In 1988, the year Fifty-Five Plus magazine was launched, Stewart Boston was 55. This year, as the magazine marks its 35th anniversary, Stewart is 90. That’s a lot of candles on the cake.

by Stewart Boston

as told to Iris Winston 

This was the year I celebrated my 90th birthday, a milestone I never expected to reach. In fact, it is probably one I would never have reached had I not had the benefit of significant advances in medicine and surgery over the years, from open-heart and spinal surgery to hip replacements and a pacemaker. Neither would I have been the recipient of the wide range of services now available to seniors in need of help.

For example, last week I was booked for my sixth COVID shot but did not feel up to going to the clinic. Transferring from my wheelchair to our Dodge Caravan is always a challenge that carries with it the possibility of slipping and falling. On this particular day, it seemed to me that the odds had moved from possibility to probability, so I stayed home. My wife went for her shot and reported my situation. The staff at the public health clinic immediately alerted the paramedic who visits me monthly as part of a special service offered in our area. Within 24 hours, he came to the house and gave me my shot.

I also have twice-daily assistance from personal support workers, caring individuals who invariably live up to their job titles. An excellent general practitioner (willing to make the occasional house call) and a valued nurse practitioner also make life easier. Perhaps the quality of service is particularly good because we live in Almonte, rather than the city. Certainly, friends from Ottawa shake their heads in wonder when we tell them about the ongoing support that is making it possible for me to continue living at home—the only place that I want to spend the rest of my days.

At 90, being at home surrounded by favourite books and pictures and looking out at the green space that surrounds us is what life is all about. I no longer think in terms of travel as I once did. A favourite joke of mine is to tell people that, like fine wine, I don’t travel well anymore.

In 1988, I was ready to cross the country for a new career challenge. Years earlier, I had gone from England to Africa as an education officer before immigrating to Canada to begin decades of teaching and educational administration on this side of the Atlantic. Even after retiring, I took on an educational assignment in Bolivia.

Now, horizons are narrower. That is simply a natural part of growing older. In any case, from all that I hear, travel—especially air travel—is no longer the pleasure it was when we lived on the Prairies and took family vacations via Wardair. The now-defunct airline unquestionably made the journey part of the holiday, complete with first-class meals elegantly served on fine china.

One of the biggest changes I have seen since the 1980s, though, is how much communication has been accelerated. People carry cellphones as they once carried house and car keys. The majority use smartphones: mini-computers that allow them to stay in close contact with colleagues and friends all the time. I don’t need such sophisticated equipment as a homebody. In truth, I wouldn’t have needed it long before I became less mobile. A traditionalist, my preferred form of communication was always a fountain pen, even when it was being ousted by ballpoints, never mind computers and telephone texting.

In my second career as a writer, I found that a fountain pen allowed me to write and collect my thoughts in unison. It was close to 35 years ago that I completed the longest writing project I ever undertook—a modern-verse translation of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde (published by the Folio Society). Dating back to the 1380s, the Chaucer composition was a far cry from current styles of instant communication.

However, modern technology has made it possible for my plays to be produced in such distant places as Australia and England, as well as in North America. The scripts are available via the British-based internet publisher Lazy Bee, so they can be picked up very quickly from anywhere in the English-speaking world. It’s quite the change from providing a hard copy of a script to a single theatre company or a publisher of play scripts and waiting for a response. It’s also different from more personal, direct connection of earlier times. In one instance I was privileged to be in close contact with a radio drama producer in Calgary. That producer happened to like my scripts and presented a number of my plays, including one that became the Canadian nominee for the year’s Italia prize for radio drama in Rome.

Every age has its good times and bad moments. If the best of times for me, certainly the most carefree, were when our children were young, I have good memories from each stage of their lives and mine.

Stewart Boston is a retired superintendent of schools, who has also written award-winning plays, short stories and poems.