ELDER POETRY INTERLUDE: Blues
INTERESTING STUFF – 14 April 2012

What Do You Know Now About Getting Old...

Perhaps you have noticed that some of the cable pundit shows have a new(ish) meme. At the end of their programs, the hosts and guests tell viewers what they learned during the show that day.

Chris Hayes, in the final minutes of his Saturday morning program on MSNBC, asks his guests, What do you know now that you didn't know last week?

Hayes's guests tend to be a bit more learned and thoughtful than those on many other shows, so there is a minimum of puffery for their own or friends' books, movies and TV shows than you get elsewhere and more insight into current events.

And that got me thinking about us old folks. So today, with apologies to Chris Hayes, here is the question:

What do you know now about getting old that you didn't know when you were 21?

This is not about what do you wish you had known when you were younger – like those jokes about if I'd known I would live this long I'd have taken better care of my teeth. No. Not that kind of knowledge.

Instead, I'm looking for self-discovered insight about aging. Or, perhaps, what has come as a surprise to you about getting old. Or a youthful misconception about age that has been corrected. Or maybe an attitude or feeling you didn't expect to have in your old age.

Normally, this is the place where I would tell you one of the things I know now about getting old. But when I've asked this question of a few people and given them an example, they said, “Yeah, me too.”

So I'm not going to let you off that easy. You're on your own: What do you know now about getting old that you didn't know when you were 21?


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Dani Ferguson Phillips: Remembering Childhood Friends

Comments

I had thought at 28 that a person would feel weak, feeble, frail and unsteady on their feet at 68. That's how my grandmother appeared and she was that old.

I now (at 68) know that I don't feel any older than I did at 28. Inside, I'm still young enough to be able to do anything I want to do. Outside, I have grey hair and age spots, but nothing else to suggest I'm not strong enough to tote my sacks of groceries from the car or bags of trash to the dumpster.

I am grateful for whatever mix of genes and environment combined to give me this strength.

Pretty much all that at first surprised me was that I didn't look older. But as I thought about it, I think some of that is styles. Today old people can look however they want for how they dress and wear their hair. I look at photos and don't see them looking any older than mine, but the dictates of the time led to certain expectations.

I still remember my grandmothers in those old lady shoes. No jeans ever. One of my grandmothers probably never wore a pair of pants in her life. Even my mother and her generation were more bound by certain expectations for what being old should look like than I am.

Otherwise, it's a lot like I saw and am experiencing. I had a lot of adventuring relatives, and so my view of old age wasn't limited to sitting crocheting-- even though some of them did that. My example of what 'old' should be was generally a pretty positive one. I think of my mother breaking a hoe handle over one of the bulls who got out of the pasture as she drove him back-- she was in her 70s when she did that. What slowed all of them down was when health problems hit.

I had no idea of how it would feel to live in the midst of the accumulated life experience of 7 decades, what an expansive, integrated perspective that brings. I had no idea how vivid life would be.

I wasn't completely alienated from my family at 21 years, but it was not the center of my universe. Now 55 years later I am completely devoted
to my family. It has first place in my heart.

I learned that Bette Davis was right when she said "Getting old ain't for sissies."

When I was young, I thought my mother and my grandparents knew the "correct" way to handle anything and everything. They never seemed to be in doubt, confused or at a loss. So I expected that when I became an adult, I too would automatically know what to do and be so clear and certain. It didn't happen (of course) and I remember being shocked when I figured out they must have been making it up/taking their best guess too. Who knew? I've handled it very differently with my own children. I hope they think I have sound opinions and give good advice, but they certainly don't think I have the lock on "the real and correct way" to do things.

The first thing that came to mind is that now at 65, I know that happiness results from doing for and helping others...not being caught up in myself like I was at 21.

I realize that, at 69, I am vibrant and interested I the world around me in ways I never imagined at 21. Wisdom does sometimes come with age.

I'm surprised when the elderly don't care about the elderly and surprised that young jerks become old jerks - why did I think they'd mature?

I know now that common sense is more valuable than so-called expert advice, that life is all about choices so choose wisely and wisdom will ripen with age.

Echoing some of the previous posts, I expected to look and act a lot older, because that's what I saw in my grandmothers and mother. I'm fast approaching the age most of them were when they died, but, in spite of several chronic health issues, I'd be very surprised if I didn't outlive them by a decade, due to modern medical care and interventions. I, too, didn't know that I'd feel like the same person, inside, at 79 that I did at 19.

"When I was one and twenty"...I was totally self-involved, alienated, sure that what I wanted was what everyone else should want.
Today, at 71, I'm not that way. I told my 18-year-opld son recently (and consciously trying not to sound like a self-important old fart) that he should live his life. mindful that he should never purposely hurt others and should enjoy the simple pleasure of being alive every day. I've learned that envy, greed and jealousy are a waste of time; if you win the lottery and it makes you happy, good for you. I wish you well.

The saddest, for Me, was tooth loss, and the ability of chewing steak.

I never knew that I would forget so much!

I did not expect to feel the deep concern and disappointment regarding the world in which we live.

I especially am surprised at how angry I feel when government officials and/or people in power not only get away with but are many times rewarded at being nothing more than a super-sized school yard bully.

I guess I foolishly thought things I could not control would not bother me as much as when I was younger...didn't think I would have the energy!

I've learned that most of what "they" say about aging isn't true. There isn't a steep precipitous decline when one turns 60 or 70. I've learned that the body and mind can continue to work well--given good care. And that being active mentally and socially at every stage of life is essential.

I started an interview project in 2010 on "Our Thoughts on Aging, Death + Dying" to offer people (over 21 years) an opportunity to share their personal experience and beliefs about aging and death.
One of the questions I ask is the one posed in this blog post: What do you know now that you didn't know as a young(er) adult?
I think it's important to ask this question as we age - in our 30s, 40s, 50s - to acknowledge that we are aging, learning and growing our wisdom over time.


I did not hear much discussion about aging from my parents. Their generation just “weathered the storm,” adjusting to the changes with little comment. The only thing I remember my mother complaining about was the dry skin that plagues elders. “Oh, I itch and itch,” she would say. I wish they had supplied me with more information…
I like to say that since I have never been old before, this is all such a surprise. I am surprised by many aspects of this aging process. I can be living, just minding my own business, when all of a sudden a new part of my body decides to cause pain and/or be ugly, sometimes requiring surgery. I am shocked at how overwhelmed I can become at having to do simple tasks that before would have just been automatic. Impatience is a surprise also; I can become annoyed so easily. The hermit tendency, although not a surprise, is very odd.
Of course there are positive aspects as well. The complete lack of interest in what others think, the right to consider one’s limitations before agreeing to do something, the comfort of being alone and doing whatever, the free time, developing simple routines, a strange sense of knowledge that could never be explained to a non-elder -- these are pleasant surprises.

My surprise and shock upon realizing that a slow-to-heal wound on my lower leg had turned into an ulcer (requiring painful pressure bandaging) taught me a sharp lesson this week. I never knew, when I was young, that at 75 I would have tissue-paper skin that needs to be protected from damage much more carefully than before. I know now that if I get attacked by a bramble when I'm gardening or scratched by the claws of somebody's exuberant dog I can't just dab the wound with tea-tree oil, slap a Band-Aid on it and forget about it. Sometimes it is the little, seemingly insignificant lessons that have the greatest impact. This one is about the huge importance of mindfulness and about caring for my body lovingly as it ages, rather than taking its sturdiness for granted.

Some days, at 81, I am overcome with sadness as my body slows down, and a two mile walk with our dog feels like torture these days. I'm thinking that these Rusty Years call for being brave, thinking LITE, and seeking activities and peers for as much support as I can garner.

Look at all those wonderful comments. Oh, for me, Kay says it all.

Be honest in all things. Don't drink and drive. Don't have expectations but don't give up hope either. It's ok to accept adaptations like a cane or giving up your car. Don't people please either. It's ok to give up those things you don't like such as eggplant or politics without having to explain yourself.

Ciao! Today's my birthday (nice round number) and I couldn't have asked for a better post. I agree with Kay (and Bette Davis) and in part relate to Chana's post (i.e. I keep hoping that "enlightenment" will descend upon me)and totally agree with John, though I am still struggling to apply the theory. A work in progress ... so have decided to dedicate the whole year to a celebration of my birthday, doing different things with different friends or on my own. No big party, as is the custom here, just "moments" that will become memories.
What do I know now that I didn't know before? That a smile is a GREAT gift. That girlfriends are GREAT gifts. That being alive is a GREAT gift. That not everyone you trust is worthy of that trust. That "oh-that-will-never-happen" does happen. That you can cope. That it's not all your fault. That things and people DO change. That context is everything and that one should never take anything or anyone for granted.
Happy My Birthday to all of you and may something lovely or reassuring or silly-but-nice happen to you all today ... and may you all have a good, hearty laugh.

As I was writing my post, several more wonderful ones came up. Kudos to NSC and Mage B!

What surprises me is how fast the years start to pass by - especially starting at about age 50. When I was younger is seemed forever until I was a teenager, could date, could drive, finished college, had my family, etc., etc. I tell my grandchildren to be careful not to try to hurry the days they have along because soon enough they will flow disproportionately fast.

I thought that being old meant that your family would be caring for you as that was the role model I witnessed. Much to my surprise I am living alone with my family far away.

I never envisioned this as what my old age would be like.

Almost every thing about growing older is a surprise.
I'm amazed when I do the double check on who that old
woman in the mirror might be!
I haven't given up the fight,
but I'm moving a lot slower.
I like being with people my own age, they know the score.

I've learned that no matter how many years have passed I am still the person I was at 6, 16, 26, etc. I have not turned into what I thought an older woman would be, shriveled, stooped, diminutive. Having reached the ripe "old age" of 65, I'm in better shape than I was in high school and college.

I remember being told by people over 50 that time passes quicker that you think it will but at 21 I thought time and youth were forever. Now I'm standing on the other side of 50 wondering how I got here so fast.

I have learned that my best allies in old age are the elder people in my life, since only they understand and experience the issues that I must deal with at this age. And the elder peoples' blog I read is especially valuable.

I have learned that over time my senses become less sharp and I don't even realize it. My sense of humor becomes more laconic.

I have learned that medical people too are subject to all human failing, because they too are human. And medicine is imperfect.

I have learned that prejudice can be blind. I was blind to how automatically I averted my eyes from the old and the infirm. I have now come to accept this when it happens to me. I am always surprised and pleased when it does not.

I have learned to enjoy to the fullest all that I still have because someday it might be gone. Someday it WILL be gone.

I have learned that for some people in some circumstances, life is not too short.

I have learned that I really am a slow learner. Sometimes I still do not save often enough when I am writing. But today I am finally allowed to spindle and mutilate all I please.

I echo some of Darlene's thoughts. I thought people would be caring for me like we cared for my grandmothers (all the grampys were gone by then). But at 70 I have grandchildren two days a week, and have a very busy life with family and friends. I am living alone but I like it.

The biggest thing I didn't know at 21 is that you can't fix everything, that rescue-itis helps no one, including yourself and all those nights I kept myself up worrying were a total waste. Either there's a plan or there isn't and it probably isn't my plan. I sleep well now.

And just like 21, I still like to get in the car and drive off to see something I haven't seen before, dang those gas prices.

I've learned that there is a difference between being smart and being wise - in fact, at nearly 68, I'm still learning the difference.

At 85, the thing that surprises me most is how fast time moves and how slowly I move - I agree with whoever said "When I reached 80, breakfast started to come around every 15 minutes" - of course at 21 I never thought I'd ever get to 85 - I didn't know I'd have so many pills to take every day and I didn't know there would be so many little aches and pains here and there - I didn't know I'd ave to worry about money so much - I have learned that one has to accept limitations gracefully and still be grateful for life - just seeing the morning sun gives me joy, and every day, though I'm an agnostic, I pray to whoever may be to thank him/her/it for my life - my children and grandchild have made me so aware of the circular nature of life - for millennia, babies have been born, grown up and died, and no change in that is likely to occur soon - it's what life is, so be grateful for every day you have.

I didn't know that I wouldn't always have the people that I loved with me. I didn't know how precious time together is.

What I know about getting old now that I didn't know at 21 is that some of my friends who were the same age or younger than I was would die before me.

I didn't know that I might grow old without their sustaining friendships. I didn't know, also, that I would one day agree with the adage so often repeated by my elders: As long as you've got your health!

Also, for most of my adult years I believed I would not want to have children. I didn't know that having a daughter would be the highlight of my life.

Most of all I didn't know how terribly I would miss my parents when they were gone. I'd trade a year of my own life to have them here with me for another year.

At 21 and probably even at 51, I don't think I believed that I too would diminish in physical capabilities. Somehow I assumed I'd just keep going, like the energizer bunny, forever.
But at 21 I was psychologically distant from my family. Now, my family are most important in my life.
Regretfully, I know that at 21 I really did believe the world was getting better, and now I see that it has not changed at all - it's probably worse.
I think the other responders have said it all.

What surprised me is that my health improved after age 70. I had expected the opposite. I'm very happy to have been relieved of the burdens that defined my adulthood: working as a teacher and looking after others.
Selfish, maybe, but I have served my time.

Forgetting things, often and immediately. The inability to get a good night's sleep naturally. Losing my dexterity.

On the plus side, I didn't know that you could be more at peace with yourself. I always thought old people worried more about death since they were moving closer to it but I am surprisingly unafraid of death, with the exception of the pain that may occur from some forms of death.

There are many things I felt I knew but didn't understand how they came to be. Cynicism for one. Youthful idealism tends to fade away as you see more and more how cruel and self-serving people really can be.

I didn't know, at 21, about the subtle settling of wisdom upon my life that I'm beginning to sense now, at nearly 70. How much more precious that is, than the shallow longings of those younger years!

I am continually surprised about how freeing it is to be old. I now can evaluate rules and "shoulds" to see whether they actually should be adhered to, or if I can blithely ignore them if I want to. Not rules like which side of the road to drive on, or paying income tax, but rules such as what I should eat for dinner, or breakfast. I have what I want for breakfast, and never mind the "shoulds."

And I am able to be free with my grandchildren. I'm no longer bound by the unspoken rules of parenting that made me so anxious with my own children. From the perspective of years, I can see that all that anxiety was counterproductive, and now I'm free to interact with my grandkids in a healthy, happy way.

This sense of freedom and empowerment is one of the most precious gifts about growing older.

I didnt know I could change and evolve,also that little things connected to the ego wouldnt matter so much.I didnt expect that grief could shatter me so much.My husband wants to add that he didnt know the value of time

I didn't know that only my body would age, not my mind. I'm just as excited at hearing and seeing a wren as I was at 21. It appears to me that my mind is ageless.
If that's only a fantasy, then that's alright; I enjoy myself.

Today I know that getting old happens - not just to others - and that it happens much faster than I ever thought it would.

Although it was unimaginable to me at 21 ( and at 73), I now know that there may come a time in my life that I've lived as long as I want to live. That happened just recently to the 96 year old man named Wally who lived down the hall from me. He had friends and family who loved him and will miss him, but he was tired and not as well as he had been and he was ready.

I don't mean this to be depressing. For me, the realization of being old is a realization of life itself. The exclamation point at the end.

This morning I found my self using the word DAZZLED to describe my own aging process.

Here's a haiku on the topic.

Dazzled by aging
opening new awareness
to OCCUPY life.

When I was young I thought that a person could control the aging process in the sense that if you took care of yourself, you wouldn't deteriorate. You'd just keep going until you died.

Well, I took care of myself, but, for example, I recently started to do a yoga pose I've been doing continuously for years and found I couldn't get my leg into the proper position without pain. That's just one example that's helped me learn that bodies do deteriorate with age, no matter how well you've maintained them. I will not stop following the healthy routines that have kept me from serious problems, but I know I simply cannot be in full control of what happens to my body.

One thing that helps me accept the deterioration is the fact that I am happier at 64 than I ever expected to be when I looked ahead as young person. So many of the things that really bothered me when I was younger seem unimportant now. I plan to enjoy to the fullest however many years I have left.

I am at a loss to answer the question, I think because when I was 21 it simply never occurred to me that I would get old. So I never thought about what being old would be like.

While the physical deterioration of age is a bother, I remember that when I was young I thought everyone else knew the secret to how to live except me, I had no clue. Now that seems laughable. But at least I am not nearly as scared of making a mistake as I was then.

The responses here are pretty interesting, what a great question. And I like Louise's haiku.

First and foremost I discovered that life goes on for a long time way beyond the sixty something that I thought would be my exit from this "mortal coil" and I learned that I could survive very well away from the old "nine to five". I found myself on the way and eventually got to know me and- like me.
I know now that although friendship is important, I can live without a lot of what I used to think was indispensable.

I didn't know the view would be so clear from here. I didn't know life would be so much richer and more complex. I didn't know I would feel so kindly towards, and interested in, the people around me.

I didn't know how wistfully I would miss the strong, agile joints of my youthful body.

I've learned how bizarre it is to think and feel the same as always on the inside and yet see a fat, wrinkled, gray-haired stranger in the mirror every morning. It's a real disconnect for me. Who is that person!? No wonder others see us and assume we must be very different from young people.

Okay, I'm outta here. Time to fire up my Xbox for an hour or two of "Left 4 Dead." The kids gave it to me for my 69th birthday last week. (They know the real me!)

Your question made me recall a class I took in college entitled: Adolescence and Aging. At the time I did not understand why the combination of topics had been put into a one semester class. What relationship do the two have? What I didn't understand then was there are a lot of similarities between the two.
Both are filled with changes that we must accept:
In adolescence there are major bodily image changes such as the development of breasts, hair in new places, changes in sexual organs, growth spurts, etc. The adolescent goes through several years of learning to accommodate, accept and restructure their self-image.
In old age our skin thins, our hair changes color, hormonal changes in sex organs, shrinking in height, protruding stomachs, etc. Our physical self-images have to be accommodated, accepted and restructured.
How we think others view us becomes confusing as adolescents and again as we age until we have resolved the changes in our own minds.
Adolescence leads into adulthood with the need for independence and also the need for companionship or lack thereof. This span of years is usually busy with little time for reflection, peace and acceptance.
During old age (the elder years) we don't lose the need for independence and companionship but often circumstances change, through no fault of our own, so we no longer can enjoy the independence and companionship we developed during our adulthood. On the other hand even though time seems to pass rapidly, we have time for thought, reflection, peacefulness and eventually acceptance as our lives come to an end. I do not remember what I believed at the age of 21. Today at 75 I believe that death is part of a new beginning.
Barbara Sloan

When I was 21, three of my four grandparents were gone, dead in their late 80s, the age of the one surviving one. My parents were roughly the age I am now -- mid-60s. So I think I almost completely lacked a picture of aging that included the years between the mid-60s and the 80s -- the time I am entering on now. Reading this thread, I found it interesting to realize that.

At 21, I would have been sure the world was getting better. Not so much so today, though most of what interests me is is one way or another about making it better. That didn't change.

Welllllllllll..I thought things would get easier...I guess I was clueless to the stress my parents were under at times..I sort of knew, but didn't know what things really were. The innocence of youth. And then there was Berkeley in the 60's..ahhhhh... I watch my daughter, now 30, dealing with her issues..rather well... and think what will it be like for her at 65... I talk to my mom,age 93... and still driving.. wow

This is a great question, and I would love to have the young people in my life know what I do now. But that is something I do know now that I didn't then-no one can tell you what it will be like, you must experience it yourself. I never thought that the world would still be so full of hate and war-when I was young we were going to change the world. I know now that change in the world comes slowly, three steps forward and 2 1/2 steps backwards if you are lucky. I know that life is not fair-at twenty, I thought fairness would win the day. I have learned that hours, days, months and years fly by before you can appreciate them. I never would have thought that my life would be so full with my grandchildren or that I could love them so much. Even at twenty I would never have pictured myself as devoted to children, let alone grandchildren. I also learned that there are choices to be made in life and you can't live your life regretting the choices you have made. Wow-there is so much.....that smarty-pants twenty-year-old me really didn't know much at all.

I learned that you can't save people from themselves. No matter how much you want to. I learned that sometimes people you care about will hurt you terribly and the pain will get better but it will leave scars. Don't pick at the scars. It is a waste of time. I learned that when you do something that is against your ideals you will come to regret it more than once and wish you had done better but it's too late. I learned that I still feel like that 21 year old inside but the shell is showing wear and tear. I learned that my body will do pretty much what I ask of it as long as I take good care of it. That means doing my cardio and weight lifting regularly. Doesn't mean its perfect. My hair started graying at 19. All of my daughters have prematurely gray hair too. I was mostly white by 40 when I quit dying it. Now I like it. I learned that most people have a heavy load of one kind or another. The "Leave It To Beaver" family is rare to nonexistent. I learned that it makes me feel good to pass a cheerful greeting to friends and strangers. They most often respond well. I learned that growing old may not be easy but I am much more content with myself and much happier than I used to be. Like Kate, I am much more free now and I am not very interested in how other people see me. Last month I hit 76 and the top thing on my bucket list is to make it to 100. There is just too many things I haven't seen, too many books I haven't read, too many places I haven't gone. I need more time.

I, too need lots more time. At 88, I don't feel grown up yet. Maybe next year.

I've learned that old age is a figment of the imagination. At 21, age forty seemed old. Three grown children, six grandchildren and 40 years later, age seems irrelevant. Surviving breast cancer at age 39, each decade has brought its own challenges and left wisdom in its wake. I thought I was smart and savvy when I was 21. I had no idea how dumb I was until life schooled me.

I thought you were who you were, fully formed and essentially unchanging once you finished college and "settled down". I did not realize how much change, personality and perspective-wise, is possible and that changing doesn't need to stop. Yes, I see that some essentials are molded and some natural talents exist or don't, but the constant change has been exilerating and rewarding and truly has made my life fascinating. At 73 life promises to continue to be an exciting adventure, yes, with a few physical deficits that will probably increase but I'm sure it will never be boring and I certainly hope I won't be boring to others either.

Where are my close friends? They live now in other places.

21 was not that great - changing diapers while going to college, running on someone elses schedule. At this time in my life I can do whatever I choose and am not guided by someone else's schedules and/or wishes.

I love the silance, the traveling and seeing new people and places.

And to the grandchildren, "please do not leave your shoes or boots on the floor where I can trip on them during the night".

Recently I had a young doctor suggest to me that I take an anti-anxiety medication and then maybe I'd get to know the "real" me. I was struck by his observation, that he might presume to know me better than I knew myself. I did not take his offered prescription, but I did think about his comments. I realized that I like that slightly edgy woman who is not longer afraid to call BS when I see it. The woman who gets tears when marvelous things happen, who laughs when she fumbles with her keys in a way she never has before. At 21 it was a crap shoot whether I would ever be comfortable with myself, but for the most part, I am there. Even though my body is starting to know old age, my brain hasn't got the message, and I revel in that.

At 21 I thought of people past fifty as old. Real old. I was never going to act like them or look like them and I would never use a cane or walker because I was not going to let infirmity happen. Ha ha ha! Guess who the old lady with the cane is? Guess who can't remember things and who needs a hearing aid but won't wear one and annoys everyone by asking them to speak louder and to repeat things. And guess who needs the t.v. on loud or watches it on mute with close captioning?
And guess who had double cataract surgery and can now see better then ever without glasses? My grand kids love that I can see them now from any distance and yell at them because I can actually see them.

what I thought I could control I could not but the joy of living and the happiness from having a loving family are unsurpassed.

My young life was dramatic. My Mother, bless her, was "histrionic" and I learned how to wig out about everything, big and small. When I was 21 I felt hysterical inside about everything. If I walked into a room and someone laughed I was a thousand percent certain that they were laughing about me. If I was called into the Manager's office, I was certain it was to be fired. I thought everything was about me, and worse yet, everything was negative about me. I am not crazy about wrinkles, age spots and crappy hair, but I wouldn't trade who I am now for the younger (better looking) completely insecure person. I have not achieved what I wanted in life, but I no longer rail against having a tumultuous childhood. I no longer blame anyone in my family for problems I had. I have come to accept that my upbringing was unusual in a good way. Acceptance and a new found respect for my unorthodox family marks me now. I'm the only one left of my family. When I do something that I can be proud of now, it is with thoughts of them and how I live because of them.

By 21, I'd already been orphaned and my first love had broken my heart. Still I ploughed dutifully through college and graduate school, meanwhile becoming more aware of the insanity of our being involved in horrible wars & the hypocrisy of politicians. When my prestigious university was shut down by antiwar protesters, and the war sputtered to a stop, we thought we'd changed the world. Fat chance--greed and money and rampant power have continued to war against the 99% here and worldwide without ceasing.

And very unexpectedly to my healthy youthself, my lifetime health hasn't been so jolly, either: mastectomy, hysterectomy, anxiety/depression, and last month they said I have diabetes, which changes everything for this party-giver, cook and food lover. Healthwise, I dread the next decades if I'm granted them.

Still, I didn't know at 21 how luxurious it would feel to sleep late after 30+ years in the academic trenches. I did everything I was supposed to and am lucky enough to have a paid-for home and a small pension, but boy, the world's in terrible shape.

And Hubby is disabled, but we still manage to assist others and homeless animals & have made new friends in the 6 years I've been retired. That's something age teaches: how many DEAR friends will move away, pass away, and change. But what choice do we have? We just soldier on & find joy where we may...

I enjoyed the comments so much and have reread them a couple of times, thinking I agree with most all of them. We are certainly amazing overall!! Thanks, dear Ronni!

Reading this at work on Sunday afternoon I just have to say thank-you for all these posts. At 21 I didn't know I would like getting older.

I'm almost 64. When I was 21, I didn't know I could enjoy doing not much for an entire day, or that friends would be mostly like chapters in my life. I didn't know that I would come to deeply miss family members who drove me nuts at that time.

Over time, I learned to choose something or someone nobody wanted or noticed and help it, him or her morph into something beautiful.

A strange little cat with collar and tag came to greet me today in my garden.

Since our cat died a couple years ago, I miss her, but we can't get a new cat as long as we're away winters.

This little cat came and sat beside me today as if she could read my mind.

I picked her up, put her around my neck the same way I did with my other cat, and she purred in my ear.

The cat reminded me that sometimes you wish for something you can't have, but life unfolds as it should and your wish often arrives from a different direction.

So, always be ready and receptive to a new friend, even a furry four legged one.

This little cat and I will soon be playing tinfoil pinball on my deck.

One thing I know now that I didn't know when I was young, is how brilliant you and your readers are!
I can't tell you how reassuring it is to see in print many of the things I am feeling, aging can be so challenging. Time Goes By is always there as a reality check, so thank you all for being far and away my smartest friends!

On a personal level just in the last few weeks of my 6th decade I have finally learned that my looks are not what people like about me, they actually like me for me, and I think that knowledge will improve how ever many decades I have left.

Wow! So many commenters have already expressed so many of the same things I feel. At just weeks shy of #70, I'm surprised how much I know in spite of not having earned that magic piece of a paper (a college degree) after high school. I couldn't afford and was not expected to go so I didn't. I wanted to earn money and have things. I've learned that learning isn't confined to Universities and those who can afford to go. After nearly a lifetime of feeling less than I'm feeling awfully proud to be who I am and know what I know and that's enough for me! I wouldn't mind going back in years body-wise but no way in hell would I be willing to relinquish what I've learned in trade for it.

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