Growing Old with Unrealized Ambitions

Things I Do Differently Now That I'm Old

Some people – well, many people – see old age as nothing more than decline and that's not entirely false. Our bodies slow down, we become more susceptible to the “diseases of age” and we soon learn we are invisible to younger generations.

What they don't know yet is that there are compensations. According to some research, old age is the happiest time our lives. We also stop worrying about wrinkes and sags, we don't care as much what other people think of us and due to certain changes in our brains, we actually become a bit more wise.

Even so, there are changes that come, usually by personal choice, that are directly related to growing old. Here are some of the things I now do differently at age 74:

I don't drive on highways and I don't drive after sunset. The latter is lifelong – I couldn't see well at night even when I was a kid. But highways now make me tense so I take the long way around and usually it's a lot more interesting.

I renew memberships and magazine subscriptions for only one year. Yes, it's a few dollars more expensive than two or three years but why spend the money when I might not live that long. If you subscribe to as many as I do, the savings is substantial and I can use it elsewhere.

I haven't bought a dozen eggs in years. It's not about cholesterol and anyway, the “experts” are saying recently that we can eat eggs again. But I live alone, use them mostly hard-boiled in salads now and then and even with only half a box, some go bad before I get to them.

I don't finish any book (or movie) that bores me. How is it that for most of my life I felt obligated to read to the bitter end just because I had begun? I'm over that now.

It still breaks my heart but I don't wear high-heeled shoes anymore. There was a time when I couldn't stop buying them. I had more than a hundred pairs and worried that when I died, they'd compare me to Imelda Marcos.

Then one day they hurt my feet enough to make me cry and I couldn't recall if they had always hurt that much and I'd finally had enough, or if they just started hurting that day.

(Speaking of shoes, earlier this week Senior Planet included my shoe fetish in a story about Flaunting Age. I particularly like the idea of pimping out hearing aids.)

I stopped eating red meat a decade ago because it began causing stomach aches and the upside is that it is much easier to keep my weight in check. Once or twice a year I crave a really good hamburger and I figure eating one that infrequently won't hurt me (or the environment) much.

I no longer pay attention to dressing fashionably – only what fits well and is appropriate to the occasion. And no more cleavage, not that I ever had much.

Unless it is extremely important and someone else is paying, I have decided to top using airplanes. They are expensive, unpleasant, uncomfortable and an overall miserable experience.

And finally, I have given up pursuing happiness. I don't even read the ubiquitous “research” studies about happiness anymore because no one – not the researchers nor the respondents – know what they mean by the word. I'm doing fine, enjoying my old age so far and that's good enough for me.

Now it's your turn. What do you do differently now that you attribute to growing older?


Most of what I do differently comes from being "poor" in my older age, not so much from being older. I live closer to home due to transportation challenges, but have most of what I need right here. I connect more with friends and family both in real life and virtually. And I try to give back in the small ways that I can. I appreciate nature more every day.

Well Ronni, you covered a lot of the things I do differently (like not wearing high=heeled shoes or finishing books I'm bored with). But like Diane, I have become poor in my old age and stay close to home most of the time. I still work, but no 60 hours a week as I did during my career. I pay no attention to fools, whom I used to try to educate. But unlike you, I continue to eat red meat, just less often because I can't afford it. It is something I really enjoy, like ice cream and guacamole. I have stopped trying to diet to lose weight. It's hopeless, given my heredity. So I eat lots of fresh fruit in season, grow my own vegetables when nature cooperates, shop at farmers' markets and Walmart, and try to love each day for what it brings.

Just a great post! Well done!

Since getting older, and more to the point, retired, I revel in naps...I think I enjoy an afternoon nap more than going to sleep at night. And they always rev me up for several more hours.

Yes, I've given up the high heels too. LOL.
But seriously, much of what has changed because you are older can also be applied to one who is single. There is a lot you don't care about anymore when there is nobody there to tell you "NO." I've been "old" since 1985.

While I have significantly less money now I wouldn't say I'm poor... I'm fascinated with the Tiny House, Micro Apartments and minimalist movements (mostly promoted by young people) so I get lots of support and ideas from blogs and articles that pique my interests in this area. And while I'm also closer to home I am reading tons of books and enjoying them, cooking, and walks. I research and teach on aging - but not your typical topics (I frequently reference your column Ronni). I had to give up driving due to an eye issue but get a free bus pass that gets me where I need to go. Essentially I'm getting to live the simple life I've imagined since I read Voluntary Simplicity over 30 years ago.

Being retired, I now grocery shop on weekdays rather than waiting until the weekend.

I too have had to change my shoe habits especially after developing Achilles tendonitis last summer due to wearing cheap shoes. I had always bought very expensive, well made shoes when I was working. I thought I could get away with cheap shoes since I'm not on my feet as much, or so I thought. I'm actually walking more now that I'm retired.

Yes, no driving at night. I now exercise regularly, no heels, little art and no painting but lots of photography, and no running down stairs. I'm determined not to fall this year as the recovery from last years fall is still ongoing. Nothing sexy about me either, but I'm round and friendly instead. LOL

I liked this column a lot.
I cook for myself, but do get takeout sometimes. I go to movies and concerts by myself sometimes...and enjoy them.

All of the above......also I do not watch the Nat'l news except for occasional PBS or NPR broadcast. Charles Osgood has a very good Sunday morning TV show that covers a variety of topics & is very entertaining.
I can do an occasional mid-to low heeled show so that I can avoid hemming slacks since I'm so short. And I've given up skirts. What a relief not to wear panty hose when knee highs will do. Great column. Dee :)

Now, I only read books about women by women.
Fortunately, today's best books are being written by women.

Yes, to all of the above. I wear what I want, eat what I want, and I no longer am obligated to "suffer fools". My friends are those I wish to see. I'm not nice to phone solicitors. Think it's rude? Too bad.

all of the above, including no longer flying. I have been all over Europe and much of the US and who needs standing in line with fools besides being cramped and treated badly?

because i am working 40 hours a week i must suffer fools daily but it's just for a few minutes at a time.

i expect to give up gardening and yard work in a few years (i am 74) so a tidy yard will be one of those things that goes away. but i don't want to give myself that excuse.

do you remember Roz Chast talking about GRIME when her parents were aging? I fear there is already GRIME in my house and that it will get worse. maybe when i retire i will be able to clean house again. Probably NOT.:-)!!

has anyone been forced to give up jewelry? my nickel allergy must be compounded with age; i cannot bear earrings or bracelets any longer, and if the clasp on a necklace touches my skin it's over.

I accept help getting out of a car or up off the sofa.

i sure have given up soda, a long time ago. Pizza or any fast food is pretty much a thing of the past as well.

to conclude: we have all given up things and miss them and we all look forward to giving up certain other things we never liked anyway! Saying "I'm too old for this!" seems like a cop out but sometimes it is just what you have to do.

Most of what I have changed has been covered. I gave up "heels" early (in my 50s) when my feet started hurting. And, upon retirement, I gave up flats and now only wear shoes that support my arches and which are

I may not be in fashion, but believe me, I look better when I am comfortable, and everyone gets a nicer me.

I last flew in early 1980s, thinking there might be a significant change in flying in the coming years,
but it has only gotten more hectic to even plan a trip that entails a flight.

Besides the not driving on the interstate and main highways in town, when possible, I make every effort to make only right turns and never cross lanes of traffic without a light.

The AARP sponsored class I took recently also suggested we are in danger of getting both arms broken by the airbags in our steering wheels if we hold the steering wheel in the way we were taught.
So, I now try to hold the bottom of the wheel--That isn't an easy habit to break for me.

I also, think that it leaves me open for full on face
and torso breakage, so what is the difference? I am 5'1", and have osteopenia--something is bound to break in an airbag blast. Breakage might not be all, since, I have no idea if the airbags in my
12 year old car are the metal piercing containers that have been reported.

I eat red meat now and then. I need the iron for my anemic-prone blood, and I need the taste and
contentment it gives me. But, I gave it up about
15 years ago and have just begun to enjoy it again

Like others, in the last year, I have begun to stay closer to home. Some of that is having less interest in going places and part of it is trying to save money for home upkeep--replacement of appliances which seem to wear out much quicker than they once did.

I'm gardening more, and doing fitness more than before. I gave heels up long ago because of foot probs. I do drive at night if I am familiar with the route, and I have problems driving highways. I am a good driver with good (corrected) eyesight and reflexes still, but driving highways makes me anxious.

I can't easily kneel or sit on the floor.
I don't read nearly as much as before. I prefer comfort and fit before fashion. I don't wear as much costume jewelry as I used to. I take long breaks between household tasks. I can't drink as much caffeinated coffee as I used to. I have to watch carbs diligently.

I find myself agreeing with many of the comments already made -- naps being more refreshing than my erratic sleep at night, many changes due to very limited income, not suffering fools as much as in the past, eating little red meat, some driving changes especially after dark or in inclement weather. And like you, Ronni, I find myself avoiding most of those ubiquitous "happiness" articles. Most are selling something, and are yet another way to make us feel inadequate in one way or another. I find I'm about as happy as I get when just left alone with a good book.

Wow, did this resonate!

I lost my heels to injury (don't you love how almost everyone comments on the shoes!) but I gained a new found appreciation for colorful, comfortable flats and sneakers.

I find I have a smaller appetite, am more willing to be patient, and am more convinced that my intervention can be useful (S.C. Jones - get your car to a mechanic and ask about those airbags RIGHT NOW!).

My gray hair makes me invisible but also, in my own opinion at least, seem wiser and less threatening. A glare (learned from my mother) stops miscreant children in their tracks. That didn't work nearly as well when I was less wrinkled.

Seems to me that you've found happiness, Ronni... right here with the rest of us <3

I'll abscond with your list, Ronni. I've also given up showering and washing my hair every day unless necessary, and so far nobody's shown a sign of horror or stepped back. I no longer feel a need to 'keep up' with the news now that I've adapted a more overall picture preference.

I've also given up a good deal of negative thinking, especially regarding others who did, do or will irritate the hell out of me. Why get worked up over something you can do nothing about; conversely I've noticed a new tendency to be more blunt and honestly critical about and to others. And that goes for myself as well.

The biggest give-away that I lived with since a young age, is fear. Ongoing and winning.

I've given up just about everything mentioned in both the blog and the comments, and I must say, I'm better for it.

For the first time in my life, I feel free to do what I want and to be who I am, without having to accept input from "the world." I greet, and weigh, everything that comes into my sphere. If it seems like it might create a hassle, I bag it without a blink. How nice to dump the baggage.

I just got through saying something that I've recently had brought home to me. I'm aware that I have to pace myself so I don't overdo...which leads to bed. I need to get through this, and a bit of self discipline is called for. My character flaw, if you will, is a desire to plunge in at about 300% energy, and then go to bed afterward. But now days I have to go slower so I at least get to where I want to go.
As a former activity director for seniors who lived independently, I have increased awareness of how we really want to do some of the great things we used to do...good food, entertainment, creativity, friendships, joyous expressions. So I try to keep those as high priorities.

I have given up my belief in justice. That hurts, because I get upset when I read of yet another injustice (and who can read the news without reading of yet another one on a daily basis?).

I have given up driving, flying and even walking very far.

I have given up saying "That's okay" when it's not.

I have given up trying to educate Republicans on facts.
I have come to realize that it's a losing battle and ideology triumphs every time.

Never could get the hang of high heels, so did not have to worry about giving them up in old age..but finding good shoes in the necessitated cheaper range is getting harder. I still eat red meat but not as often. Still working due to financial having to still pay a mortgage and..oh, just managing to eat :-). Love your blog and check it regularly. I have never enjoyed the major highways, and do not drive them if I possibly can avoid it. Finding routes through sub-divisions gives me the opportunity to check out gardening ideas, anyway. The nod and agree non-commital response to most things I say now that I am aging, by people still in their prime does bother me..but the fact that sometimes my obvious age triggers door opening courtesies in the better behaved youngsters may offset it a little. All in all, since options are somewhat limited...I guess I don't mind getting old. Wrinkles and gray hair are not an issue. I have always rather liked gray hair. Thank you so much for your wonderful blog, great information and a lively presentation. And if rocking chairs are in our future--I say, Rock on!

If I said anything now, I'd sound like a parrot. Glad to be in such good company.

Good post, Ronni... Lots of good comments, too!

i think i had to be around 20 years old when i started answering that age old question, 'are you happy?' with the rejoinder that i was striving for contentedness. happiness is a very ephemeral thing reserved for the moment, not as a permanent thing.

I've given up going to the movies. Haven't been to one in a theater since Fargo with Frances McDormand. Checking with Google shows that was in 1996. There hasn't been one since that interests me enough to go out at night, pay over $10 for a ticket, and sit next to coughing strangers.

I'll wait 'til they come out On Demand or via Amazon Prime. Even then, I'll probably ditch it less than 1/2 way through when the violence, terrible language, or gore gets overwhelming.

Movies these days - bah!

Most of my changes have come about because I am no longer employed, rather than because of age. Instead of driving 30,000-40,000 miles per year, I am down to 5,000-6,000 (freeways? bring 'em on!)

Unfortunately, it wasn't until after retirement that I found that shoes made to accommodate orthotics are comfortable (without orthotics) on my feet. I haven't worn heels, regularly, since 1990.

I read less non-fiction, more fiction. I don't have to think about it!

I've slowly changed areas that were once devoted to growing veggies into areas with shrubbery and ground cover. Much less work. (I worked 10-15 hours/week in the yard before I retired in 2004!)

I don't go out in the evenings as much; but, that's because Hunky Husband doesn't enjoy it any longer.

I'll let younger people help me with the lifting and toting, on occasion.

I see my primary care physician, eye doctor, dentist, and dermatologist, annually instead of every few years.

I use more spices and herbs to give food more verve.

I watch very little TV, and even find myself less interested in the evening news. ( Have read most of it on the internet by then.) Have given up my print newspaper, and find my online subscription easier to read. I love movies, but rarely go to a theater because the sound is so loud that the seats vibrate. I have mostly lost interest in going out in the evening. Prefer to run around during the day and settle in at home in the p.m. I am more open to new experiences now, and have a "why not" attitude.

Great post; great comments. I used to enjoy fashion so I miss high heels and other clothing styles I can't wear any more, but so be it. I still drive at night if I need to but preferably not in areas I'm unfamiliar with. Driving used to be fun before the roads got so clogged; driving is kind of a drag now.

I've been retired--NOT my choice--for about 5 months now and I'm still trying to get used to being unemployed. It's a BIG adjustment, not only time-wise but financially too. We're O.K., but I miss having a little extra. I've had to downscale a bit more than I'd anticipated, but I'm sure I'm not the only one in that boat.

At 66 I don't easily get up off the floor and have a hard time gardening for hours or doing heavy lifting work.

Bad knees limit the distance I can walk--but I can still go for a nice exercise walk.

Don't mind driving at night in clear weather conditions but avoid it in rainy/snowy/foggy weather (but that might be due to an increase in wisdom rather than a decrease in ability :))

When I adopted a cat a few years ago, I chose an older cat--partly because I felt bad for the older cats that don't get adopted as easily but also because I'm more aware of my own longevity or lack thereof (healthy but who knows...).

Thank-you for a great discussion here. I love the ones that talk to real issues that are so common to all of us of a certain age.

I have also found that my living takes place closer to home and I am content with that. Many people have told me to get out more and enjoy life. I am enjoying life by not having to get out more.

I enjoy books from a delivery service that our library offers. I preview and order them and they come every two weeks. Being at the library is much more stressful for me now. I like to look at every book and I get tired and frustrated. Looking at them online with a cup of tea suits me much better now.

I do not worry about what people think of me. I used to say that and aspire to that but now I really mean it and it is liberating. This has not changed my personality as I have always been kind and continue to be.

I do find that I am ignored or talked down to. I have become "honey" or "dear" or "sweetie". I do not appreciate this at all. My name would do just fine. I have to watch it or I find myself easily slipping into the helpless role when people speak to me that way.

I love technology and use a laptop and smartphone to stay in communication with the things and people who are important to me. I rarely watch the news as it is frightening and of many things that I cannot help.

I do what I can from my own corner here in our independent living facility. I am considered handicapped but I am far from helpless.

I do enjoy nature more and more and I am teaching myself about digital photography. We live where there is a wooded area close by that I can see and many types of wildlife there. I take photos every day. I love catching just the right moment when a raccoon and deer are looking into each others eyes or a red bird is eating right next to a squirrel.

Those are things that I would rather do right through my window by my chair. For the most part, I am content...Jessie...

While I was moved by many of the things you have given up and certainly by the comments I am wanting to speak up for the male half of the world. After a casual tallying of the comments I found few if any from men, allowing for the non-gender specific names there may be some of course.

I never did understand why women wore high heels when all the research pointed to them being bad for your posture, back, feet, etc. I just had my 77th birthday yesterday so I felt a passionate need to say what I have not given up. But I do not wear the ugly heavyweight shoes that were required by the business model of things.

I am not poor so please allow for that transgression if you must but I am also not rich. I do travel the highways because they are fortunately quite good where I live in Portland, OR, although they are getting more crowded like Seattle and other large metropolitan areas every day. I do drive at night because I can and much of what I enjoy requires it, like a lovely dinner last night at a nice restaurant downtown with a dear friend for my birthday. I also fly, although it is not as much fun as it once was, because it is the only way to get to some of the exciting and sacred places in the world and even nearby states.

I go to the gym more than I ever did because I am wiser now. I meet and enjoy some really engaged people there, as I do in many of my volunteer activities.

I do enjoy getting into nature more than ever because I do not have to work as I did to accumulate some wisdom, more free time, and a much much wider set of interests.

I do not suffer fools as much as I had to in the business environment, and politics have become a waste of time except the day I vote but meaningful causes do occupy much of my time.

As I push into my eighties I suspect I will do less, sit more, but I couldn't possibly read much more. I will not tend to my garden, never have liked doing so but love it that others do in the many community and lovely flower gardens that surround me.

I do spend a great deal of time studying aging, death and dying, the plight of older adults, spirituality, and yes even self improvement at this late stage of life. There is still much to see, savor, to love, to be in awe of and even more to protect for the next seven generations, if there are to be that many.

With love and gratitude to all that take the time to read and to contribute to this wonderful blog and exchange off ideas...Ken

I can't wear high heels any more, but won't throw some beautiful ones or ones with memories away because I love them. A few times a year, I'll walk around the house in every pair I have, and then put them away again. I now live in comfortable sandals like Birkenstock.

The one thing on the list I do still do is drive. I take a long road trip by myself every year (last year 6 weeks, about 6000 miles), and I love every minute of it. Will leave again in July. Traveling is what I did when I was in my 20's, and am doing as much as possible now that I'm in my 70's.

Just loved all of this...I am into year 2 of retirement, so am learning the ropes.My hubby and I don't like to eat out in the evening, as we do not want to "dress up and go out." I would rather "do lunch" with a friend, and stay home in my little cozy nest in the evening.

Things I do differently:
1. While I am still a morning person, I indulge myself in the pleasure of waking up slowly.. It is a daily delight that I no longer have to jump out of bed, into the shower, & out the door.
2. I no longer feel so responsible--for other people, for making things go smoothly, for the state of the environment, for world peace. I do what I can and happily leave it at that.
3. I savor my time now. I am not waiting for tomorrow. If the laundry doesn't get done because I was engrossed in watching the swallows feeding their babies, it was a morning well spent.
4. I take naps when I want to. What a pleasure.

I never anticipated how happy I would be as I aged.

Today's blog is wonderful!
We have so much in common from no highway driving to why finish a book. The latter was unheard of 10 years ago. We are the same age, lost weight and say three cheers to fruit and veggies.
Today my biggest problem is staying awake to see David Letterman's last TV show.

I can no longer eat meat unless I know with out a doubt how the animal was raised.

This _is_ possible, but time-consuming and expensive. I will give up meat before I ever again eat a creature (or the eggs or milk of a creature) who was raised in a factory farm, so there’s not much going out to restaurants for me, particularly in the middle of Nebraska. I have been skirting this issue for many years.

This was originally a selfish choice; I had been raised on beef, cattle and poultry produced by what is now known as “diversified” farming. After all of my relatives retired, I found that meat that had to be purchased didn’t taste as good.

Then it became a health issue, as I had a child to raise and was aware of the hormones and antibiotics used to produce rapid growth in confined meat animals.

With age it has become moral choice; just knowing the conditions and suffering of the animals raised in the industrial farm complex is something I can’t really wrap my mind around, and I just can’t do it anymore.

Looks like your observations are pretty universal. I have reached very similar conclusions and have taken many of the same steps.

Happy to know I'm not alone out here with this. I think that's why I love your blog so much. Thank You!!

For me, old age has been liberating - not much of a loss at all.

Terrific column and comments.

I turn the radio off more often and listen to the birds singing.

I love this! It's a great peek into what you go through as you get older. This line breaks my heart though: "and we soon learn we are invisible to younger generations". It shouldn't be that way. You've lived so much, and we should be looking to you for wisdom and lessons. I(a 30 year old newlywed) was raised around respecting wisdom and always loved the stories of the lives of those older than me. They're fascinating and informative, challenging and introspective. Thank you for this page! I really love stopping by!

The day I retired, I stopped wearing makeup, period.

I nap. I shop during the day. I notice and enjoy the little pleasures. I have well-examined principles and so I generally know what I think about issues a lot faster than I did when I was young.

I think about having shoes with non-slip soles so I don't fall. I love and enjoy young people and wish them well.

I do what I want and to hell with everything else.

"Now, I only read books about women by women.
Fortunately, today's best books are being written by women."

There was a time when TGB was relevant to me and my life but it has become more and more monolithic in scope and style. The above quote from today's post seems to sum up my own alienation.
Ciao ladies

I'm sorry to see you go, Ned, but I do feel entitled to point out that the statement about reading only women's books was not, as you state, "from today's post". It was written by a commenter - there is a difference.

I was appalled by that comment too, but she's allowed her opinion and book choices.

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