The Differences Between Being 65 and 81
Tuesday, 16 January 2007
[A new story, Crabby Old Lady Gets Grumpy, has been posted at blogher.org this morning.]
[EDITOR’S NOTE: It often has been noted here that people age at dramatically different rates. We all get old, but how healthy we are or not at a particular age is different for each of us. An 81-year-old can be and often is as vibrant as a 65-year-old, or two people even at those widely separated ages could be physically limited in a similar way - all depending on individual genes, health and plain, dumb luck.
What is not variable, however, is the experience of years. When we are children, five years is a long, long time. By mid-life, five years between the ages of two people makes little noticeable difference in how they relate to one another. So, superficially, it would seem to follow that after about age 60, ten or 12 or 16 years shouldn’t be much of a separation.
But 16 years is nearly a generation. The childhood and adolescence of one person born in 1925 – the sensibility and zeitgeist of those times that we drag along with us throughout life – is nowhere near the same as another person born in 1941.
Millie Garfield of My Mom’s Blog sometimes makes mention that at age 81, she has done a great deal more living than I have yet at age 65. She’s right, you know, and so I invited her to write a guest blog here about…well, I’ll let Millie tell you.]
Ronni has honored me by asking me to be guest blogger on Time Goes By. The question she posed to me went something like this, "How have you changed, how has your life changed, how has your daily life changed in the past 16 years?"
What huge questions! Ronni picked sixteen years because she just turned 65. The answer, in a nutshell, is that my life is totally different now at 81 than it was back when I was 65. I'm a different person in many ways. Life happens, you need to adjust and to accept those things that you cannot change and go on with your life.
Many wives complain about having their husbands under their feet when they stop working. In my case, we had no problem, he did his thing, I did mine and then there were times we did things together, that way we made life interesting for both of us.
Soon after my husband retired we started spending the winter months in Florida.
We took advantage of the many activities that our complex offered. Like my mother taught me, "If you don't go out, nothing will happen." So I went out and things happened.
It was an opportunity for me to meet people who had different backgrounds and different ideas than my own. It wasn't difficult meeting new people to spend time with. It's not hard for me because I listen when most people talk.
I had to learn how to deal with people that were nothing like my good old friends from up north.
What I quickly realized was that you have a history with your old friends that is irreplaceable. There's a comfort level that is built up over years of shared experiences. I've been coming down to Florida for 18 years and have made a lot of friends, but only a handful of them approach the closeness and comfort of those old friendships.
Ah- losses, those were hard times - I lost my husband when I was 68, he was 74. Five months later his sister died, after that other family members and friends passed away.
It was during those days I realized how strong I had become. My husband had always encouraged me to do things for myself. If it weren't for him I wouldn't be driving today. So many husbands say to their wives, "honey, I'll take you wherever you want to go." They take care of all the financial matters and when "push comes to shove" the wives are helpless. Not so in my case.
For some reason I always have trouble spelling the word "decision." I think it's because I have had trouble in the past when it comes to making an important decision but as time goes by it's not as difficult as it once was. Experience is a good teacher.
After my husband died I knew it was time to sell the house. The friends that I had were all married, had lives of their own and I had to make a new life for myself. What to do, where to go? I gave it a great deal of thought, thought about it and thought about it. I almost made a mistake by considering a development where two of my dearest married friends lived. What a mistake that would have been! They were supportive but I needed to be where I could meet other widows and single ladies.
Fortunately for me, in that case, I moved very slowly and finally found a development where I knew a few single ladies. It took me three years to do "the deed" but it paid off because the day I moved in I knew it was the right place for me. The neighbors were welcoming and I fit right it.
Challenges of a New Life
Another big decision I had to make was, "Do I stop going to Florida for the winter." Even though I had been going to Florida for years with my husband, this was different - could I do everything that had to be done to get ready, I would be alone and have to make new friends, it would be a totally new life.
I sat on that for a while and then a light bulb went on, "if I wasn't happy, I could always come back home." At that point I was strong enough to realize that's what I had to do. If I hadn't gone that winter I wouldn't have been going all these years.
How Have I Changed?
Another big question. I'm more confident, assertive and independent. I'm more selective about how I spend my time, I'd rather read a good book or be on the computer than spend it doing something I wouldn't enjoy.
When I was 65 I did not think about age, my health was good, I baked, I cooked and had family and friends over for dinner, Now at 81, no more baking, very little cooking and very little housekeeping, I move a lot slower now but what needs to get done, gets done today, if not there is always tomorrow.
At the age of 77 I started blogging. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that it would enrich my life the way it has. When I was a child I was this shy little girl and look at me now! I've been on TV, been written up in newspapers and made speeches!! This all came about because when I asked my son, "What is Blogging?" I took the challenge and started a whole new chapter in my life.
There's a lot of living to do between 65 and 81, there are bumps and pot holes in the road, but they can be repaired and life can be beautiful!
Life happens, you need to adjust and to accept those things that you cannot change and go on with your life.
Millie, you make it sound so simple, but there is a lifetime of wisdom and self-awareness in that statement. Good for you!
Posted by: savtadotty | Tuesday, 16 January 2007 at 04:30 AM
Thanks for sharing your experiences and thoughts in your walk through those years Millie. At sixty-five I am just beginning that journey. As a man, I seldom give thoughts to actually living that long. Guess part of that reasoning is that perhaps I have let some of societies beliefs settle in. But I can relate to your comments. Even now I am beginning to set aside things that no longer seem to have a purpose in my life or the passion for them is fading. It’s as though the pavement was somewhat smooth but as the years pass some of the things I use to do have worn themselves into…..well, ‘potholes’ for lack of a better term. It’s time to step around them and move on.
I have enjoyed your acquaintance here in the Blogosphere and look forward to many more years. I think the thing I have most appreciated and enjoyed about you is your sense of humor. And I am a firm believer, right or wrong, that a sense of humor is a life extender in no uncertain terms. There is much that can happen to us in the later years but I pray that of all the things that can happen, may I always stay in touch with my sense of humor as you have.
And of course, thank you Ronni for inviting one of our special persons to share her thoughts.
Posted by: Alan G | Tuesday, 16 January 2007 at 04:46 AM
Thank you, Millie, for this very specific and realistic roadmap. It's a treasure because it's authentic, learned by your individual experience. Two of your hard-won truths that leapt off the page for me is about making friends in a new place: your mother's "If you don't go out, nothing will happen," and your "It's not hard for me because I listen, when most people talk." It took me most of my 62 years to learn both of these!
I'm left with one question, that maybe you'll blog about sometime if you haven't already: how does a new widow plan her remaining years so cannily to place herself among other single women rather than married couples? How does she know that she would rather be single than cruising around trying to get a man?
Posted by: ML | Tuesday, 16 January 2007 at 05:58 AM
A very "together" person! You are an inspiration.
Posted by: notdotdot | Tuesday, 16 January 2007 at 06:37 AM
Thank you both, Millie and Ronni, for sharing this.
I tend to think of the future as more of the same, but it certainly won't be... can't be... the same.
Posted by: AlwaysQuestion | Tuesday, 16 January 2007 at 06:51 AM
That was very good to read and an encouragement for what to do as the time comes when they are more definitive differences than I currently am noticing. Although I knew some of it due to living close to parents and watching them go through those years, it was still a good reminder as well as some additional ideas. Thank you
Posted by: Rain | Tuesday, 16 January 2007 at 07:25 AM
I am so glad Ronni asked these questions of Millie. Millie: Your answers were fabulous. My guess is that you succeed in life because you are an optimist. I wish you had been around when my mother became a widow. She couldn't really pick herself up and continue. She was depressed and although she started her own small business she never had the friendships, joy and resilience that you have.
Posted by: Rhea | Tuesday, 16 January 2007 at 08:48 AM
Regarding Ronni's mention of age differences in the Editor's Note: My grandmother, in her very late nineties, was unhappy staying with her daughters because she wanted to be with people her own age. A collective light bulb went off--we never even thought about that aspect. She went into a retirement center; she didn't like her room mate, but was still happier since she was with people closer to her own age.
Posted by: Heidi | Tuesday, 16 January 2007 at 09:47 AM
You are a strong and wonderful lady. Thanks for sharing and being a great blog guesthost!
I hope if I have to face similar situations, I will stop and think, "What Would Millie Do?" (I am one of those folks who tend to tear off on a tangent only to find the road ahead filled with potholes that were seemingly invisible just a second ago...)
Posted by: Cowtown Pattie | Tuesday, 16 January 2007 at 11:10 AM
Thank you Millie and Ronni for this great post. When I look at you Millie, I hope that I get to be both as wise and fun when I am your age.
It was a privilege for me to have met the two of you ladies. Will try to make that happen again.
Posted by: Claude | Tuesday, 16 January 2007 at 12:23 PM
Posted by: steve garfield | Tuesday, 16 January 2007 at 12:42 PM
Lord, but that's encouraging just before my 65th. Thank-you.
Posted by: Anna | Tuesday, 16 January 2007 at 04:53 PM
To answer one of the questions ML asked, "how does she know she'd rather be single than cruising around trying yo get a man?"
There is an expression in Florida about
what a man is looking for in a woman -
"He wants a nurse with a purse."
Well, I don't want to be a nurse and I certainly don't want to share my purse!
Posted by: millie garfield | Tuesday, 16 January 2007 at 04:58 PM
This was a great post - it's exciting to know there is so much to look forward to! As a young'un, I'm learning from you all!
Just barely an elderblogger at age 51....
Thanks Ronni and Millie!
Posted by: Cathy | Tuesday, 16 January 2007 at 05:54 PM
Wow! Millie! What an inspiration you are to us young 'uns!
I feel like an old fart at 56, and you say you began blogging at 77?,,,,,,my life is just beginning, and I have a lot to look forward to, thanks to our 'special elders'.
"Each of us has the opportunity to change and grow until our very last breath. Happy creating." --M.J. Ryan
Thank you Millie and Ronni!
Posted by: Matty | Tuesday, 16 January 2007 at 11:16 PM
I turn 60 in a few months and Millie confirmed here what I've said of her time and again -- I want to be just like her when I grow up! I've always been a pretty independent woman and know that I most likely will be till my Leader calls me within the parameters He gives me. You go, Millie! You are a positive role model for all of us!
Posted by: Kay Dennison | Wednesday, 17 January 2007 at 05:29 AM
Thanks Millie for these words of wisdom and thanks Ronni for having the wisdom to invite Millie to guest blog.
Posted by: Chancy | Wednesday, 17 January 2007 at 11:31 AM
Thank you so very much for sharing your journey through this period of your life. It gives a quite powerful message to us younguns' who need hope and humor. At 53, watching parents (and spouses, since my husband is 24 years older than I am) age, if they are not doing it so well can be very discouraging. My husband is doing it well for himself but does not always share his journey with me. Maybe, I am not asking the questions as your daughter did. Hooray for both of you.
P.S. I am trying to locate a DVD - The Cats of Mirikatoni should you know of any way to purchase it, I'd appreciate an email.
Happy Days to YOU.
Posted by: Peggy Lavelle | Wednesday, 17 January 2007 at 01:35 PM
After an entire month of being without my computer I certainly lucked out and fortunately joined the Blog today. I can identify with Millie because we are both 81. The biggest difference I found in our situation was that I find it harder to make decisions now. I guess experience wasn't the best teacher for me. Maybe it's because I am getting so lazy I don't want to spend the effort of having to think. I, too, sold my house and bought a town house where most of the inhabitants were elders. Four of us (three widows and another lady) have Happy Hour every Friday evening and sip a Martini and share experiences. I also discovered, much to my surprise, that I am a strong woman and can handle the vagaries of life. Here's to you Millie. It's great being a survivor.
Posted by: Darlene | Wednesday, 17 January 2007 at 05:56 PM
Simply wonderful. Thank you this slightly older than she should be 65 year old says.
Posted by: Mage | Thursday, 18 January 2007 at 07:41 AM
I think you've got life figured out, Millie, which I guess is what we're all trying to do -- on our own terms. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences.
Posted by: joared | Friday, 19 January 2007 at 12:00 AM
I really appreciated this post a lot. The things you have learned apply to folks of all ages. I have been reading (not commenting) for some time now on your blog but just had to thank you for these thoughts. Have a wonderful day!
Posted by: Deanna | Friday, 19 January 2007 at 02:39 PM
this web site is great!!!!!!!
Posted by: rhoda Augustine | Sunday, 21 January 2007 at 08:26 AM
When the time comes that I can no longer play golf, I just bought a piano. I will be 82 years old, and I haven't played since i was a child. You have to think ahead, and stay as healthy as you can be!!!!!!!!
Posted by: rhoda Augustine | Sunday, 21 January 2007 at 08:31 AM
Your comments hit home with me since I was born in 1925, and I am almost 82. I don't feel "old", and I refuse to tell younger people my age because I don't want them to pigeon hole me as an "old lady." My life is full, and I'm continuing in my "late in life" small bead business. My husband got tired of doing trade shows last year, so we've cut our show schedule from 12 shows a year to 3. I still find it exciting to meet new people, and I love my crystals. Two years ago we bought a second home in Idaho,and we spend 3 summer months there. Our son lives in the same town, so we enjoy him and his family. I will never sit in a rocking chair and watch the world go buy. We can stay relevant. Make it happen in your life, and I plan to be relevant in mine/ours. Try to eat for health, exercise for health, and be happy for health. I really feel it helps. Thank you for the opportunity to express my views, and thank you for a wonderful thoughtful article.
Posted by: Betty | Wednesday, 07 February 2007 at 04:03 PM