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Monday, 24 March 2014

Imagining Being Old

It is easy to feel chagrined at falling into the online rabbit hole, wasting hours with cute kitty videos and whatnot. But it's not always fruitless.

Following one link to another, particularly when starting out with a list of search results, can lead to some interesting corners of the web - places the usual sources on aging ignore.

For example, take Drex - pronounced DEE-rex. What I can discern about him is this: he is young, he likes smooth jazz, he is a gamer who may be accomplished at it. And he's not afraid to appear less than cool to his contemporaries.

The reason I know these things is that for the past year or so, Drex occasionally records his personal thoughts on topics other than gaming while unrelated images from computer games play across the video screen.

Last December, Drex was thinking out loud about what getting old is like. He's eager for the experience and wisdom he believes come with age, he tells us, but he wishes he could have that now while he's young and energetic.

It's worth three minutes of your time. Take a listen.

Interesting question he's working on: How do you think you will be when you're old?

Philosophically, Drex is way ahead of where I was in my twenties (the age I'm guessing he is). Back then, I was so fearful of the idea of death, I'd convinced myself I was the one immortal on earth. That pretty well keeps one's old age from being an issue to ponder.

Through later years, my best role model probably has been my great aunt Edith. She worked until she chose to retire at age 70 and up until shortly before her death at age 89, we maintained a frequent snailmail and telephone relationship – with occasional visits - that covered everything from the banal to the practical to the intellectual challenging.

If I ever considered it (I don't recall if I did), I suppose I wanted to grow old in her image – curious, thoughtful, engaged, self-deprecatingly funny and in her person, elegant. Some of that I have managed; some not.

The commenters on Drex's YouTube page didn't deal with his question but you and I are old enough to compare our younger and elder selves. Are you anything like what you thought you would be in old age?


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Chlele Gummer: Daybreak


Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post

Comments

In my former life as a single working Mom to 2 generations of children, I never had time to think beyond the day at hand and imagine a future. My day to day life consumed me. Today at 70, I have learned that life is full of the greatest joys and the deepest sorrows and there is no place I would rather be right now than where I am.

Nothing like. I had not planned for all the parts wearing out while I was still busy and doing things. For me in my seventies, life is about overcoming.

It's been interesting so far. I'm far more involved in my family than I expected to be, they adopted 5 kids making a total of 8. I was surprised to remarry at 60 after nearly 15 years on my own. It fell apart and I found myself divorced at 69. These and other unexpected experiences have changed how I am in the world at 72.

Aging is what I get to do if I'm lucky. My self improvement efforts are on behalf of my health and keeping interested in the world around me.

After nearly dying by accident in my 40's most of my fear of dying went away. I was in great pain and distress and when my body began shutting down I was sad to leave my children but became pain free and serene and content to go. Death was a relief. Imagine my surprise when I returned. Will that conquer my fear at my final time? Who knows but it is a powerful memory to this day and a comfort.

Being old for me is nothing like I imagined. I never thought about mobility challenges beyond maybe a walker in my late 80's or so. Never thought about range of motion being so hard to maintain. Forgetting things is something I figured would happen in the late eighties too. I did not expect the challenges that need to be overcome each day just to keep from losing any more ground. But I also did not expect the stretches of contentment that I feel. Those are great for a very nervous person like me. No, I can honestly say that I never pictured my old age like this.

I never thought about getting old, and there was a time when I pretty much also thought that other people died, but I would not. I have fallen two times in the last 6 years...each time resulting in a broken hip. Pain and stiffness are increasing despite my efforts to counteract them. Too often, I find myself fretting about what the future may hold for our offspring, whom I love so much. I hate the thought of a day when I will cease knowing them. Friends are hard to make in a new locale. Accepting the things I cannot change does not work well for me these days. I feel lonely and, oh wow, I think I might be wallowing in depression. It could possibly be time for a little square of dark chocolate and some exercise which actually can boost my mood. But Golden Years ? I'm not so sure.....

I was very naive when I was young and typical of naive people I didn't think anything bad could happen to me including getting old and "saggy"--I loved Drex calling us that, it made me laugh. Growing up, I had three great aunts who lived to be over 100 and they were active right up to the end. When I think of being 'old' they are my role models and I don't necessarily put a negative spin on the word.

Drexis is someone I would like to meet. I have a feeling we would have some stimulating talks. Like I would like to learn more about him than I think he might be interested in me. Hummmmmm

Two things have surprised me about getting old. One, I had no clue that it was so physically painful. Now I know why a lot of old people walk funny, as one example: very slow, or waddling, or hunched over. Those people are hurting. They just don't complain about it.

The other thing I didn't realize is that if you are old, your mind can still be racing, still be full of ideas, conflicts, worries, fears, etc. I guess I thought that old people were just placid and calm all the time, like cows chewing grass on a hillside. haha

At 67 I feel much the same as I did in my youth - emotionally; insecure, curious, quiet, thoughtful, polite, goofy on occasion, creative, spacey, and I hope, still funny. However I've come to see the state of the mind/spirit/soul as separate from that of the body. But it’s clear to me that poor diet and inactivity exacerbate both the physical, and mental difficulties that may come with advanced age. No one knows what to expect in the way of physical limitations in aging, or thinks about it much in youth except to think “I’m not going to be like that”, when seeing someone severely debilitated, or rigid and narrow in their thinking .

I attended a funeral service for a 92 year old friend recently, and the pastor likened death to moving out of a house when it no longer meets your needs. I like that idea, so I'm going to keep paring down my belongings so whoever has to move me doesn't have to sort through so much 'stuff'.

I did not expect to grow old, oddly enough. I was sick a lot as a child and I was never very strong. I remember wanting to live to be 40 because I thought that by then I would have done everything I wanted to do. How silly is that?

Because I didn't expect to grow old I never gave a thought about how it would be.
One thing I never expected to happen was to be alone. And if I had given any thought to that possibility I would have dreaded it. But life often holds surprises for us.

I nearly died when I was 23, and was told I'd be lucky to live till 30(with the condition diagnosed). I'm 62, and have had the health condition under control all these years. However, that experience included two excruciating kidney surgeries, and I became too well acquainted with pain.

Now as I'm aging, chronic problems are making an appearance, arthritis, spinal and knee problems, stiff joints, etc. I'm beginning to wonder how my grandmother lived to 92 with such chronic pain. She did complain some, but most relatives just nodded acknowledgment, as they too were elderly and trying to get by.

I did very little visualizing myself as elderly, due to that dire medical warning (other than financial planning). Guess I didn't think I'd be old. However, I always exercised, ate right and tried to take care of my physical health. What I find so difficult is the gradual loss of physical activities I loved: walking my dogs, biking, hiking and even running in my earlier years.

What I don't look forward to is having to hire help for household tasks and pet care. I can't find a lot to enjoy, but I do love my pets and the peace and quiet of these years now. Time for reflection, reading and writing.

so far, and I'm pushing 80 pretty hard, I just don't feel "old". Oh, I have the usual ailments of an 'old' body, but I just don't feel or think like the 'doddering old soul' that I thought would be my lot early on.

Heh Heh, maybe in my 90s?

So far I'm much healthier than I expected to be at this age (knock wood), almost 71, having slowed down mostly out of sheer laziness. I've given up night driving, but that's not been a great sacrifice. I am very alone, which I enjoy for the most part. But it does cause me to worry about what if ...

I have read the studies that show over-doing the video games causes dementia in the young.
I am thinking D-Rex is a new anomaly in society.
When I was young, I never ever ever could imagine myself getting old. Dying, yes. Old? No. Mind steers clear of that scenario...unless apparently you are butt deep in video games like many of my young relatives are.
So....even though I am an RN with two additional years of study in Social Gerontology, I am SHOCKED at how I am in old age!
Think about it. When we were young, we would look at old people and never imagine they could have ever been young. Even when I would see pictures of them in their youth, it seemed like the young person and the old person were two different people.
D-Rex. I feel sorry for him if he is wasting his youth wondering about being old.

I'm more cantankerous than I thought I would but then I never thought I would find as many people as I have to be intolerant and shallow. The bodily aches and pains of growing old has also made me a little less congenial.

I like Drex a lot and have started following his blog/podcast.

~~ (Taking a second look at your prompt, Ronni ---> "Are you anything like what you thought you would be in old age?")

In my case, I don't remember ever wondering what old age would be like. I've been vibrantly young of mind as long as I could stand up fast from a chair and (e.g.) "run" across the kitchen for one reason or another. Until very recently, I would happily and very smugly think of myself as being no different than when I was 40.

Then, amazingly, one day I looked hard at the FACT that I was no longer that 40 year young person. I faced the truth that I was not recovering well from a second broken hip, walking slowly was difficult, and I was taking blood thinners to boot.

I could no longer jump up from a kitchen chair and race to the other side for a piece of tableware. That was the day, at almost 83, I looked at reality and said OMG, hecky-pooh and gosh, I AM REALLY AND TRULY OLD.

This has come as quite a shock. I wish I had thought about old age while I was younger, and somehow prepared myself for this day. I find it too easy for depression to set in.

Never gave old age a thought when I was young. Certainly never thought it would happen to me. Old folks wore funny shoes and frowned a lot.

But I guess I'd better prepare. The big nine-oh is coming up soon.

In my opinion Drex is unusual for someone of his generation. Like Pat (and probably many others as well), I didn't think much about getting old--until I got old. I worked essentially F/T until I was nearly 70 and really didn't have time to worry about it. My husband is now 84 and worked until he was 76 so we were fully occupied well into our "elder years". I'm fortunate to have a job and still be working P/T at 77.

Physically, we're both in relatively good shape, all things considered. Still, it can be somewhat of a downer to realize that I will probably never again wake up feeling completely GREAT. I had 3 back surgeries in my 20s, so physical pain is a known, but then I could look forward to major improvement. Now, not so much.

Interesting post Drex. Start now creating a world you want to live in when you are 80 or 90. Practice kindness, care and love as often as you can.
Mow your elderly neighbor's yard, mow the yard of a huge family with parents that look harried, scoop the leaves out of the gutters on your aunt's house, play with young children. Corporate America is always focused on the young because you spend money easier. Don't be fooled. I love being 63 and would not be 17 again if you paid me.
Practice kindness. It's fun and makes the rest of us enjoy life and you.

Ellen Greenlaw's advice is priceless, even for this 67-year-old.

I never thought about being old or what that would entail. However, in their 90's, my parents are both healthy, living independently and pretty darn active, physically and mentally. Who knew I would come from such wonderful genetic stock? I never thought about living past 30 and now I am in my early 60's. It is all very odd. So I just try to stay curious and not freak out about getting older because, apparently, I could be here for quite a time yet! I do have this fear (since I live alone) of choking on a sandwich and no one finding me for several days ala 'mama Cass'.

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