Growing Old(er) In The Gallatin Valley

by Jerry Schuster

Those who will benefit most from reading this article should be within the categories of “Silent Generation,” “Baby Boomers” or “ Generation X.” Especially for the “Silent Generation” aka “Traditionalists,” it will become quite obvious as you continue reading, so don’t get all worked up. For those in the other categories, you are up next, so it’s best to prepare yourself now while you are so young and vibrant. Those who fit within the age brackets of “Millennials” or “Centennials” and subcategories thereof might rather go read something more their style, such as “I Was a Teenage Werewolf, Vol XXIII.”

Bozeman attracts seniors basically because it’s a fun place to live. Also, great attractions and bargains abound. Skiing at Bridger? My lift ticket is $35.00 per day. Going to the movies? Nice senior discount. Local restaurants, cafes, stores and facilities offer special deals to us who have lived long enough to qualify.

Wonderful local charities and organizations depend a lot on volunteer help from this stampede of older folks moving here or who have been lucky enough to be a genuine local. Some of these services would simply not be available if there were not enough seniors to keep them operating.

Now, it’s time to switch gears and get to the essence of this piece. Enough of the Mr. Nice Guy stuff. Oh, don’t worry about a thing, I will point out some of our sins and foibles; it’s not all a one-way street.

Those of us reaching a certain age in the Gallatin Valley start to notice, shall we say, peculiarities. Of course, this occurs in other places also, but is just more noticeable here, since we are surrounded by mostly trim, risk-taking persons. Many of these folks can hike for 10 miles with a sixty pound pack, get back home and proclaim, “Let’s go bowling!”

Okay, we drive too slowly and much too carefully. We know this because there is usually a vehicle on our bumper as soon as we enter 19th. My first reaction is to speed up a bit and go slightly over the posted speed limit. Never enough in this town. Still on my bumper. Go to Plan B. Slow way down, with the idea that the impetuous follower will relax a bit and behave. Wrong. This plan just generates some horn blasting and attempts to pass in no passing zones. We get it. You might be late for whatever. Also, we know that you are the key person at your place of employment, so the rest of the world must therefore just overlook your rude behavior.

Another difficulty for us. It’s all those computer screens and devices in the newer vehicles. We have to trade to newer vehicles occasionally since we can no longer repair the breakdowns we used to fix ourselves when cars had carburetors and spark plugs. Replace the master cylinder? No problem. New plugs and points? Easy. Now, when you look under the hood, there is a thing in there filled with computer chips. Where did the carburetor go? Chip. To be frank, where did the motor go? That something under the hood looks a lot like a PlayStation control box. Chip, chip, chip.

For us pre-computer folks, it is impossible to operate all those screens and buttons while driving. If you happen to divert your eyes long enough to hit the right screen tap, you have traveled about three blocks. If you don’t look at the screen and hit the wrong screen icon a female voice cautions you, “Abandon vehicle, your chips are malfunctioning, get to dealer for new chips immediately,” or words to that effect.

Until those self-driving cars show up, the only way around this is to hire a computer tech to ride shotgun with you on all trips. Warning: do not attempt to visit with the tech while the vehicle is moving; she is fully occupied with installing the necessary updates to keep the systems from malfunctioning. Don’t worry about lunch, she will have programmed your order at Burger Bob’s, and it will be ready when your car parks itself into that tiny space on Main.

Another aging issue is hearing loss. You will know when this time comes when your family is tired of shouting at you and starts to use hand signals when they want you to pass the gravy.

About half way through your audiologist’s appointment, she will advise you to come in soon to get your hearing aids; no test needed. “You, sir, are deaf!” An accurate and easy diagnosis.

These hearing aids are the quintessence of Orwell’s 1984. When you put them on, they start talking to you and can track your usage, your GPS location on Earth and tell you it’s time for your medication. One convenient feature is the volume adjustment button. When you are interested in the conversation of a quiet scene at the movies, or Deacon Steve’s encouraging words at Mass, just click the volume up to five. When Aunt Matilda is telling you for the eighty second time about how life was when she was growing up in Eden Prairie, you simply click down to one, which allows you to hear a freight train about to come through your living room and little else. Just nod your head when you know she is to the part about getting up at 4 a.m. to get the bread dough started.

About every twenty-three minutes, a voice will tell you that your batteries are low. Try not to change these in the dark at the movie theatre. I tried this once and ended up with the old batteries in my popcorn. Thought they were unpopped corn kernels at first. Real crunchy, but the butter coating did help.

You are staying with me here, so I will keep rolling. One thing you realize as you are growing older is that your joints, knees, hands, hips and many other body parts just aren’t moving like they used to in earlier times. The solution, alas, is quite simple to resolve. You just find a medical facility which has a huge supply of cortisone available, and providers able to inject this stuff in the right parts as needed. What you do is to call around and find out which facility stores its cortisone supply in large tanks, like those at the Lockhorn Cider House. If they have those, you should be in good shape.

I usually do not discuss my personal medical history in public, but hey, I’m trying to keep you educated here. So, about every six months or so I get cortisone injections for my knees, hips, wrists, hands and elbows. I’m probably forgetting some part or parts.
Anyway, on some sad visit to the Doctor, you are advised that they can no longer inject more cortisone because the parts are too worn and cannot take any more. Your options include operations to install new parts, living with what you have and taking up bingo as a pastime, OR, getting yourself one of those medical cannabis cards. Just look under “The Good Stuff” in the Yellow Pages and you will be led to 644 “Doctors” who will examine you and issue the card. The process takes about 14 minutes, which includes 12 minutes in the waiting room.

I could go on with the various replacement parts and aids we need as time marches on. Alas, my joints are stiff and sore and my vision is getting blurred. Besides, my hearing aids are barking at me that the batteries need changing, and it’s time for my nap. I will put “Dust in the Wind” by Kansas on the record player and doze off. Oh, a record player is a device on which you place a vinyl disk on the part that spins around. As the record spins, sounds come out of the speakers. Very cool.  

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