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Commentary: The television commercial that changed my life

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Only! What a beautiful word!

By PENNY FLETCHER

I don’t watch much television — maybe three or four times a week, max. There are just too many other things to do instead of sitting in front of the tube, like going for a long walk, watching a sunset, listening to music around the fire pit, or working on my blogs and books. Oh — and of course, discovering and interviewing for stories to write for this newspaper!

When I do watch TV, I have a habit of hitting “mute” when the commercials come on. Why look at food when you want to lose weight or keep your blood sugar down, or listen to jingles crafted to make you buy something you’ll never need or use?

The worst, though, are those deliberately frightening commercials directed at those of us “over 65-ers!” When will we need long-term nursing care? Perhaps we’ve fallen and we can’t get up. Or maybe we’d like to stay in our homes but our fixed incomes won’t ever allow for that. Either we’re going to outlive our money or we’re going to get too sick to make any more.

Never forget for a minute that we can’t possibly have enough health and life insurance. The bills are just staggering. If we don’t get this supplemental health insurance policy now — and I mean right now in the next 48 seconds — we haven’t a chance of getting the care we, or our loved ones, need when — not if — we get sick. And have we bought enough life insurance to be absolutely certain our families don’t have to leave our poor dead bodies in the deep freeze while they figure out how they can pay someone to bury us?

It’s no wonder I have friends who don’t even acknowledge their birthdays anymore because “they’re getting too old.” Some of them talk like living has lost all its zest. 

I’m not making light of the fact that certain uncomfortable changes come with age. But I take my cue from a friend who is much younger than me, who has had several serious bouts with cancer. When her condition changes, she says she adapts to a “new normal.”

I’m for that. I’ve had a lot of new normals, some even including hospital stays. So what if I can’t walk as fast as I did five years ago, or have to take pills and watch what I eat? Those things are just “new normals.”

We live with them — and make it through.

Until the other day, I had never seen a commercial for a Medicare supplement that made me feel good about myself.

I couldn’t believe it. Usually, the only upbeat commercials directed at us older folks are for travel, and they give the impression that now that we have no expectations of a great daily life, we have time to travel — if, of course, we can afford the price.

This commercial was entirely different.

First, a nice-looking, well dressed “mature” woman appeared on the screen.

“I’m only in my sixties,” she said, smiling. “And I have so many things to look forward to I have to be sure I have a health insurance policy that’ll keep me up and running.”

I don’t remember what the background looked like but it wasn’t any great-grandmotherly-looking woman knitting or baking pies or sitting in a rocking chair on somebody’s porch. I wasn’t concentrating on the images. I was repeating that one word that had made all the difference.

Only!

I don’t believe I’d ever heard the word “only” used to describe us “over 65-ers” before. It’s usually, “oh, now that we’re getting older,” or “we need to realize our limitations,” and sure, we need to do that and make adjustments of all kinds as the years go by.

But “I’m only in my sixties.”  

Only! What a beautiful word.

I can remember typing obituaries in a newsroom almost 40 years ago and if the person was 60 or more, I thought, “Well, they’ve had a good long life.”

Having come from families where both my parents, grandparents and husband died in their mid-50s, I’d always thought of 65 as pretty old.

Yet hitting that magic number didn’t bother me like I thought it would. In fact, I remember being grateful because I was finally allowed to have medical insurance again. Because of pre-existing conditions when I left my regular employer to freelance, I hadn’t had any insurance in almost five years.

Since then, I’ve had some more birthdays.

And hey — I’m still here.

I’m careful. I eat well. I exercise even when it hurts. I take meds — okay, I take lotsa meds.

But I’m only in my sixties.

And then I’ll only be in my seventies. Or whatever may be the case.

Those four little letters O-N-L-Y can change your whole outlook on the “over-65-er” side of life. I’m going to continue to use them now, and I plan to use them later. They may only make a word I heard one night in a television commercial, but somehow, I realized that word is very important to me.

Only isn’t always a word that means “less than,” as in “only enough dinner for two people,” or “only enough money to get one of the four of us into the theater.”

It’s “I’m only in my sixties and fully alive.”

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