By Patrick Harness, Health Alliance
When I started working in the Medicare department, I was ignorant about Medicare and insurance of any kind. It seemed like a growth industry, and I was blessed with seven family members over the age of 75.
15 year later, I have a much more personal interest in the subject. This aging thing is not as easy as I thought it would be. Things change.
I’ve made progress in the meantime. I used to think being online and connected was not that necessary. Now I couldn’t live without it.
Please note, the perception that older people don’t like to use technology is false. According to Nielsen research published in 2009, 89 percent of people 65+ have personal email and use it regularly. As of 2015, Pew Research Center reports 59 percent of those over 65 go online, and 35 percent of everyone over 65 uses social media, approximately 16 million people.
I used to take extra time getting ready for a big event. When I was done, I would look in the mirror and say, ”You look good.” Now, when I go through all the same steps, I look in in the mirror and say, “You look clean.”
When did I stop hearing, “You look great,” and start hearing, “You look great for your age?” Probably around the same time folks went from saying, “I like your new glasses,” to “Your new glasses take five years off your face.” Ugh.
I’ve learned not to ask anyone how old they are unless they are under the age of 12. Even then, I would think twice about it. If anyone forces you to guess how old they are, make a fair guess, and then subtract 15 years. No one ever complains.
From 2014 to 2060, the older population of people age 65 and older, in the United States will more than double from 46 million to over 98 million. More surprising, the oldest of the older population, people over age 85, are the fastest growing segment, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Aging is tough. Often we have to forgo many of the activities of our youth like, driving a car, living independently, eating anything you want, staying up all night, getting a haircut, or worrying about the small stuff (Oh wait, that’s a good thing.)
As I navigate this process of maturing, I try to remember we are all getting older. It’s not always easy, so I hope my friends and family help me do it with grace and dignity.
Patrick Harness is a community liaison with a long history of experience in health insurance. If you ask him to pick a color, he always chooses orange, and he is known for his inability to parallel park.