By Jean Shriver
When does a person cross the line from graceful aging into the land that’s labeled old? It all depends. On what? On your genetics, on your eating and exercise habits and maybe on your luck.
In our seventies my husband and I took a bike trip to southern Tuscany and as we pedaled away, the word “old” never crossed my mind. We zipped along quiet roads, ate lunches in picturesque hill towns and slept in inns that had once been aristocratic homes. It was a blast.
But you know what they say, ”seventy is the new sixty”. Right? And then do you remember the next line, ”but 80 is still 80?” Which has turned out to be true in our case.
For instance, I went 80 years without breaking a bone and then in the span of three years broke my shoulder and then my pelvis in two places. I recovered well but running to get the phone is no longer an option. Now I walk sedately to answer its insistent ring no matter how long it takes.
What other changes have crept into my lifestyle? I write down things that are too important to forget. I ask a younger person for help when I want to thread a needle so I can sew on a button. I wear hearing aids. I get help in carrying heavy boxes I used to tote without concern and I am increasingly hesitant to drive the freeways.
But I count it as a plus that I am still upright and still driving. My husband, who has spinal stenosis, is now in a wheelchair.
And as my body moves more stiffly, I work hard to keep my mind agile. I read the newspaper daily and force myself to explore areas where I am not comfortable like science and philosophy. I read some mysteries for fun but I try to sandwich them between meatier fare like The Written World, about how stories have influenced history across the ages.
Last night I read how the Maya developed a writing system totally independent of those of Europe and Asia which reminded me how we once climbed Mayan pyramids in Mexico. Before falling asleep I often revisit good times in Europe, Turkey and Nepal when we could travel anywhere we wanted.v vFriends, old and new, are an inspiration. Through church and through writing groups I am able to exchange ideas with people of different ages who have different viewpoints than my own. This, I find stimulating.
At this stage in life, we often lose people who are important to us and need to make an effort to stay in touch with others lest we become isolated. My husband and I are lucky to have family nearby which gives us contact with several generations.
Last week, a woman I knew in high school invited me to New York to meet with several others we both knew in college. Suddenly I am examining my wardrobe with a critical eye, checking out theater offerings in Manhattan and feeling extremely sprightly.
Though the four of us are all 85, we burble like girls as we call and write about our upcoming trip. We have ambitious plans for museum visits, evenings out and walks in Central Park.
Hey, maybe age is just a state of mind after all.
[EDITORIAL NOTE: This feature, TGB Readers' Stories, appears every Tuesday. Anyone age 50 and older is welcome to submit a story. You can do that by clicking the “Contact” link at the top of every TGB page or at the Guidelines/Submissions page.
Please be sure to read and follow the guidelines before submitting a story. It will save me a lot of time.]