Thursday, July 28, 2011

Does Age Matter for Innkeepers?

Yesterday a reader asked, in the comments, whether Sven and I get out, in high season, to all the great events going on about town. The answer to that question is no. Generally, at the end of the day, we are too exhausted to trip-the-light-fantastic, let alone watch television. There’s a fantasy that innkeeping is a great pastime for people taking early retirement, and I would like to debunk that right away. Innkeeping can be strenuous work. Yes, it’s possible to hire helpers, but they must be found, paid, and accommodated if in summer. Yes, you can set a late-arrival fee for guests who show up after regular hours, but someone has to stay up and wait for them, missing out on sleep. I often wish I had the energy of a forty-year old, that I had started in business when I was younger. (Check out this photo of us with my brother, in Amherst, over 20 years ago.)

Sven is 73. I’m 64. As much as we do not like to admit it, we are feeling our age. All this talk about Social Security and extending the age for Medicare benefits has got me thinking about getting older. How long do we want to work? Should we retire? If we retire, who will take over this profitable business we have created?

I can remember listening to the Beatles song about being 64 and thinking how ancient 64 was. Being 64 seemed so far away back then. Age creeps up on you. It’s the small things: the sagging skin under the arm, a change in the texture of that skin – cross-hatching and puckers. That first senior moment when you cannot remember something that should be obvious. Failing eyes, failing ears. You look through the New York Times and everyone in the ads looks so much younger. Suddenly you’re reading obits of people your age. Friends have started dying. That’s when it really hits home. You’re next, you’re not young anymore. It’s a sad thing but it happens to everyone.

Here's a photo of us, taken three years ago by a guest. Recently I've noticed Sven is not as patient as he used to be. When he wants something, he needs it immediately. I took care of my elderly dad and recognize this behavior as part of getting old.

Modern culture tells us youth is everything. I don’t agree. But aging is no fun.

Sven went swimming in Dyer Pond yesterday. It’s the first time he has been in months. He used to swim in the ocean, but no more. He used to go biking, but no more. Biking requires quick reflexes, a sense of balance, skills older people do not have. He can't climb ladders, which is also due to a loss of sense of balance. I can still do that, but for how long?

So, yes, age matters. Are you getting older? Does it bother you?