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How to be a senior citizen in Phoenix, Arizona

When I turned fifty, I decided that I would call myself "middle-aged" until I was 100. But now that I'm knocking on the door of sixty, I've decided to go ahead and call myself a senior citizen. I've earned it, simply by staying alive this long. I'm eligible for senior discounts based on my age, not what I've done, or who I am. I'm a senior citizen in Phoenix, Arizona.

I've always been fascinated by senior citizens in Phoenix. I live in Glendale, which is not far from one of the the most famous retirement communities in the world: Sun City. I used to go over to Sun City, and I would wonder what it would be like to be a senior citizen. Over the years I've determined that there are many ways to do it. I'm still figuring it out, and it looks like I'll have a lot more time to do it. Here are some options:

• Being a grumpy old man. I learned how to do this from comedian Dana Carvey in the 1990s. His character on Saturday Night Live was "Grumpy Old Man", and he would rant about how things were better "in his day", including not having seat belts. He would say that when he was a kid he had nothing to play with except broken glass, and "he liked it!" (that was the tag line). You can Google more of his comedy, and it's kind of amazing how easily a person "of age", who means well, and is just talking about how it used to be, can become a ridiculous grumpy old man.

• Being a frightened old person. Yes, there are a lot of things to be scared about in Phoenix. I see it all of the time, and it just makes me sad. I believe that many times fear can just be common sense combined with information, which young people don't seem to have. In my quiet little suburban neighborhood I know people who are horrified about things, maybe stranger danger, or things that I never think about. My next-door neighbor, an elderly widow, was horrified on the night of December 31st, 1999 - and I really don't know what she expected. I walked over to her house and knocked on the door that night, just said that I was next door. Of course I knew that I wouldn't be able to do anything about planes falling from the sky, or the Second Coming, but I let her know that I would be right there.

• Being a person who is empowered by age. This is what I wanted to grow up to be. When I was a kid, and when I was a young man, I imagined that life would teach me things, and show me things, which would make me the man I wanted to grow up to be. I wanted to grow up to be Gregory Peck in "To Kill a Mockingbird". I wanted to be a man who understood how the world worked, who stood for something, someone people could turn to. I wanted to sit on the porch and talk to the DA, I wanted to know the mayor by the first name. I wanted to take what life had taught me and make the world a better place.

I can still hear my dad saying that "there's no fool like an old fool". And I've had a lot of time to think about it. Yeah, getting old sucks, and life is difficult, but there's no reason to be a fool. I refuse to be a fool, but I embrace being a senior citizen.

Image at the top of this post: Article for Old Folks Day in Mesa, Arizona in 1920. Not a term that's used much anymore, but there are still plenty of these people, who have lived a long time.

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