Saturday, November 19, 2011

How Old Do You Have to Be?

I’m not talking about being old enough to vote, buy alcohol, get married, have children, or serve in the military. I’m talking about claiming the gifts that are held back until we’re much, much older, have “paid our dues” and are ready to receive and appreciate some rewards.

I love movies, and mostly rent them by mail  to watch at home in the evening. But some things are just better on the big screen. 
How old do you have to be to get into the movies for the reduced senior price? That varies from theater to theater usually sixty-five, the same age you have to be to collect Medicare benefits and get a senior discount when shopping. Watching Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris on the giant screen felt almost like walking the banks of the Seine – and for only a few dollars!

How old do you have to be to get senior rates at motels? In this case, only fifty. I don’t travel as much as I used to, but when I do, I find clean and comfortable accommodations in the chain motels for less money. Now that I depend mostly on Social Security benefits, every penny counts. So I just show them my AARP card, and the room rate drops.
How old do you have to be to perform in a band for the first time in your life, on an instrument you’ve never played?  
The answer: The age you are, right now, whatever that is! 
I am having some of the most fun in my life, in my mid-seventies, doing something I always wanted to do – playing the marimba in a big concert band. I rehearse once a week, early in the evening, with some of the nicest, happiest people I’ve ever found gathered in one place. Most are somewhere around my age, and we’re all learning new things. One member of the percussion line is a middle-aged professor learning to read music for the first time. A retired teacher in the horn section is mastering her brand new bass clarinet. The string ensemble practicing in the next room started out sounding like the beginners they are, but their music has become distinctly sweeter over time. When the band rehearsal ends, a few of the horn and percussion folks stick around to practice playing jazz arrangements. The bonus: I’m home and ready for bed before 9 p.m.
At our Winter concert the local middle school auditorium will fill up with spouses and the grown children whose school concerts many of us attended long ago. Younger children will get to see Grandma and Grandpa play in a cool-sounding band. After the lavish homemade refreshments buffet, we’ll break for a month so folks can spend the holidays with their families.
This brain-sharpening activity is part of a world-wide organization of bands created for retired people, called The New Horizons International Music Association , by Roy Ernst, Professor Emeritus at the Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester, in 1991. Although it’s targeted at the over-fifties, adults of all ages are welcome. The only requirement is that you be willing to have fun and try something new. 
I am especially grateful for my band’s motto: “Your best is good enough.”
Did anyone say that getting old is the end of having fun? 
For me, it’s a new beginning!

What have you always wanted to do for which you didn’t have the opportunity? Paint? Write? Play the cello, or mah jongg?

Are you learning something new to enjoy? If not, what keeps you from doing it now? Is there something similar that you could learn to do instead?

Do you hold standards that are too high to accomplish now, so that even “your best” isn’t “good enough” for you? Could you “settle” for just having fun?

I am very interested in your comments.


  1. I love this! So getting older has its perks?

  2. Great post, Samantha. "Just having fun" sounds like a wonderful approach to life at any age. I love the mental image of you playing the marimba in the band. Good for you! I've been toying for a while with the idea of taking voice lessons, so I guess that would be my new thing. After this big transition I've been shepherding Richard through...

  3. Samantha! This is great! You are inspiring me. We have a New Horizons Band here in Dayton and I have toyed with the possibility it offers. Thanks to this post, I'm going to make a call. Thank you!


  4. I think music, of all things, contains the most medicine for the soul. Follow any urge you have to sing or to play or make music, or even just listen to it. I'm so happy if my post has supported any leanings you have had in that direction. Please let me know how it goes.

  5. I love being old enough. When you are old enough, dreams come true! I'm finally living mine. Some people are old enough younger than others ... I've never been precious.

  6. I agree, Sharon. I want to tell everyone who is new to suffering that we get stronger, more resilient, and – as you said – dreams come true! There have been many times in my life that I couldn't imagine how that could be so. I think it's the message people who haven't learned it yet need most to hear from us, that we get to decide where we are going to take our pain, and that we can use it to create new joy. Thanks for posting.