In life, there are a number of milestone birthdays.
When you turn 13, you’re no longer a child, but you can continue to be childish for a few years. Turning 30 (as my youngest son does next week) sounds monumental at the time, but in hindsight it really just makes your parents feel older. Turning 40 is the Big One, exactly the mid point of a typical Canadian male’s life expectancy. On the plus side, when you turn 40 you are allowed to hate the music and fashions the previous generation. Fifty is half a century; you are without question on the downward slide of life.
But only two have legal significance. When you turn 18, you’re a legal adult and are expected to start acting in a more adult manner. You are told to start making something of yourself, to start planning your future, your education, your career, your life. Oh, and get drunk legally for the first time.
And then there’s 65.
At 65, you are officially, terminally, unquestionably old. You are allowed – even expected – to stop working. The government gives you money to withdraw from the workplace and plunk yourself down in front of Wheel of Fortune (or, as old folks call it , the Wheel).
This is where I find myself. Yesterday, I was just another greying, unshaven, housebound bum. Today, I become a pensioner, a respected elder in some cultures (not mine), rubbing my aging hands together in anticipation of my first old age security cheque. (The government actually calls it that – OLD AGE SECURITY. You’d think they would call it something less stigmatizing, like Retirement Reward Grant, or Thanks for Contributing to Society money. ‘Old age security’ just sounds so … old.)
Yep, 65. The last true turning point in your life.
I can’t say that I’m really looking forward to joining the 6.8 million Canadians over the age of 65. (There are 2.1 million of us in the 65-69 bracket, which is my preferred bracket right now; I don’t want to be lumped in with the 80+ crowd.) And I’m not especially thrilled to see that Stats Canada estimates that I have only another 19.5 years before I clock out permanently. I have underwear older than that.
But there are benefits, and I mean that in the most literal sense. The aforementioned, dreadfully named OAS kicks in automatically, and I’ll be living like a prince on that $613.53 a month. (OK, maybe not a prince … what’s that other word that goes with prince? Wait, I’ve got it – pauper!) With my Canada Pension Plan and my wife’s OAS and puny CPP, we should be able to live reasonably well with only the help of a part-time job at Wal-Mart.
Alberta Blue Cross also kicks in; they send me a card with ‘seniors benefit program’ on it, just to rub it in. Blue Cross will pay most of my prescriptions, which is nice. If only I weren’t so damn healthy, this would be great. But I fully anticipate at some point being one of those people who spends a part of their Sunday laying out their pills for the week, at which time the Blue Cross benefit will be much welcomed.
As for being out of work, I’ve had almost a year of joblessness to get accustomed to permanent, permissible unemployment. So far, it’s not so bad, since the rest of the world is in a similar situation. I rise when I want, not when the clock tells me. A year ago, it was about 7 a.m. Then 7:15, later 7:30, then 7:45. Now, it’s 8-ish. At this rate, by this time next year I’ll get up just in time for the noon news.
Also trending upward is my weight. Every few months, I reach a new peak, one that I tell myself, ‘OK, time to start dropping those pounds’, which is followed a few months later by a whole new peak. Now that I’m officially old, I’m toying with the idea of just giving up and developing one of those falling-over-the-belt bellies old guys get, the ones that look like water-filled balloons. Hey, I’m old. I’m entitled.
I’m also entitled to seniors discounts. I’ve reluctantly accepted a few of those in the last year or so; when buying coffee at McDonald’s a few months back, I noticed the words ‘seniors discount’ appeared on the payment screen. I was mildly insulted, but I didn’t complain. Amazing how little money it takes to swallow your pride.
Thanks to the pandemic, my 65th birthday celebration will be low key. I think I’ll just perform my monthly ear hair trimming, trim back the eyebrows, and check out ‘the Wheel’ to see what all the excitement is about.
That is, if the ol’ ticker can handle it.