Top stressors for the senior set

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By Mary Kay O'Grady


I just moved, and although I have moved many times in my life, this was the worst. I was overwhelmed by decisions about what to take, and then overwhelmed about where to put things in the new place.

Moving almost always shows up on the evolving list of the top ten stressors. The original list included death of a spouse, birth of a child, and divorce. Now, sadly, jail, homelessness and unemployment have been added. Makes you think we were just whiners back in the sixties.

On to the whining. 

Several of these stressors are things that other people do that cause me stress. I, of course, wouldn’t think of creating stress for anyone. 

Inability to accept things as they are: It blows my mind that some people complain about every single tax and the cost of virtually everything. I think it’s a stressor/hobby. We live in a metropolitan area in a suburb with lots of services. Get over it. 

Inability to change: I love Persian Melon lipstick by Revlon, Chanel No.5, the original Homicide TV series, black clothes, white clothes, and navy clothes. I do not like prints. I have been told that I can take years off my appearance by using a dozen new makeup products, each with its own brush. I already spend way too much time in the bathroom with my grooming and my various drugs and inhalers. I wish I were Amish.

Memory loss: Makes me cry.

Wires, cords and remotes: I’m pretty sure wires and cords cause plaques and tangles in my brain, just like Alzheimer’s. When I moved, I found dozens of wires that went to - what? I live in fear of wires and cords. Does every piece of technology have to have two or more cords and a remote? Do the cords have to be so long and curly? I think they seek out other cords to mate and reproduce. Is Steve Jobs laughing at me  . . . again?

The intersection of Marion and Lake: This intersection is a daily funhouse for me now that I live in downtown Oak Park. A few years ago I bought a lightweight museum chair. It folds out to a tripod and is also wonderful for soccer games. I really must start carrying it when I head to the intersection of Lake and Marion. I can use it to sit while I wait for a WALK. Why don’t they just stop all traffic every minute or so and let everybody walk? 

Packaging: I’ve complained about this stressor before, but failed to acknowledge that the screw-top wine bottle is truly one small step for the elderly.

Crappy movies: I think most older people prefer movies with no animation, nothing supernatural, no sci-fi, no gorgeous costumes and scenery as a background for unspeakable violence, and no frat-boy humor unless it’s Will Ferrell. Plots are nice. Don’t get me started on reality TV. 

Children who won’t take the stuff you’ve saved for them: When I was 36 and my mother was selling her house, she asked me if I wanted my retainer. That was a good laugh for both of us. However, I’ve toted around newspapers from the day Kennedy died, the day Daley died, first edition magazines, etc., and it turns out my kids don’t have any place to put the stuff either. They also told me it’s all on the internet. They’re right. 

Expensive drugs:  Every year about July I hit the limit on what my Medicare Part D insurance will cover for my prescriptions. I could wind up spending up to $1000 a month. So I order my drugs from Canada and if I’m arrested, I hope I get to take the stand. 

Loss of hearing: Being hard of hearing is a problem for those who have it and those of us trying to communicate with them them. My 86-year-old sister yells at me because she can’t understand me on the phone or in person. Of course she won’t consider a hearing aid, because she doesn’t want to look old. I’m starting to raise my voice to my daughter when I can’t understand her on the phone. The consonants go first.

Blah, Blah, Blah: Finally, talking too much is very hard on the listeners, and many older people talk and talk and talk. Women tend to talk about the their daily lives and the past. Men pontificate. I give too many details. Several years ago, when my grandson was just a toddler, he interrupted an adult conversation by saying “Stop talking.” If only.

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