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If not, I met her just the other day in the newspaper, and she’s so true-to-life. In fact, she’s so much like me that I liked her immediately. For one thing, she looks to be about my age—on the eve of seventy—and has the outward signs of infirmities that are starting to visit me—those bodily nuisances that inevitably herald the advent of the decade following Medicare eligibility.

As soon as I spotted her, she reminded me of an assignment I had to do in my nursing doctoral program while taking a course in gerontology. We had to smear Vaseline on our glasses, put cotton into our ears, and wear thick winter gloves while we wrote a paper. The object was for us to experience the limitations and frustrations of our older patients. Not fun.

In my mind, I followed AGNES as she crossed a street. Actually, I saw the side of her and just knew I had to introduce myself. Misery loves company, you know.

Observing her closely, I noticed she was a bit unsteady on her feet. It looked like she was wearing those clunky orthopedic-looking black shoes. Her elbows and knees moved like boards, as if groaning with arthritis. Her neck looked like it had fallen into her—what do you call that? Dowager’s hump? That upper part of the back that seems to fold forward from square to rounded as the years go by.

In other words, she looked like I feel, if not resemble, and since I love to talk (to anyone about anything—ask my husband), I sidled up next to her and said softly so as not to frighten her, “Hi there, My name is Lois.”

She shuffled ahead, not acknowledging my presence. Something was in her ear.  A hearing aid?

But, I’m getting ahead of myself. As a retired nurse, when I read and see things in the Chicago Tribune that speak to me of anything health-related , my mind trips off to who knows where. Instantly, I’m in the world of that article. I don’t even have to leave my chair or my apartment to experience the most enlightening things. And meeting AGNES was one of those things—a woman like me, coping with aging, after probably not living the most healthful lifestyle in the past. So, people like us, begin a process of everything—muscles, nerves, intestines, and more—in our body slowing down. (I like that “slowing down” euphemism rather than “deteriorating”).

By the way, AGNES, the Trib article said, is an “old person suit”! Younger people wear it to experience the feeling of being seventy-five and having arthritis and diabetes. And the thing in her ear was an earplug, not a hearing aid. An entire suit–what a useful teaching tool! Much better than my Vaseline, cotton, and gloves of twenty years ago. Read all about AGNES here. Her name is an acronym for “Age Gain Now Empathy System.”

As I sit here now in my favorite Caribou coffee place, writing down my experience of meeting AGNES, I’m thinking I would like to trade in my own “old person suit” for a new one. I’d name it THEA. When I’d put her on, she’d have 20/20 vision, no earplugs or hearing aids, lubricated shoulder-elbow-finger-hip-knee-toe joints, a lightness to her step, and a perpetual smile on her face. My THEA would remind me that, indeed, I can and will Thrive Happily Ever After. And if I met AGNES here at the coffee shop, I would cajole her into having a skinny decaf vanilla latte with me and, possibly, I would be able to cheer her up.

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