Elders' Tough Decisions
National Senior Citizens Day?

An Old Age Better Than I Ever Expected

Nothwithstanding yesterday's post about the hard decisions we face in our old age, I never expected to feel as alive and vibrant and spirited and vital as I do at this time of my life.

There is little if anything in our culture that would lead me to believe I would feel this good about being an old woman. The media relate to old age almost entirely via health, poor health - and mostly about dementia.

There are more news and feature stories about Alzheimer's, for which no prevention or treatment exists, than reports on all other elder health issues combined.

The New York Times publishes what is now a long-standing, daily blog about and for elders titled The New Old Age. Day in and day out over several years now, it is exclusively about being sick or frail or demented or all three at once as though there are no other states of health in “the new old age.”

Someone ought to tell The Times that 80 percent of old people live independently until they die.

Then there are the politicians. Elders are a big topic for them because we are more frequent voters than younger people and our numbers are ballooning.

But the pols see us exclusively in economic terms, wringing their hands over how expensive we are, a bunch of greedy geezers who they would rather starve than allow a Social Security cost-of-living increase.

Is it any wonder nobody likes old people?

The only positive words about us involve freaks who jump out of airplanes at age 85, reported by the media either as a joke or as an object lesson to all other old folks to get off our duffs and climb Mt. Everest.

As regular readers know, I think about these things a lot and frequently rail against them in these pages. But that doesn't stop me from being amazed at how good old age feels.

This is the most interesting time of life I have known. It seems to happen when I'm not paying attention that a lot of former imperatives fall away, making life easier and far less fraught with shoulds.

I am done improving myself. Self-help be damned. I am what I am and so I shall remain.

My ambitions these days are about how I might be able to contribute to my community and not the next better, higher-paying job. I'm not competing for work or recognition or awards anymore and that takes off a load.

My concern about myself has shrunk to little more than a daily mental checklist on well-being rather than how I compare with others. I have less to prove to them and to myself.

I've almost learned that there are good days and bad days, good and bad moods, and that's all right. Each is as much a part of living as the other.

And, as I've mentioned here before, I have lost my younger sense of urgency, the need to do, do, do. I still find it odd that as my days dwindle down, I more frequently say, “I'll get to it tomorrow.”

I still don't understand that but it sure feels good and for a bonus, I suspect it helps keep my blood pressure in check.

There is time now, finally, to be. Time to follow my interests and instincts, to investigate those avenues – internal and external - I was too busy for in the past. Or not. I get to choose and the freedom I've arrived at to do so thrills me.

Whatever the rest of the world thinks about being old, from my vantage point of 72, it is unexpectedly better and more exciting than I ever guessed it could be.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Deb: Lessons in Mothering

Comments

About 10-15 years ago, I threw out all of my self-help books, proclaiming, "I'm done helping myself."

I second that, with a huge chortle at the idea of getting off my duff and climbing Mt. Everest.

Really great post, Ronni, thankyou.

Hi Ronni, I am back via Twitter and enjoyed your post. I agree that I feel better now at 65 than I did 20 years ago although we are entering uncharted territory as my partner has PSP so I doubt he would concur with my feelings. Heading off on road trip to eastern Turkey in a couple of weeks, but in a car and with no scaling mountains.

Wonderful! Thank you for so clearly describing some of the benefits of getting older.

Years ago I figured out I wasn't going to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, any of it, then or ever. And blessedly a whole lot of unrealistic expectations of myself flew out the window too. My life is much calmer and happier.

Thank you, Ronni, and I reveled in every word and thought. Remember Marlo Thomas and her book "Free to Be, You and Me," I believe was the title (back in the 60s or 70s). That applies now too it seems.
Thanks for this wonderful post.

Ronnie,

I hear ya, but how do you get over that nagging little feeling of unfulfilled promise? My parents expected me to do anything I ever set out to do. I was raised on ambition. Now I know I won't be a ballerina, a professional singer or tennis pro and I won't be bringing water to drought-stricken African countries either. I know I probably won't be taking the world of interior design by storm, nor will I be writing a best-selling novel, so I wonder - have I missed out? Maybe I haven't, but I still regret any and all time "wasted" when I feel the days dwindling down. What am I ignoring right this minute, that I won't be able to do a year from now? Food for thought.

You put it so well, Ronni. I have always said this is the best time of life. I have no responsibilities to anyone other than myself. I am free of the pressures of deadlines and of doing things I disliked out of necessity.

This is my free time; I earned it and I'm darned well going to enjoy it.

Well, when my broken toe heals and my hip becomes functional, I bet I find myself feeling great too.

May I post your wonderful thoughts on aging on my blog?

I liked being 60 to 69 best! Dee

I still want to accomplish things but only to please myself. I'm still the same person deep down that I've always been.

yvonne...
Of course you may.

Great perspective. We all can use a "feel good" message now and then, and this was a very good one.

Agree with so much that is shared. I am back home in the country, gardening, camera, computer and calls from children and grandchildren my joy. Do not like health issues that are surfacing they are just slowing me down and I need to
I am happier and more at peace in the last of these 70 years then ever in my lifetime.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

I'm 86 now and in spite of some of the usual physical problems we all have, I never thought I would be as healthy as I am at this age - in fact, I didn't think I'd be here at all.

Thank-you Ronnie,
I absolutely love this post. That is how I feel too!
Jessie

I say "me, too," most of the time. At 76 (which, incidentally, I never expected to reach due to a misspent youth), I'm in essentially good health, at least today; I'm still able to work, drive, pay my bills and live pretty much as I did 15 years ago. Because I'm employed part-time my income has dropped and will drop again when I retire fully, probably in the next year or so. That's worrisome since costs keep rising, but we should be O.K. barring a major catastrophe.

Like Karen S., I still have that nagging sense of unfulfilled promise and wasted time, but I'm working on accepting that there's not much I can do about it now. I still resist acknowledging diminishing abilities and the inevitable changes in my physical appearance, but the struggle is lessening.

Growing older is about a lot more than health, but it's true that health problems in our older years limit our lives in more ways than they probably would have when we were younger. Like Ronni, I think it would be nice to see elders portrayed as PEOPLE in the media and regarded as more than just a "cost liability" by politicians (many of whom are 60+ themselves!).

One of the most fabulous essays I've ever had the pleasure to read. I would love to use the entire thing on my weekly blog if that's okay with you? Proper attribution of course. Thanks.

"I am done improving myself. Self-help be damned. I am what I am and so I shall remain."

AMEN!! I am enjoying this time in my life and I am proud of how active I can be when I want to..
LOL

We will simply make the best of it (old age). I think it mostly boils down to "it beats the alternative". The good news is that as I age and with time, I forget what it was like to be young so the current situation is the new normal. I'd sure like to be 21 again for a few days and compare; I'd probably be shocked how wonderful it would feel.

Superb. I know this and am leaning into this knowledge. Thank you for articulating it so eloquently.

I was finally able to move to Colorado in 2005, dreaming of doing all the outdoorsy things here that I'd always wanted to do. Except I was too late. I'm no longer physically fit enough or mentally bold enough to do them. So I try to be content just being here, in a beautiful place that I've always loved, and free of the stresses and responsibilities of a job. All in all, that's not too shabby.

Thank you. I wholeheartedly agree. And I am only 6 months into retirement but the sense of simply 'being' is so exciting. As i read your blog daily, you have helped me to see the larger picture of being old. I do feel that I am going forth with a changed and much more positive attitude because of you!

Wish I could turn back the clock and do it over again -- I would do it so much better now with the knowledge I have gained about others and about myself.

However, since I can't do that I will settle for the present. The people I tried all my life to please are dead and gone. I never managed to please them anyway.

So now I please myself and have quit setting the bar too high... I've learned that there is no "permanent record" that will haunt me and that no one cares what I do today or tomorrow or next week.

Someone mentioned to me that I seemed to be stretching...I like the sound of that...

Perhaps at 71 I've been let out of a cage and set free for the first time in my life...If that's called stretching...so be it!

Thank you for this post. It was a comforting interlude in day dealing with a difficult, aging mother with dementia, and the problems of my only child, a Type 1 diabetic, always on my mind .

I always enjoy your writing..and this one is especially wonderful! At age 70 I find I like this time in my life. I'm learning to accept health issues...accept that I cannot do anymore. I'm reading The Unmistakable Touch of Grace. Learning a lot about myself...and its all good. ((hugs)) ~Tricia

Right on! I'm 72 and just started blogging. Having a ball! Yes, I feel lucky to be healthy and able. But I'm still intensely curious, want to learn more and do more. Love it and lucky.

Me too! Pushing 90, this is the best time of my life.

Great post Ronnie. Readers' comments fascinating. Food for thought from all. This one is a keeper!

Sometimes when I am watching tv and I see someone scamper up a stairway, I do miss the physical agility of being young. But I don't miss the rest of it. I am happier now in most ways than I have ever been.

I certainly feel I have a more acute appreciation of life and of other people .

Yes! Feeling great at almost 70. But, I seem to have missed some life phases as I raised 2 generations of children from 1968-2009. I seem to have very different outlook than many in my age group since most of my friends have always been years younger!

Right on! Thanks for a great subject. Love being 70, the freedom of it, and able to get away with being a know-it-all. Admit I have bad days as well as good and I'm a bit leery about a coming trip to London with my son. But it looks like I'll be pretty busy...for the next few years - if my health, back, arms, eyesight, and mind hold up. So don't slow me down or treat me like an old lady - except when it suits me.

Like Kenju, I love this line: I am done improving myself. Self-help be damned. I am what I am and so I shall remain.

I often ask my family to stop the "Mom Improvement" comments. I am who I am. Rough edges and all.
a/b

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)