There is a bumper sticker that says, "Inside every old person is
a young person trying to figure out what happened." Earlier, that
was funny to me because it didn't make sense. Now, it's funny
because it is so perfectly true. Aging on the outside doesn't
change who we are on the inside.
My first exposure to this was with my dad, but I didn't realize
it at the time. As he aged, he had a way of expecting more of each
day than could be accomplished. Looking back now, I can appreciate
that his ongoing expectations never completely acknowledged the
limitations time had placed on his physical ability to make things
happen. This meant he never lost his enthusiasm.
Next, and more recently, came my clients. One of the perks of
discussing personal finance with older people is that it often
creates a place of openness. We can end up talking about their past
lives and present experiences with amazing candor.
Almost everyone marvels at the contradiction between how he or
she feels mentally and what is happening physically.
One fellow in his 90's put it perfectly: "When I wake up, my
mind is full of the same kind of thoughts I had when I was 30.
Visions of the day and all that can be accomplished. Then I go
through the snap, crackle, pop of cranking this old body out of bed
and I'm 93 again by the time my feet hit the floor."
Now, I am beginning to understand these things for myself.
I feel just as fast and sharp as I ever did, but that doesn't mean
I know why I'm in the kitchen by the time the refrigerator door
opens. Still, the thoughts come clear as I try and figure out what
I'm doing there. Someone deep inside is amused by it all, too.
It's almost like the two of us are standing there bridging the
space-time continuum or straddling parallel universes. There is the
old befuddled guy wondering what to do next as he gazes into the
cold shelves. Then there is the young guy waiting for that aging
duffer to get the ice cream they came for. OK, that's a bit silly.
But my point is that the youth in us doesn't go away. Inside, the
person we have always been remains intact, free of the aches and
challenges of an aging body. Maybe that is part of what gives us
the blessings of perspective and patience as we grow older.
Perhaps wisdom comes out of the contrast between who we are and
how we feel.
I don't know. But one thing I'm sure of is Aging in Place
doesn't happen by accident.
Scott Funk is Vermont's leading Aging in Place advocate, writing
and speaking around the state on issues of concern to retirees and