Graham Reid | | 5 min read
A couple of weeks ago my wife and I went to the movies and, for the first time, I took advantage of what I am calling “Senior Discount”.
The polite young man behind the counter laughed when I went to get out my driver's license as proof of age and said, “Nah, it's all right. You don't look it, but I believe you.”
This was flattering on the one hand, but of course when I was 19 anyone over 30 looked pretty old, and anyone with a grey beard like I now have would have seemed impossibly ancient. Certainly old enough to get Senior Discount.
But like most people of my generation I don't feel old.
I have never been heavier, but also never been happier. I rarely trouble the doctor or health professionals, can still get up stairs and into public transport unassisted, and never spend any time thinking about my advancing years.
When my wife and I celebrated my Significant Birthday – they will become much more significant from now on though, I suppose – we had enough saved to disappear to Bali for a week of doing nothing by a pool. I joked that we were away from prying younger eyes, but of course most people have younger eyes.
Yet there is that inescapable fact of aging which taps me on the shoulder every now and again.
I may still be younger than Mick Jagger, but the other day I realised John Lennon -- shot in 1980 – has been dead for most of my life.
I do some lecturing in the music school at Auckland University and with few exceptions everything I teach happened within my lifetime. With few exceptions nothing I teach happened within the lifetimes of my students.
If, say, they are 20 that means they were born the year of Nirvana's classic album Nevermind. Or, if you prefer, the year Miles Davis and Freddie Mercury died, Bryan Adams scored the longest consecutive stay on the British charts with Everything I Do (I Do It For You), Madonna took Justify My Love up the charts and Mariah Carey became officially huge.
They don't grapple with rap and hip-hop – they've known nothing else – and were born when their parents might have been listening to Pearl Jam, Mariah Carey and Madonna. They have never known a world without cell phones or CDs. (Or, if we want to be boring old farts, the Resource Management Act.)
That throws my recollection of being in primary school and playing my older sister's 78s into perspective.
A 20-year old student today was born in the year of Terminator 2, I was born the year of waterfront strike. Historic events.
My life and memories are now history lessons. How did that happen?
Well, just by breathing in and out for long enough.
There seems no trick to a degree of longevity – and I expect to be here to trouble people for a long time yet – and what you learn is good genes and good luck can take you a long way.
My wife – who is many years younger than me – and I have no great plan for the next few decades, we have no fall-back savings or inherited wealth, but I also don't expect the government can or will be of much help.
I take issue with the idea prevalent among many of my peers that because I paid my taxes for all those decades I will be entitled to, of right, exceptional hospital care and so on.
Those taxes I had gouged out of me weren't put under a big mattress waiting for me to come along and claim my share back. They paid for the roads and infrastructure I have enjoyed all my life. They paid for the wards that were built, the equipment in them and the salaries of those fine people who staff our schools, universities, technical institutes and hospitals.
The money I paid in has long gone. What I pay in now is providing for others of my age – and older and younger – who are less fortunate than me. I don't mind that, that is what being a citizen is all about.
Those people born to the soundtrack of Madonna and Mariah however are the ones who are going to have to cough up to keep me breathing or wheezing when my time comes.
I feel sorry for them. There were a million fewer people in this country when they were born, and my generation is hanging around, many of us not working but also not slowing down.
I am slowing a little though.
I sleep more – and less – than I ever did.
Since becoming a freelance writer seven years ago I have worked from home. That has meant I start early and by about 2pm I am done. Then I have something to eat, lie on the couch and read a book or watch a DVD . . . and invariably nod off for about 20 minutes. I like it and recently I read some research which found an afternoon nap can prolong your life. Sorry, young 'uns,.
My dad used to do the napping too at this age. Come home at lunchtime from work, lie in the sun and snooze off to With the Beatles and Louis Armstrong's Hello Dolly albums on the radiogram.
He also didn't sleep much at night and old folk have warned me of this consequence of getting on a bit.
I am now warning young folk.
No matter what time I go to bed – usually 11pm or later – I am awake at 5.30, the brain is ticking, the ideas and words flowing and falling into place, so I get up and make tea, and start my day before the Herald arrives.
Just an energy/time shift thing. I quite like it. I feel very productive.
So not much has really changed since I qualified for Senior Discount – why it seems just yesterday I was asking for Student Discount – although I will be a little wary of picking up my Gold Card in a few years, if it still exists. I'll then feel Officially Old, although I expect to still be working as I am now.
We have a lucky life. We travel as often as we can afford it, go to restaurants and bars with friends, and every now and again I see bands play . . . although that standing around for three hours until midnight before some young group comes on, as I used to do a few years ago, has long since passed.
We watch television and I guess that is where thing have changed markedly.
Our appointment viewing – in truth, we record on MySky and watch when it suits us, a time/energy shift thing – include The Big Bang Theory, The Good Wife and the neo-Western Justified. (Of course Justified, the film I have seen most is The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and I can quote large chunks of Clint Eastwood's dialogue at length. Not a skill much in demand I have to say.)
But we also watch – and this would never have happened a decade ago – Grand Designs and Great British Menu. We haven't quite made the move to Antiques Roadshow yet.
So the other night when we went to the movies it wasn't to see some delicate foreign film, one of those charmingly Irish thing involving quirky old people and quaint village life, or something about risque seniors which seem so appealing to Gold Card folks.
We went to see the blockbuster “prequel” (a word I remember being invented in the early 70s) The Rise of Planet of the Apes.
I was the youngest in the cinema by about 20 years . . . and I loved it.
That fact, and the movie.