During the first 54 years of my life, I never really had one serious discussion with myself about the question, what’s a senior?  Like so many other “baby boomers,” I was just too busy to waste time thinking about a subject that was so far away.  In fact, it was not until I started working at a nursing home, did I begin to have serious thoughts about being a senior.

What does it really mean to be a senior? Stock photo

Growing up in central Minnesota around very large, extended families and being the youngest child of 10, I am not really sure why I never had these thoughts before.  My parents and their siblings have all reached seniority and since passed on, nine on my mother’s side and ten on my father’s side.  Surrounded by all these seniors should have forced at least one or two thoughts about myself becoming a senior, but it never did.

Maybe it was the fact that I left home and spent a 27-year career serving in the Armed Forces, or maybe is was the simple fact of fear…the fear of getting old.  Not dying, because I faced that fear many times while serving my country as a career soldier.

Now that the day has arrived (and much sooner then I ever expected), I have begun to face those fears.  I have crossed over the line into seniority myself and have many thoughts about “what is a senior?”  To help those younger than me I would like to share them with you. But, I am also old enough to know that only seniors are reading this because those who have not yet reached seniority are just too busy!

A senior is simple.  Seniors have spent too many years competing.  Competing to have the most stuff: first the toys of childhood, and next, the toys of adulthood; then, to have a better job, the most money and the biggest house on the block. A senior has the understanding to know what is most important in life and has begun the process of wondering, how on earth can I get rid of all this stuff? A senior knows they cannot take stuff with them, because black limousines do not come with trailer hitches and moving pods will not fit where we are headed.

A senior is enthusiastic.  Seniors have a good reason to be enthusiastic; we have passed the mid-point of our lives and are having many thoughts about just how short our lives really have been. The first 55 years of our lives passed in the blink of an eye and we are looking for ways to slow down time. We enjoy slow music, songs where we can understand the words and long, slow walks. We drive slower on roads and have the patience to not run yellow lights. We want to spend more time with our children and have much more enthusiasm when taking care of our grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

A senior is naughty.  Seniors share jokes and tell funny stories, because we want to laugh and want to hear others laugh.  We are more conscious and sensual, because we finally understand how precious time really has become, especially in our relationships with our loved ones. We also understand that naughty does not mean nasty, cruel, mean, sexual, vulgar, gross, offensive, illegal or criminal.

A senior is involved.  Seniors are totally involved with their families and or community.  We have an inherent human need (and the time) to volunteer our time to help our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  We are involved with organizations and fund-raising for community organizations, and have greater interest in sharing greater portions of our time, talents and wealth for the betterment of our community.  Seniors are also more involved in democracy, taking time to learn about issues and candidates for political office in an effort to ensure we are voting for or against issues and people based on the right reasons.  We are involved in getting to the real truth, and not just believing the political perspective from only one media source.    

A senior is organized.  Seniors have made many mistakes during their lifetimes and know which path to choose, and decision to make, in order not to make the same mistakes again.  For the first time in our lives, we have the time to unpack the boxes sitting on shelves, which were sealed since our last move, some 10 years ago.  We also have a sincere desire and the motivation to organize the collection of old photographs that have been stored in shoe boxes for too long and look for any opportunity to attend “scrap booking” workshops.   

A senior is respected.  Seniors have many years of experience, knowledge, education, on-the-life learning and memory to know right from wrong.  We have the common sense to know when to act and when to evaluate.  We have earned the respect of all the young and know the difference between guidance and mentoring versus direction and manipulation.  We respect our elders and expect the respect of those younger, but also know enough not to be upset when we are disrespected by them because of immaturity.

If you put all these traits together, Simple, Enthusiastic, Naughty, Involved, Organized and Respected, you just begin to understand what is a SENIOR.  I am sure there is more to answer the question, but hey, I’ve only been at this for fourteen months, so please give me some time to think about it!  Seniors are a lot like fine wine or a good steak, we get better, much, much, better with age.

©2005 Anthony Robert Nathe