On Aging

I made it to The Y today. On my birthday. I’d like to say that this fact is reflective of a healthy lifestyle, a sign of maturity as fitness should become more important at my age, but really it’s just a small attempt to ward off the dire effects of all the food I’m going to consume in the 48 hours or so surrounding today.

The Y is like a museum of the aging process. A simple stroll through the facility gives one a rough view of the human lifecycle:

Near the front, you’ve got the babies and toddlers in their own little, brightly-lit play area. They have ZERO idea where they are, they simply know that they’re hungry or are in need of a change, and are keenly aware that this nice lady in the Lululemons and blue t-shirt is NOT their mom. Same routine, different location. Life rolls on for the babies.

Down the hall, the kids and youth frolic with abandon. They’re playing, they’re laughing, they’re wide-eyed with optimism and energy that won’t wane until their teens. One glance into the jubilant madness confirms the wisdom of the Y’s decision to forbid them from using heavy (i.e. expensive) workout equipment until they are older.

In the main room, you’ll find the twenty-somethings. Extremely fit, running and lifting weights all while posting on Instagram, sending each other Venmo payments for shared Uber fares, and keeping 75 text streams going. Their youthful, non-sweaty faces are starting to crease with worry and stress because they are building busy lives, lives lived in pursuit of advanced degrees, burgeoning careers, relationships, weekend wine bar outings, and rustic music festivals. The world is their oyster (although they prefer baked fish tacos and boutique lo-cal beer from a food truck in a neighborhood so trendy there is literally no parking).

Take a right and note the gym, where you’ll find a herd of middle-aged men playing basketball. The combined money spent on the various knee, ankle and elbow braces in this room could fund an inner-city charter school. Somehow, they have been allowed out of the house, and they’re going to make the most of it, are going to show the world that they were once “great” at something! That, in a form of weird, middle-age daydream, today may be the day when they and their sometimes-deadly hook-shot will be scouted for some kind of geriatric NBA team.

As you leave the facility, observe with a kind of profound reverence the seniors, those sweet, time-mellowed folks living their golden years to the fullest, with their water aerobics and lackadaisical stationary bike riding. With nothing to prove, they smile and chat up the staff and each other, reflecting on lives which represent a thousand different stories.

You’ll reflect just briefly that it is POSSIBLE that a few of the seniors, particularly those milling around the lobby, also have ZERO idea where they are. But, it’s the Y, and the staff is always glad to help.

And, besides, the seniors have earned the right to mill.

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