“You can’t help getting older, but you don’t have to get old.” -George Burns

People have mixed feelings about getting older, especially when you get to the point that you need assistance doing everyday activities. Most people are worried about bed pans and adult diapers and casual racism, usually because they had or heard a bad experience involving an elderly relative.

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Alzheimer’s made Grandma forget about the civil rights movement.

I used to agree with this whole heartedly, but my 86 year old grandmother recently moved into an assisted-living situation, and being around her has me rethinking the aging process:

Nursing homes are like college for old people.

Hear me out; Nursing homes are the only time after college that you live in a dorm-like facility, eat communal meals, and are surrounded by like-minded people of the same age. You arrive in your new (and probably smaller) apartment and immediately the fun starts. There are all sorts of ice-breaker type games, but instead of talking about your future plans you talk about what careers you’ve had and what your children and grandchildren do. More central to my point, you form an immediate community.

The similarities don’t stop there: you’re probably not doing your own laundry or cooking for yourself, though you have the freedom to do so. Also the older residents, the *ahem* seniors (yes, that joke was terrible) help get you accustomed to your new surroundings, though some of them might have to be reminded of where they are (yay memory loss!) You can spend all day in different activities or classes, or you can hide in your room and be antisocial. Probably the biggest difference is that “graduating” is less exciting for everyone (yes, that joke was terribly offensive.)

Another interesting fact, and one that hopefully doesn’t remind you of your own time in college, is that STD infection rates in nursing homes are disturbingly high. I’ll just let that sink in.

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I’m sorry about that. Here’s a cute picture. Let’s move on.

In conclusion, what most people seem to be worried about with their old age is stagnating and running out of interesting things to do. Well trust me, you don’t need to worry about that. And if you don’t want to take my word for it you can chat with my grandmother, who once again is eighty-freaking-six, and who was out until two a.m. this past New Years’ Eve.

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You really do only live once.

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