You see that elderly woman still shuffling across the road after the traffic lights have changed, causing you to waste two seconds of your precious time? Or the dithery old man taking forever to count out the exact money at the supermarket checkout counter in the so-called express lane? Or the Mr Magoo lookalike driving his car excruciatingly slowly in front of you on a narrow street?
Well, you’d better get used to them, because you’ll soon be seeing a lot more of them. The world is now facing an ageing population, brought about by falling birth rates and people living longer. By 2050, it’s predicted that about 1.5 billion people, 16% of the world’s population, will be aged 65 or older.
I can imagine what it will be like.
It’s now 2050 and I am one of the first few people to have benefited from the extensive research that found a cure for Alzheimer’s under Hillary Clinton’s term as the first female President of the United States. Sadly, it didn’t come early enough to help her husband Bill, who spent most of his time as the First Gentleman wandering around the corridors of the White House looking for Monica.
Mentally, I’m as alert as ever, thanks to the cocktail of drugs I take every day. I still write a column for The Star online (hardcopy newspapers were banned 20 years ago) but I’m finding it a bit of a struggle to come up with something different to write about every week.
I’m still advised to avoid topics like sex, politics, and religion. I understand the danger of writing about religion, but the odd political comment or two would have been fun over the years.
As for sex, I am now 92 years old, and people of my generation do not kiss and tell. Besides, my boyfriend might not appreciate his escapades being plastered all over the Internet. He’s 85, which makes him my toy boy, but I’ve always looked young for my age, so no one has noticed the age difference.
I read a report today about an 80-year-old woman who gave birth to her own child, 40 years after she had one of her embryos frozen. Three years from now, when she takes her daughter to kindergarten, everyone will think she’s the girl’s great-grandmother. I fear she will be an orphan before she reaches puberty.
Disney released Star Wars XXI: The Force Diminishes last week. I saw it at one of those cinemas that have the sound system turned up to the maximum. The movie was paused every 20 minutes to allow patrons to go to the restrooms. This was much appreciated by my boyfriend, who drank too much of that strawberry flavoured melted polar cap water that is so popular these days.
At the end of the movie, the screen slid to one side to reveal the Star Wars merchandise store – the main event. People who fell asleep during the movie were encouraged to buy a download code to watch it again on their smart TVs. My boyfriend bought a light saber that doubles as a walking stick, a BB-8 talking pill dispenser, and a packet of Stormtrooper incontinent pads. As for me, I couldn’t resist the Chewbacca deluxe slippers. They look cute and match the retro Ewok dressing gown I bought five years ago.
The United Federation of Global States has passed a law making it illegal for children to abandon their ageing parents. Gone are the days when old people with tattered memories were stripped of any form of any identification and left at a bus stop. If you don’t want to take care of your ailing parents personally, you can always pay to house them in a retirement village.
I still live in my own apartment. I don’t want to stay in a village surrounded by other old people, many of whom feel side-lined by their families and society in general. Some of them refer to their old age as the invisible years. It’s sad to see these once active people being ignored.
So far, my children haven’t had to worry about taking care of me. I’m glad, because I do value my independence. Next week, I’m scheduled to undergo my third hip replacement surgery, so I hope I can make a speedy recovery.
I may be 92, but in some regards I’m still 22. I may look wrinkly on the outside, but my soul is still young and vibrant. Likewise, my sense of humour has never died. Today’s young people may have more gadgets, and more money to spend, but inside they are not that different from me at that age.
We all want to feel that we matter, that we can and do make a difference. If you want to make a difference in 2016, you can start by taking the time to talk to an old person. You’ll be spoilt for choice.
One day, if you’re lucky, you’ll be as old as I am.
Check out Mary Schneider on Facebook at facebook.com/mary.schneider.writer.