Around the Island

Richard’s almanac: What’s in a number?

The Senior Center got a visit from students.

The average age of visitors to the Senior Center dropped to about 20 when you factor in the 17 elementary school students from Hayground School in Bridgehampton who came to gather research for their “invention” project.

Under the direction of their teacher Julie Fanelli, along with teacher RJ Partington from Hayground, the students are exploring ideas to identify needs of seniors that could be helped by an invention. Julie explained that the goal is to come up with inventions that will solve real problems in this Smithsonian-sponsored program. Her students all worked in teams sitting down with Island seniors hoping to see what they could invent to aid seniors in their daily lives.

I did not plan to be part of this but all of a sudden there I was sitting at a table being questioned by four very articulate kids — Helena, 11, Casey, 9, Sophia, 8 and Parr, 8. The questions were carefully crafted to identify real needs. And as I understand it, these needs will be evaluated to prepare the invention.

They got the easy part done right away — my age. I am more than 60 years older than these students and we were interacting like peers. I was very impressed at how facile they were in dealing with adults. The first question, “Which stage of your life was your favorite and why?” took some thought on my part. I told these kids that the carefree time of my 20s was right up there with the most significant events, becoming a father.

The next question, “How has your life changed as you have gotten older?” was one that I could answer fairly predictably. Aging has brought with it the benefit of retirement and fewer responsibilities but it also lets us know that the end is in sight. I did not try to explain that to them because to a 10-year-old, a half century is infinity.

When I was asked, “What do you like, or not like, about getting older?” I immediately thought about physical limitations that are a normal part of the aging process, like failing vision, hearing, physical stamina and the like, nothing drastic but just that everything is not as acute as it used to be. On the positive side I told them that there is a certain amount of wisdom that has been gained from more than seven decades on this planet and that enables seniors to put things in perspective.

Although when I do that I sometimes feel that I am being cynical or negative. I tend not to be receptive of new ideas “because they did not work in the past so why should they work now?”

Their question about identifying activities that have become harder or inconvenient, I explained that two-by-fours have gotten heavier and ceilings higher. Physical projects around the home are more difficult than they used to be. I also discussed how hard it has become to move in and around, and off and on my small boat.

As far as inventions go that would make life easier I could only come up with a robot housekeeper and a self-driving car.