CONTRIBUTORS

The best decade of the golden years

Posted Feb. 07, 2012, at 11:57 a.m.

This is directed mainly to septuagenarians. But most younger people will eventually get there, so they will do well to listen in, too.

The 70s are by far the best decade of all. By that time, you should have established an identity. You probably still have all your marbles and enjoy good health. The pressure to make an impression is off at last; you’ve done that.

You should have accumulated some wisdom, and, if not, you can remember episodes like Watergate, McCarthyism and the Vietnam War and know them better than what younger folks have gathered from high school history, Google and Wikipedia.

Boarding a plane, you can play the age card and get in ahead of the line. Look for cut rates for seniors on trains or buses and for hotels, restaurants, movies and other entertainment. At a ticket counter, most clerks can spot you as a senior just by looking at you.

Finally, and most importantly, you can feel free to say what you think without fear of offense or penalty.

So, enjoy your 70s. But while you’re enjoying them, start preparing for your 80s and 90s. Be sure you have lined up a good doctor, dentist, lawyer and accountant, preferably younger than yourself. You wouldn’t want to outlive them. And find a good driver for the time when you or your family decide that you should turn in the car keys. While you’re at it, try to find a driver who can double as caretaker and handyman when you need them.

Train your newspaper carrier to put the paper inside the screen or storm door, where it someday will be a lot easier to pick up. Get a good warm lumberjack coast that will last you through 20 or 30 Maine winters.

Also, write your will and obituary right now instead of putting them off. Too many people neglect to write their obits and miss the opportunity to put in what they think is important. Don’t leave that last-minute task for your family and the funeral home.

Think of the future time when access to your sleeping quarters will be too hard. If you can’t arrange for a bedroom on the ground floor, you may spring for one of those electric chairs that rides up the stairs or even a real elevator that can fit into a closet if there’s a similar closet immediately above.

Living on in your own home is better and cheaper than one of those pricey assisted-living establishments or retirement communities that have taken the place of what we used to call old folks’ homes.

Do some of the jobs that you won’t be able to do later on. Install handrails on all stairways, on both sides if you can. Fasten grab bars in the bathrooms. Put in a geriatric toilet, two inches higher than normal and a lot easier to use. Get in place any shelving and coat hooks that you’ve been putting off.

Do other building jobs while you can.

In my own 70s, I built a bunkhouse for the grandchildren, raising the walls with neighbors’ help and climbing onto the roof to shingle it when I could still manage a ladder (and in defiance of my wife’s insistence that I promise to hire to have it done.)

Remember, when tackling these jobs, that doing them may cause trouble later on. I found, too late, that using a chain saw without earplugs can damage hearing and that splitting firewood with a maul and wedges can play hob with the shoulders.

A final word: The great 70s and the transition to the 80s and 90s are a lot easier and a lot more fun if you happen to have a spouse who is loving and vigorous and a bit younger than yourself.

Richard Dudman, 93, lives in Ellsworth and Little Cranberry Island. He is a senior contributing editor to these pages.

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