Feeling your age? Embracing the benefits that come with one's senior years

This is a commentary by Mark Murphy, a local author and physician. He is a longtime contributor to the Savannah Morning News.

It all started with a pill.

OK, technically the pill was a response to a problem, but here’s the deal: At my routine annual physical exam this year, my primary care physician noted that my diastolic blood pressure was a little elevated.

“It was up a bit last year, too,” he said, his wire-rimmed reading glasses slipping to the end of his nose. “I think we need to treat this. Your cholesterol is up, too.”

And just like that, I officially became old.

I had long prided myself on not taking any medication. Oh, sure, I took an occasional Tylenol, but there was no prescription drug I took regularly.

One sign of old age: Having to take a prescription drug every day, writes columnist Mark Murphy.
One sign of old age: Having to take a prescription drug every day, writes columnist Mark Murphy.

But now I’m 60, and I’m taking medications for high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol every single day.

Daphne and I had dinner with another couple at The Wyld this weekend. Seated marshside on a chilly evening, we ate fried shrimp and crab cakes as we caught up with one another. The conversation was far-ranging, with talk about upcoming trips abroad, rock concerts we wanted to see, what our kids were doing, and the ongoing NCAA basketball tournament, but the most spirited repartee we had all night came when we discussed our various antilipidemic regimens.

Daphne is a big fan of Repatha, an injected cholesterol-lowering medication which she says has been a “miracle drug” for her, and she had heard that it didn’t work for one of our friends.

“How can that be possible?” Daphne asked, with no small degree of righteous indignation.

It’s hard to fathom how we got here, but here we are: Old folks doing old folks’ things.

It’s true that I’ve been getting colonoscopies for 15 years, but I sort of had to do that as a matter of professional integrity. How can I be an advocate each day at work for a procedure that I have not done myself?

The AARP first came after me at age 50, and places like Chick-fil-A, Wendy’s, Applebee’s and Arby’s started giving senior discounts at age 55. Most other places start at 60, which is where I am now. Grocery stores, hotels, car rentals and movie theaters are all discounted for seniors.

Seniors. Like me.

In retrospect, I’ve decided that I should embrace my senior status. After all, the gray hairs are getting progressively harder to winnow out, and I can’t run every single day anymore or my knees hurt. We went to 21 concerts in the past year, but I know that’s going to be ending soon, since many of the rock and rollers I’ve followed my whole life are all either retiring or dying: Neil Diamond is 82 this year; Paul McCartney turns 81, Mick Jagger hits 80, Jimmy Buffett will be 77, and Elton John turns 76. Billy Joel and Lionel Richie are both relatively young whippersnappers at 74.

I’ve realized that I need to accept what I cannot change—and time remains undefeated.

Still, besides the discounts, I’ve realized that there are other advantages to aging. I can complain about the poor work ethic of young folks. Being able to grouse along with my fellow oldsters about the inarticulate nature of new music is a plus. I do look forward to the day when I can say anything I want and get away with it because I’m old. That day isn’t here yet, but it’s coming—and I’ve been practicing, believe me.

I’ve embraced being a grandparent. That’s been a real delight. Children have an incredible way of making one appreciate the inherently miraculous nature of life. Their sheer wonder at the universe can chip away at the accreted cynicism which clogs our old brains.

Having Violet around has been good for Daphne and me. She keeps us from getting too sclerotic and hidebound, forcing us to look at the world through her very young eyes.

Mark Murphy
Mark Murphy

As we drove home from dinner, I mentioned my amusement at the cholesterol discussion to Daphne. The two of us have been together since we were 13 years old. We’ve graduated from hijacking her mother’s Buick Skylark underage to go to Pizza Hut together to this: A heated discussion about antilipidemic drugs.

“How did we get here?” Daphne asked.

I reminisced about the many loved ones we’d both lost too young, including our own parents. I remembered the cancers that nearly took Daphne away from me twice, at ages 28 and 42. And I took her small hand in mine, smiling as I glanced over at her.

“By not dying,” I said, squeezing her hand.

This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: Senior discounts, grandparenting among the benefits of advancing age