What Makes a Good Retirement?

Reasons Growing Old is Good

You might have noticed that from time to time here, I write about liking old age. I perfectly well know that, as the old song goes, “my days dwindle down to a precious few” but that doesn't get in the way of my appreciation for this time of life.

I like being old. I like being old better than I liked being young. I like it better than I liked being middle aged. I particularly like being old in the era of the internet because it gives me easy access to other cultures. (Well, English speaking ones since I am mono-lingual.)

Which brings me to Virginia Ironside whom I've mentioned once or twice in the past but not nearly enough. I doubt I would ever have discovered her without the internet.

For many years, Ms. Ironside – who is 69 years old this year – was an advice columnist - what the Brits call an “agony aunt” - for The Independent newspaper and has written a slew of best-selling books through the years including two or three on aging.

In 2010, she turned one of those books (You're Old, I'm Old...Get Used to It) into a one-woman stage show, The Virginia Monologues, that itself was published as its own book.

The Virginia Monologues – Why Growing Old is Great not only covers the same territory as “You're Old, I'm Old...”, it hardly differs at all. Several people, over these ten bloggy years of mine, have told me that I “tell it like it is” about being old. Well, so does Virginia Ironside.

I love having discovered someone - a soulmate, if you will – who “gets” aging in the same way I do but often says it better than I can. So today you get a few quotations from The Virginia Monologues.

On Confidence:

“When I was young everyone older than me was frightening...The confidence comes not with just feeling others are not a threat but actually no longer being a threat. If I’m not frightened of you and you’re not frightened of me, then that breeds confidence – and friendliness – on either side.”

On Living Alone:

“I’ve sometimes got dressed in order to go to the local library, discuss the weather with the librarian, exchange a book and come home again, just to get clear the whole idea of who I am.

“'It’s all too easy, when being alone, to start to feel that you are just a non-person, a glass of water poured into another glass of water. Without other people, it’s easy in no more than a few hours, to imagine yourself as just a blob of nothingness.

“A small bit of conversation can usually put things right.”

On Looking Good:

“The standard of looks in England is so low that with the minimum of effort you can stand out as some kind of ancient Marlene Dietrich or Tina Turner. It just takes a bit of flair and courage. A good-looking oldie can have the time of his or her life, particularly in England.

“Looking good not only lifts your own spirits, but also other people’s as they see you walking down the street. In my book, looking one’s best is actually a kind of good manners.”

On Liking Old Age:

“People who keep pretending to be young are just pathetic specimens, the sort of folk who despise facelifts but are, by their actions, chasing a lost youth.

“I don’t want to be young any more. It’s so boring. I don’t want to bicycle across Mongolia or go bungee-jumping. I like the fact that my love affair with life is settling into comfortable companionability.”

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Chlele Gummer: Treading the Board Again


All I know so far is --- if you are healthy, your little grey cells are still working and you have enough money to not worry--- this is a great place to be!!!

Like M.C. Hammer sings:

"Can't top this."

Ms. Ironside, consider me a fan.

Virginia Ironside certainly speaks for me.

I would add that taking pains with one's appearance before going out is important. Not only that it makes you feel good, but it creates another positive image of the elder generation.

Even though my forays are now limited to the grocery store or to a medical appointment I get ready as if I were going to have lunch with an important person.

I love and agree with Virginia Ironeside. And I think we aught to change our "Elder" moniker to "Oldies".... like the magazine that dares to be Interesting!http://www.theoldie-magazine.co.uk/

I love the comment on Looking Good. I've noticed more and more at restaurants and stores and airports that many older women look great--mostly by ignoring the old rules about coloring their hair into their 90's and getting it cut super short. White hair is gorgeous.

Being an oldie is okay with me, though I vigorously retain an openness to change and explore my self. I still find that youthful exuberance of a new (self)discovery or place to 'be' - and which I hope to always have, regardless of anything else. Am I chasing a lost youth? - I don't know, but this attitude makes me feel good and wholly connected with the world, including those youngies who are contemplating the same things!

Well I for one do not agree! Old age is great if you don't have to worry about money, where you will end up living etc.
I don't try to pretend to be younger but I far definitely enjoyed being a stay at home mother of four with a successful husband and a happy interesting life rather than a lonely divorced 75 old!

As I've said before, I'm not quite "there "yet when it comes to actually liking old age. I don't do ridiculous, expensive things in an attempt to stay young (they won't work anyway), but I can't say that I LIKE being 77--except when I consider the alternative. I wouldn't want to be 20, 30 or 40 again; however, I rather liked age 60 or so.

Laura has a point as well. One's health and financial circumstances at 70+ do make a difference. Divorce isn't known to be financially friendly to women over 50--I have friends in her situation. There are things you can do without a lot of money, but some degree of financial security does make life easier in my view. (Unless you're superrich, which my husband and I are NOT, I think most elders worry about money and where they will end up living--it's a matter of degree.)

Man, I wasn't bored being young! I guess she never inhaled.

Old age is great (seriously) until it stops being great. I just watched a British show where a man was lovingly taking care of his aged mother. She was completely incapacitated and bedfast. I just thought, "I want to die before I reach that stage." If I can possibly manage it, I will.

Growing old definitely beats the alternative, at least as long as I'm comfortable physically, financially, and emotionally. I constantly fight for balance between worrying too much and not worrying enough about the future, but aside from that, I'm delighted to be free of unhappy marriages, high-stress jobs, and dependent children.

I love this Blog and I'm pretty sure it has a collective of the smartest, most articulate elders around. But I've never been able to embrace the mantra of enthusiasm for old age. It's not just because I have health or physical problems and I certainly don't have financial problems. I have to accept old age because I'm here, and it has me by the throat. But even "the alternative," that hoary old euphemism for death, does not loom as worse than advancing old age in my mind.

I had to laugh at what Duchesse said about not inhaling, because I certainly didn't make that mistake. Following a divorce and a realization that I had to change my life completely, I enrolled in University in 1969 and from then until 1975 (including grad school), my cohort was an eclectic mix of black, white, Asian, Native American. We were young students, a few returnees, liberal professors, and even some Vietnam veterans, draftees who in no way thought of themselves as warriors or heroes. I had a great education and a great time and I would gladly do it all over again. It wasn't about youth and beauty, although those things sure didn't hurt. It was about living in a very special time that I miss greatly.

As Suzy wrote, old age is [acceptable, not great] until it isn't. And the "isn't" comes on fast. You're thinking that you're doing quite well at this aging thing and then suddenly you can't lift that barge or tote that bale any more and your carefully built house of cards crumbles. I have nothing but admiration and envy for those who can genuinely like being old, but I'm not one of them. I still miss having it all ahead of me. But of course, all the lovely people of the 60s and 70s are now lawyers or judges or politicians or professors or retirees like me and we didn't make a better world after all.

But it was great while it lasted. Pass me that doobie, Duchesse.

I heartily agree. I've never enjoyed my life more.

Of course I wish I had more money, my pension is tiny and my savings diminishing.

But I do feel invigorated every day and I'm constantly looking forward.

And working on things I absolutely love to do rather than J.O.B. which sucked the life out of me.

The many sadnesses for me are the deaths/incapacitations of friends and relatives.

But I feel very, very fortunate. All the time.


There are days when I forget I'm old, and can't imagine not being around forever, then there are days when I realize I probably haven't much longer to live and it's quite okay with me. The difference? (and if you are interested, read my blogs on here written before October, 2013)--health! I have dealt with pain and illness for 58 years, right through raising a family, building a career, then being a single mom with financial struggles, but never lost my joy in life till old age added an extra difficult dimension to pain. I am trying to find my blue bird of happiness again,in spite of having become nearly housebound (what we used to call a semi-invalid)and dependent on others. And yes, I have lost many of my friends during these 2 years of increasing health issues. I'm sure that is a large part of how I feel, although I have lots of new, younger friends who insist I still inspire them. Yes, I am fortunate and try to remember that.

I didn't edit that post very well."lost many of my friends to death" is how it should read, and I meant October 2012, not 13.

I appreciate articles (and the comments) like this one. The comments especially are thought provoking.

If you ask me, I think I have done a pretty good job of accepting my age (61), not being coy about my age, not trying to hang on to my youth in desperate looking ways.

But I do NOT like the health and mobility problems I'm accumulating with time. And I do have to work. And it's a highly stressful job with long hours and no authority. Just a worker bee office job. In my heart of hearts I would love nothing more than to be free of it since it sucks the life out of me (as other posters have so aptly described). But it's best for my mental health to just stop thinking about the job that way, and to do my best to make it less stressful and accept that I need to work (for the money).

So I can get over that I have to work.

But when health problems arise, it really does scare the pants off me because it might affect my ability to do my job well, it might mean I have to take time off work for health matters. And that scares me! It makes me look "old" and puts me in that "shouldn't she retire already?" category.

I increasingly find myself with arthritis that is not just an ache or pain. I don't move as well. It's scary! I've had one surgery and surely will have more.
And now cataracts.

I know this is just par for the aging course, and there are other things in life to enjoy. But declining health when you really have to hang on to your job does not add up to feeling that "growing old is good."

Meg, you said it all for me! I'd gladly go back to being in my fabulous, fun 50's in a (fibrillating) heart beat.

Being an active 70+ was great, until it wasn't, almost over night.

To those who enjoy being old I say, "Lucky you! May your luck hold until a quick and painless end".

when I was 50, I liked being taken for a 35 year old.
When I was 60, I enjoyed the assumption that I was..maybe..45.
During that time, I had a 'mimi' face lift along with the tummy tuck and breast alignment, after losing 150 lbs and winding up with saggy skin from eyelids to neck to breasts to tummy and abdomen. Again I appeared to be in my early 40s,,imagine that...45 year old men thought I was younger than they were. I dated quite a bit then, but soon lost interest in men that much younger than I was-to whom Jimi Hendrix was a guitar player instead of the primo guitar player in the universe, to whom "Duck and cover" didn't compute.
Now, at 71 going on 72, with the second broken leg in 2 years due to osteoporosis and stupid chance taking, I no longer how old "they" think I am. I like it when I give my birthdate-as I have been doing for the last week as lab techs always ask your name and birthdate to verify their giving the correct med or lab work draw to the right person. "I can't believe you were born in 1943" was a common reaction.
When I go out (in normal situations) I dress cleanly and neatly, apply moose to my hair to spike it up, eyeliner and mascara and even eyeshadow, pancake makeup and blush and a good lipstick, before I go out.
Yep I'm 71 and don't look it and thats ok. I won't have any more cosmetic surgery and I will continue to travel and visit friends in foreign places who don't think I'm in my 70s either.
I take care of my health, still have the red hair I had I'n my youth, thanks to hair coloring. My grey hair is splotchy and not attractive and the brow that 80
5 of it is is an ugly brown.
I keep my clothes clean and dress neatly and stylishly for a middle aged woman not for a belly baring 20 year old.
I wear 2 piece bathing suits by the pool because I enjoy swimming and it's good exercise. and I don't look like a 70 year old at all.
Basically I take care of myself the very best I can and think I benefit by that, excepting the broken legs that is.

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