Crabby Old Lady on C.R.A.F.T. and Typing Errors

Growing Old My Way

Earlier this week, long-time TGB reader Elizabeth left, in part, this comment:

”The culture we live in insists that 'living to the fullest' means an incessant pursuit of experiences. One MUST travel in retirement. One MUST attend cultural events. In some circles, one MUST volunteer or be politically active.

“The idea of a bucket list is another piece of that pressure to do, do, do. After a lifetime of working and raising a family, I am able to live fully the way I want to...

“My paternal grandmother once commented on how annoying she found the recreational staff at her senior residence. They were so worried that she didn’t participate in the (to Grandma) condescending song fests and games. She kept saying that she was finally able to do exactly what she wanted.”

Elizabeth is correct. The only old people to whom American culture pays even a small amount of respect are the ones who act like younger adults, 40-year-olds for example.

You know the headline stories: a 102-year-old park ranger; an 80-year-old who climbs Mt. Everest; a 91-year-old marathon runner.

These elders are outliers who, via glorification of their physical advantages, we are urged to emulate. Not the tens of millions of us who carry on daily activities the best we can, without too much complaint (if you don't count Crabby Old Lady), while navigating the large and small and sometimes frightening difficulties of old age.

In the media hubbub surrounding the recent Academy Awards, I saw a headline announcing that movie producers are now embracing older actors and stories about old people. No, they are not - not unless their name is Judi Dench or Maggie Smith or Helen Mirren. (It helps to be British.)

And in general, there are just three storylines:

The aforementioned extreme sports stories (that always imply “if he can do it, what's wrong with you?”)

Love in old age (aren't they cute)

Spunky elders (with or without terminal disease) who carry on through every adversity, designed and guaranteed to leave the entire audience weeping when they die at the end

In supporting roles, elders are almost always the objects of ageist humor.

As Elizabeth points out, it is close to universally true that people who have not yet reached old age think we're doing it wrong if we are not behaving like 40-year-olds.

Until you're old, you probably have no idea how chronic conditions like arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure and dozens of others hamper one's ability to do the things that were easy at age 40.

And that doesn't include plain old tiredness, the fatigue that comes along just because you are old now and your body slows down.

People sometimes say it's too bad there isn't an instruction book for getting old. I think it's a good thing NOT to have that book, not to have an arbitrary “expert” telling us what we should be doing.

Remember, there is no right way to grow old. Do it your way and do it proudly.


It seems to me that movie producers are, as always, embracing what they believe will bring them fame and fortune, producing mostly predictable and uninspiring work. Once in a while something exceptional comes along, but producers have investors to account to, and most just don't take big risks.

And regardless of age, most people are not going to generate a lot of attention or appear very story-worthy. The overwhelming majority of all people on earth are not going to climb Mt. Everest, or even become a park ranger or run a marathon. Like most people, my husband and I continue to live our quiet and uneventful life , just the way we like it. The human animal has done as well as it has based largely on routine and not venturing much outside of that. But what continues to generate news are things out of the ordinary -- "man bites dog" versus "dog bites man."

I'm sure everyone here has seen or heard Alex Trebeks's news. At 78 he has joined the ranks of those who are "battling" cancer (advanced pancreatic). I wish him well, and I suspect that you'll be writing about this here soon, Ronni, but again, here's someone with an advanced stage of a difficult cancer, who will promoting the "fighting" of it. I hope he's as honest and open about his experiences as you have been here Ronnie, but somehow I doubt that will happen.

This conversation reminds me of an intriguing theory of aging by Lars Tornstam called “Gerotranscendence.” He suggests we actually continue to develop our personalities well into our old age as is evidenced by: An increasing desire to understand ourselves, an increasing need for solitude, an increasing sense of life’s ambiguity and an increasing joy over small or insignificant things(among many other aspects.) I say, may we all continue to follow our hearts…

Amen, sister!

I can think of a few somewhat realistic depictions of the elderly in the media, like Our Souls at Night, 45 Years, and Grace and Frankie. Not that looking like Jane Fonda is realistic, but the characters are portrayed as having health problems, depression, and general slowing down -- "I've fallen and I can't get up." But I think it's extremely difficult to be both realistic and ENTERTAINING when it comes to aging characters. Unless you don't want anyone but Baby Boomers to watch, (a big demographic, but is it big enough?) you have to be careful not to frighten the children.

I want to see elderly actors in the movies and on TV (and not just Judi Dench) but stories about ordinary people living ordinary lives aren't entertainment or escape no matter how old the characters are. I'm smart enough to know that what I see on the screen isn't representative of ordinary peoples' lives.

Thanks for this post! I find it terribly liberating!

I so agree Ronni. The expectations (and senses of failure) caused by these unrealistic ideas of aging are insulting. We all have our own unique ways of growing old.

Some of my days have no energy, some have mornings full of it, afternoons not so much.

Sometimes I read and knit and stay quiet all day.

It's my time, I've bloody well earned it and I don't need to justify it. "Battling" is an exhausting way to exit, isn't it? I remember a dear friend, 52, inoperable brain cancer, when he told me his wife and daughter expected him to "fight to the end" so he underwent all these treatments and hated every minute of exhaustion and pain and no prolonging anyway. I felt terrible for him.


Thank you for this, Ronni, and thank you to Elizabeth. I had to back track to find her original post. I am very aware of how little I do anymore, but it seems only to bother my friends, not me. I’ve given that some thought recently, and concluded that, for the most part, I’m content.

Boy, you have pushed my "hot button".

In looking at retirement "planning" - not the financial plan but the "living" plan. I got absolutely f'ing tired of reading that to have a fulfilling, successful, enjoyable, etc. retirement that you had to be just as busy and scheduled up and "productive" as you were when you were working.

Even AARP seems to push this concept via all the second career and "look at all the wonderful thing these old people are doing" stories. Even their ads for travel and such make us look like failures if we are not out doing this stuff.

I say nonsense to that!

There are 2 big problems in buying into this concept of retirement... 1) it makes us feel even older and failures (to ourselves) if we are not doing all this and 2) makes the younger generations have the same opinion of us as well.

Should we do stuff - YES!

We do need to get out, volunteer, exercise, socialize, enjoy life, be active and involved as much as we WANT not as necessarily much as we can. Enough for us to feel satisfied with ourselves - at whatever level that might be. But to meet our expectations and not "yours".

If you think 60 is the new 40 - you either don't remember 40 or are not yet 60.

Or as I like to quip "60 may be the new 40 but 9:30 is the new midnight"

We hear about the old people running marathons and climbing mountains because it is so exceptional, not because it's expected of all seniors. Nor are the movies intendeded to represent typical old age. If they were about typical seniors, they'd be boring as dirt and ticket sales would be zero. Most people with aging parents or grandparents can easily see what's typical. I don't think unrealistic expectations are being foisted off on anyone.

I don't feel like less of a person because I'm not climbing mountains or traveling around the world. I'm very content living alone, enjoying the solitude and doing exactly what I want, when I want.

Amen to doing what we want! Full disclosure I'm one of those annoying ole ladies who never stops moving, like a shark. My days are filled with volunteering in the park, in my synagogue, soup kitchen, going to museums & galleries, learning a new language, playing with friends, and naps. Why so "busy"? Because I can. For 46 years I was stuck in an office all day and couldn't wait to see what else the world could offer. I'll enjoy this new pace as long as I want to -- after which, I'll owe no one apologies whatever for stopping.

Simply said, I have become a true minimalist as I have aged. I suspect that applies to you too, Ronni. It does make life easier in the long run for us. Even as an R.N., getting into a discussion with any new doctor I always warn them. I graduated from the "Less is More School of Medicine". Depending on whether or not they are wearing the MDiety on their sleeve, it sometimes works.

Never a fan of wearing printed messages on my chest or even our car's bumper, I still remember the appeal of them to my teenage kids in the 70s.

Ronni's final line in today's post brought this favorite to mind with credit to Ashliegh Brilliant, the now 85 y/o writer, still in the game. "Don't *SHOULD* on me".

Adding my two cents (cdn.) worth, recently watched a British comedy called REBEL, main character is just turning 70 (like me), and his rebel yell is "I'm 70 and just don't give a sh..!, obviously about what people think or expect from the ones that haven't reached this point of their lives.

Such wonderful posts ! Thank you all. I was so disgusted with the covers of AARP (glamorous stars are actually 50. Imagine that!) that I dropped my subscription. And there is no expression I hate more than "successful aging." As if there is one way (determined by younger folks) as to how we are to act.
That said, I think we might be missing nuance here.
Isn't it a matter of our right to choose? Older people are more different from one another than those at any other stage of life (more years to hone individual identities). So it stands to reason that some will choose familiar comforts while others wish to explore new horizons. . In my own life, it is also matter of adaptation. I use wheelchairs in airports, canes at night, and factor nap times into each day -- but still look forward to going new places and experiencing new things. . And I don't find being happy with my "little life" is incompatible with aspirations . I never had a "bucket list" but do find pleasure in setting goals for myself and meeting them. Knowing who we are and what makes us content seems to be the key.

Elizabeth you nailed it. Why do I have to run around and do everything? And even more maddening to me is the pressure to “look good”. I don’t have to Botox and don’t have to color my hair and paint my face. I am me. Was at the art store one day buying paper and a very well dressed woman came over to me and said “maybe we should have a conference” as she pointed to another woman near us. At first I didn’t get it but she added, “we are probably the only women with grey hair around”. We all laughed and commiserated how there are so few of us.

Amen, amen, dear friends.
I embrace the concept of being who I want to be—as busy as I want, as productive as I want, or as quiet as I want. I confess I sometimes overcommit to people and organizations I admire. But I am learning to say “no.”
I freed myself the day I stormed out of a doctor’s office, after waiting nearly 3 hours.
“If you need to be somewhere, you could come back later,” said the receptionist.
Yeah, well.
I admire you all for your focus and your individuality. Thanks, Ronni, for being the hub of this wheel.

I couldn't agree with you more, Ronni and Elizabeth.

I am just now reading a book, "From the Inside Looking Out: Competing Ideas about Growing Old" written by three women in their 60s and 70s (Auger, Tedford-Litle and Wallace-Allen) that talks about what our culture and "experts" tell us about old age and how it is actually experienced by those living it. We live in a culture that is afraid of old age and hides from it as much as possible. This isolates older people and also engenders scary myths about what old age is really like among the young. I think young people like to think that they personally won't get old, they'll just become one of those handsome/beautiful adventurers with bucket lists.

What a fantastic article. I also feel liberated! I was thinking it was me. Thanks again. Margaret

Regarding a book on getting older ... my choice would be an E-book that is a compilation of each and every one of your blogs as a chapter along with the comments that accompanied that blog!

This book would and should be free to every Elder and everyone over 40 so they would not be deluded or misled by commercial books or movies that promise you anything but the reality of growing older!!

The book's title should be "Old Age Ain't For Sissies" !!

PS At age 82 I am enjoying just doing absolutely nothing if I want to! I spent the first 80 years of my life working my behind off just to survive, even when that meant raising 3 kids and working tw0 jobs at a time. I love being able to just sit and do absolutely NOTHING! And I feel absolutely not one whit of guilt!

Susan R (Pied Type), you're singing my song! Extremely well-put. I also value solitude.

Enjoyed this post and comments.
I was reminded of watching Michael Landon's TV program that was on Netflix a couple of years ago: "Highway To Heaven." Landon starred and produced the show. His program was one of the first that used *retired* and *disabled* actors. His program was innovative like that. I vote for more programs with realistic representations.Yes, Landon played an angel, but was not the sole reason life worked out for the characters on in his programs.

Aging is *natural* for us all, but I remember being 40 and under. "Who's afraid to get older?"
I used to muse. Now,.... not so much.

Both Ronni's and Elizabeth's words are manna for my soul. I am currently enjoying very much the "ineffable simplicity of an unremarkable life." Let other people dance and jump to keep their life from showing them who they are, some of us are quite blessed to enjoy our own company, unafraid of who we'll meet each day.

Thank you for the liberating laugh! Being invisible has its good points.

My mom was not a 'peopley' person. Her greatest angst in assisted living was that "...people won't leave me the hell alone!" I see myself headed down that same path. I've earned my retirement, my peace and quiet and I intend to enjoy it.

News flash! 80 is NOT the new 60. I agree with Miki D. about somehow making TGB available to any and all in perpetuity.

I don't feel guilty about not doing much anymore (although it's been difficult to surrender the formerly active, involved, productive me). I don't like not being ABLE to do things I used to do easily, nor is there much to like about dropping stuff, forgetting what I came into a room for, physical pain and all the rest of it. My husband and I are both introverts and don't have a social circle, which is O.K. with both of us. Sometimes though I do feel isolated since most of my former acquaintances were work or activity related.

I worked until I was 78, but now at 82 find myself constrained by physical and financial limitations. This likely is a situation shared by some other TGB readers in my age range, even those who are relatively healthy. Four years can make a major difference when one is old.

Oh my god(des) yes! Each ad for an active place to live with all those 55+ers who I swear are just 55 and playing tennis and swimming and socializing! I'm tired and still working full time in my 70s. An Introvert my idea of a good time is silence and a good book not people and activities I didn't do before. Then too the yutes are said to want experiences. Will they be the ones to live in these places? Call me, esp today, a V(ery)COL and thank you for this gift.

I pass this along for what it's worth. We may put aside the bucket list and replace it with the fuck it list. This comes out of a video series called Five Wise Guys based at the Third Act Project.

Warm regards,

I share most of your views on aging, how old is portrayed and thought of by many people. Part of the problem is, I think, that nobody really knows what being old feels like until they are old. Unfortunately, many of the people creating the stories, writing the articles, studying about old age aren’t old yet, so they don’t really know first hand.

I don’t hold with the idea that people are necessarily in “old age” or should be viewed as such when they retire from their work or become eligible for Social Security, though some may be. Never under estimate the power of the mind and attitude tempered by reality-based recognition of our physical body’s functioning — realistically recognizing our limitations (just how hard we can push) — that’s not always clear to me, sometimes until after the fact. But some are more agile, active than others regardless.

Probably what I relish is doing what I want, when I want, as little or as much as I want now that my body has announced I am old by my definition. Perhaps one of the most frustrating experiences of being old for me is the increased unpredictability of how I may consistently feel and for what periods of time. More serious illness, disease as you are having, or unrelenting pain as my husband experienced certainly exacerbates “oldness”.

I remind my adult children who live across the continent from me that my choice to live these years “in place”, in my house is an experiment — trial and error, figuring out how to cope, sometimes with the unexpected events that can occur. No, I no longer function as they likely most recall, so must allow for my adapting and coping efforts as I’ve had to do. Life and living has risks and I’m still mentally capable of determining what ones I want to take. I tell them we’re not all old like each other and are often portrayed, any more than they are like those who are characterized as representative of their generation.


It's a joy to join this chorus of appreciation for Ronni and Elizabeth. So true, that we are bombarded by messages urging us to "succeed" at ageing. Bugger that! We all succeed at getting older from the day we're born until the day we die. I realise that governments need policies to manage the change in demographics, and I am fascinated by the deluge of research into ageing — but I loathe the marketing messages about older people, implicit and explicit. Simpering mid-life couples particularly nauseate me. I love to exercise but I see friends very happy exercising nothing but their eyeballs as they can at last give free rein to a lifelong passion for reading. And why not.

Thank you for these words of wisdom! Some days I feel like doing things, some days I don't, And that is OK with me. I just want to be myself and live the way I want to live until I cannot.

I agree with Miki, I've often thought how great it would be to have a book compiled from this blog and comments. I don't know if it's possible Ronni, but it would be a wonderful legacy. It's certainly the best reading on "what it's really like to get old".

This post is superb! I’m old now..and I enjoy three simple things. Going out to eat a nice places with a few friends and having a nice glass of wine, piddling in my yard and I’ve just started piddling with acrylic painting purely for fun.

I’m tired of politics, other than keeping up with news, but not obsessively. I know I’m not a religious person and I don’t care to argue or feel pushed by people that are.

I say what I feel about things in a nice way, but I am who I am now and that’s the way I like it.

No obsession with exercise, looking young, staying active in the community or volunteering etc. although there’s nothing wrong with any of that, it’s just not my thing.

I’m enjoying my final years relaxing, sitting, thinking, listening to birds and nature in my back yard...nothing fancy..nothing that requires work.

I want the simple mundane pleasures now for as long as I have left. An inner peace is key no matter what you like.

"Until you're old, you probably don't know about . . ." I beg to differ. There are many, many young people with MS, cancer, and other chronic illnesses. True, old age is not for sissies but it is also a privilege denied to many.

That may be true, but I think statistics would support that the overwhelming majority of people with serious, debilitating, life-limiting chronic illnesses are older adults. Sometimes longevity is definitely a mixed bag. I might not have wished to live as long as I have if I'd known what I know now!

What could I possibly add to what has already been said? Aging is what we make it. It is to be individualized. We who are older have earned the right to chose how we do it. Yes, bugger off AARP. Marketing. The 60s taught us to do as we are. Be who we are. Be different. Boomers, this is your time to define a time that is each person's right to define and choose. I am embracing it and doing it the way I want.



Yes! After a lifetime of working, I don’t feel obligated to be busy all the time. I’m happy that my time is now my own. I do like socializing but not organized activities.

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