Philadelphia Metropolis


Forever Young

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Forget Botox. If you want to look younger and feel sexier head on over to the nearest assisted-living facility or nursing home to hang with the staff and residents.

I know this works because each time I visited my then 92-year-old mother at her assisted-living facility, which was quite frequently, I came away feeling a whole lot younger, happier and sexier. That was because so many people there called me young lady or complimented me on my youthful appearance. So what started out as a simple desire to spend more time with my mother morphed into one of the most exhilarating, ego-stroking experiences a woman of a certain age can have.

Shortly after my mother moved into Sterling Glen, now Atria, my husband and I were in the lobby waiting for my mother to make her appearance. I passed the time chatting with the Concierge. I had spoken with this woman, whom I will call Roberta, many times since kidnapping my mother from North Jersey and installing her in Philadelphia.

The Concierge was attentive and friendly and often asked questions about my skin and hair care.  On this infamous February day, we stopped by on a spur-of-the-moment visit. I looked semi-disheveled in my jeans and polar-fleece top. My husband, sitting on n upholstered lobby chair, alternately checked his watch and buried his nose in the four-page Sterling Glen Flash.

The phone rang at the Concierge desk and Roberta gave the time and weather to one of the many confused residents. Then she hung up and turned to me. "It's unbelievable, really," she said, "how much you resemble your dad."

Actually, everyone thought I looked like my father, but he'd been dead almost 30 years, so I asked: "My dad? Did you know him?"

"I know your dad because he's right over there," she said, pointing in the direction of my significant other. I laughed out loud and joyfully relayed what had just happened to my husband, and mother who by then had made her appearance. Then I recounted the incident to anyone and everyone else who would listen.

At the hospital where my mother was a several times patient, the staff constantly asked if I were my mother's granddaughter or daughter and they weren't kidding. Sometimes I told them the truth; sometimes I told them I was the granddaughter. I didn't have this much fun since I managed to convince my newly electro-shocked younger sister that she was older.

But the ultimate kindness came one fine day when I was carded on the way home from New Jersey on the Benjamin Franklin Bridge. After one reaches a certain age, the Delaware Port Authority allows that person to obtain a reduced rate booklet for the bridges they manage. This was before the advent of the reduced fare Easy Pass.

I was on my way home from shopping at Wegmans and gave the toll-taker a reduced rate coupon. Usually, a no brainer.  This time however, the toll-taker looked at me, looked at the coupon and announced: "Ma'am, you know that the senior citizen must be in the car with you when you use this coupon right?"

At first I was shocked. I thought for a moment and then I was delighted. Reluctantly, I said, "But I am the senior citizen," words I had never before uttered because, though I am 65, I do not think of myself in those terms. "I can show you my license and/ or a picture of my son who will turn 41 shortly."

The toll-taker sputtered her apology and let me pass.

Fast forward to SEPTA. Boarding the bus one day, I showed my Medicare card to the driver who looked disdainful and said, "show me some ID young lady. You don't look old enough to have one of those cards."

 I showed her my ID and told her I had a 41-year old son. To which she replied, "My mother is 41. You look so much better than she does. What's your secret?" I smiled and gave her a big hug at the next red light. Then I told her about good genes, meditation, Pilates and yoga.

I find all this reverse ageism hilarious because as I child growing up in New York City, I was required to carry a copy of my birth certificate around because at 10, I was as tall as I am now. For public transportation and the movies, children under 12 paid children's fare and my mother refused to allow me to be cheated because I looked older.

Since being carded has become the new norm I get pissy when I request senior ticket at the movies and they hand me one without asking for proof of age.

Same for the bridge and SEPTA when I show my Medicare card and the bus driver just nods me welcome aboard.

Like Botox, this fix is temporary but on those days, I head straight to my mother's assisted-living facility even though she is no longer a resident. After all, this isn't about her anymore.


Phyllis Mass, still youthful looking at age 65, lives in Center City.



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