hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

May 29, 2014

Don't give in to age -- keep busy

Tom Vartabedian
The Haverhill Gazette

---- — There’s no reason why anyone should crumble with age in your community. Just take a quick look around and you’ll see the opportunities that give geriatrics a bad name.

My mother, God bless her soul, had a perfect answer to it. Make the most of every day and don’t worry about tomorrow.

She lived to age 98 and was a poster child for her generation. When “tomorrow” finally came, she had no regrets, except one: That she could have done even more with her time. At 85, she finally left the Council on Aging in her city — a job she retired to after 40 years as a restaurateur with my dad.

I believe some of that refinement was passed onto me. While approaching the twilight years of my life, I find myself busier now than when I held a full-time job.

A day doesn’t go by when I don’t remember where the time went. As long as the day ends on a positive note, I feel enriched. It doesn’t have to be a marathon accomplishment, either. Something small works just as well.

Maybe running an errand for someone or visiting a patient inside a nursing home. Perhaps calling upon a school or hacking out a column. It’s all about living longer without growing older.

Now, don’t go turning the page on me. Hear me out.

If you find life boring, then take another approach. Get involved. Find yourself a positive outlet. Put a little zest into your day.

Sign up for a course at a community college. It’s the best deal in town. Go back to school as an octogenarian and become the envy of your children and grandchildren. Talk a friend into joining you. The opportunities are endless here.

Maybe you’re a lot like me and don’t pay attention to the surplus of bulletins and brochures that arrive through the mail each day. Sometimes, the urge hits you.

The latest issue of non-credit opportunities ran across my hands and, just for kicks, I flipped through the pages. Everything from bartending and health to floral design and event planning caught my attention.

I could spend the rest of my lifetime getting educated for a stipend and becoming enriched by it. And if I were on the teaching end, perhaps I could impart that knowledge to others.

On the same day I received this newsletter, there was another from the Council on Aging. Included in these contents were a variety of day trips and overnight junkets. I could do a scrapbooking class, take a class in carpentry, try yoga or volunteer.

So I picked up the phone and decided to offer a series of workshops, beginning with my 50 years as a journalist and photographer. From there, we would dedicate a class to Armenia, sharing photographs I took there on two occasions.

And lastly, I thought about sharing a trip I took to the national parks. For those who’ve never taken these trips, this is one way they might get acquainted.

Many agencies in your city rely upon volunteers because they do not have the resources to hire. You could do your community — and yourself — proud by offering up a few hours each week to the library or the hospital. Activate yourself.

Places like Community Action, Red Cross, City Hall and our schools would welcome your presence, not to mention the many organizations and clubs that could use your services.

That’s not to say you’re about to spend a lifetime giving up your time to others. That would be expecting too much, especially with families, church and other obligations. A simple show of support to help serve meals to the needy would be a blessing to you.

The year I retired from the Gazette, the inevitable occurred. I got invited to join every bank board and municipal agency in town. The service clubs came calling. And that’s just local. Because my ethnic heritage felt I had extra time on my hands, I could give even more energy to the cause.

So I decided to prioritize. I volunteer where I can, write stories every day for the Armenian papers, interview some of the greatest Armenians in the world to tell their stories, and give something back to my profession and my heritage.

I feel both responsible and energized.

I wake up in the morning, thankful for being alive, and ready to face my day with what comes naturally. Included in my daily itinerary is a workout, whether it’s at home or with my friends.

Look at it this way. To make a success out of your advanced age, don’t feel old. Just act young. And don’t forget to smile.

Writer and photographer Tom Vartabedian is retired from The Haverhill Gazette. He contributes this regular column.