Editorial: Jamie Beckett on Assisted Living in the 21st Century

Apropos of Nothing: Assisted Living in the 21st Century
An Editorial by Jamie Beckett

I’m sure it won’t shock you to read the truth. I wear glasses, my hearing is going, my hair is gone, and most of my joints make noises that can be heard from two tables away when I creak into a booth for dinner. All this makes me a candidate for assisted living. Not the kind of assisted living we used to think of when my generation was younger, prouder, and more invulnerable to the elements. Let’s face it, we’re the generation who were entertained by Keith Moon’s hotel trashing ways back in the days when The Who still had four members. We thought Jimi Hendrix was amazing, and Jim Morrison was the epitome of cool, and Brian Jones was aloof but entirely in control.

If those names aren’t familiar to you, Google them. You’ll be glad you did.

We were wrong, incidentally. In fact, we were colossally wrong. Yet we survived for long enough for our bodies to start failing us. So in that sense at least we can consider these maladies of age to be a pretty big win. We’re still here. That’s got to be worth something.

I’m in my assisted living years, now, apparently. But then so is everyone else. So I don’t feel so bad about it.

Okay, so I wear glasses. Big deal. Several of my friends wear hearing aids. I suspect that little addition to my wardrobe will be coming soon enough, too. Years of being too cool for hearing protection have left me with a loud, high-pitched whistle in my ears that would annoy the most laid-back dog in the world. I’ve learned to live with it.

I may be falling apart, but I do have my limits. I draw the line at toupees, hair-pieces, hair-systems, or hair-replacements. Going bald is a great gift as I see it. Once you adapt to the reality that you’re going to be goofy looking for the rest of your life and there’s nothing you can really do about it – you’re liberated. The brush and the comb and the rushed moments in the mirror trying to get everything back into place are just memories for me. I’m free and clear. I’ve got a virtually no-maintenance head. And that works just fine for me.

In an earlier age I might have felt badly about breaking down like this. With all I’ve lost and all I’m losing, it might have caused me to consider myself old, or infirm, or in need of a private nurse who would undoubtedly be a disappointment to me in every way. I wouldn’t be lucky enough to get one who looks like Salma Hayek with a smile that can brighten an old man’s heart. Nope, I’d get the third runner up in a Christopher Lloyd look-a-like contest who carries the pervasive aroma of French onion soup.

Of course I’m not alone in my assisted living days. I’ve been to the mall. I know what’s going on. Women of all ages are wearing Spanx and Wonderbras and makeup designed to transform my grandmother into a young, vibrant Meryl Streep. Men are slipping lifts into their shoes, girdles around their waists, and using skin care products the Marlboro man never packed in his saddle bags. Kids are wearing sneakers that cost more than my first car and packing smart-phones that can find more information than my high school library ever packed into four walls – and they can do it without having even a passing understanding of the Dewey Decimal System.

We’re all in assisted living to some degree, so I’m going to enjoy my long slide down in good company. But not with a toupee, or lifts in my shoes. The girdle? I’m still thinking about that one.