timeline. They yell louder and longer at football games than fans in their seventies. Something tells me the younger spectators get more out of the games because they put more into them. They go to concerts and let loose in ways that those of us who are a great deal older have trouble understanding completely. Even so, we do have to admire the way the college crowd harvests enjoyment. We often restrain ourselves in the name of dignity, or an outlook that says “I’m past all that.”

I’d much rather observe two college students striding purposefully across campus that two frowning seniors moving at a turtle’s pace down the aisle of a grocery store, not their own fault, I know. Years and years of living take a toll physically, but sometimes in attitude, as well. It’s the outlook on life in many older citizens that concerns me more than the physical deterioration over which we have less control.

When my mother-in-law turned seventy, she began to drop out of all the organizations she’d belonged to for years. “I’m too old,” she told me when I questioned her about it. She was in excellent physical condition and sharp as ever mentally, but her inner self told her that she’d reached an age where she should sit at home and continue growing old. Her social network withered and died, her interest in many things waned, and she had little to no mental stimulation other than watching TV. To me, the saddest part of life might have been very different. I promised myself to live my senior years with a better attitude.

When I’m around a group of students, I find myself standing a little straighter, walking with a bit of a bounce to my step, and enjoying the world around me. Seeing them brings out the young person still buried deep inside. So, I think I’ll continue to live where youth rubs off on older folks in this beneficial way. I’ll save Florida for an occasional vacation.