The Heroism of Elders

What Elders Really Want, and The Alex and Ronni Show

Every day, my email box fills with half a dozen, often more, newsletters urging me to do, do, do. (AARP and Next Avenue are particularly prolific at this.)

Walk 10,000 steps, they tell me, volunteer, get a part-time job, take a class, declutter my home and much more depending on what a new book or media star is recommending this week.

One important thing about these messages: I can't prove it of course, but I believe they are written by younger adults (let's call them pre-elders for now) who haven't a clue yet what old age is like.

This idea has been rolling around in my head for awhile now. I had intended to write about it but TGB reader Ann Burack-Weiss beat me to it in a TGB Reader Story that I published on Tuesday titled My Comfort Zone.

”You’d think they’d let up by the time you reach your 80s,” writes Ann. “That all you need do to keep yourself going is to keep yourself going. But no; everything you hear or read pushes you toward new horizons...

“Old folks are repeatedly told to heed the siren call of the untried that, from the beginning of time, has lured humans from their caves into the sun of enhanced existence...”

After giving a bunch of good reasons to reject this kind of thinking about elders, Ann concludes:

”So I’ll stay right here. Comforted by the familiar, buoyed by memories. Relaxing? Lolling? No, wallowing – that’s the word I’m looking for, wallowing, in my comfort zone.”

The comments on Ann's post, with only one demur as I write this on Tuesday, join me in enthusiastically supporting her point of view.

These days, I like being home. One trip per day out the door is about all I can tolerate now – to the grocery store, lunch with a friend, and in my particular case, doctor visits. I love it when friends come to my home for a visit. Home is my comfort zone and I “wallow” in the days I don't need to go somewhere – no matter what the pre-elders think I should be doing.

If you missed Ann's story yesterday, check it out.

* * *

On The Alex and Ronni Show this week we covered a bunch of topics that are in the news this week. Alex emailed to say the picture freezes at some point but the audio is okay, then the video comes back. Sorry. As he says, "I'm getting to hate all technology."


Yes! I don't like being hectored to do more; it's usually a Trojan horse for •consume• more.

When exhorted to do something: If it's for me (e.g., finally read certain books), I ask if I'd enjoy that right now. If it's for someone else, I ask the same question, and also, "Will the person benefit?"

For example, I emptied a storage unit so my kids would not have to dispose of "Mom's stuff."

It doesn't matter if one is a citizen or not, telling that person to "go back where you came from," is just WRONG in all aspects. That is not what America is about.

The mind is willing, but the flesh is weak. And right now, my flesh feels like plopping down in my recliner, cranking up the AC and vegging-out on Netflix. I know I should exercise more, but try telling that to my arthritic hip.

"Wallowing" ... a great word for it. Conjures up images of contented pigs in the almost overwhelming afternoon heat of a mid-summer afternoon wallowing in cooling mud that happily also repels biting/stinging insects, just happy with life, short as it may be.

Anyone who was raised on a farm can bring back that image and remember the almost-smile on their faces and how nasty they got if you disturbed them!!

As I read your post, and I did read Ann's yesterday, I keep thinking of my friend who was constantly telling me what to do, how I should live, where I should go. As I have resisted for many years she has now "given up" and I am thankful. I am 70 years old, a widow, and I work 5 days a week. I am so thankful just to be in my home I have no desire to go anywhere when my day is done. As for my days off, I think alot, maybe act on some of my thoughts, but I try and get a few things done around the house. I do hear of lot of 'What are you doing' from my friend but I think she has resigned herself to knowing I will do what I want in my time. I am happy doing nothing as long as I am home. By the way, I am very set in my ways and I like it!!

I used to be a "do & go" girl--nothing very significant, dramatic or world-changing but I was active and involved in life. I wasn't much of a traveler and stayed fairly close to home, of necessity when I was working long hours as I did for many years, but I was out and about most of every day.

That was then, before I turned 80 and my body's "use by" date came--and went. Now? Not so much. At 82+ I do what is necessary to keep us going, including grocery-shopping, and errands plus a weekly shift volunteering at a cat rescue/rehoming organization, but seldom go out much otherwise. Shopping, which I used to enjoy on occasion, is no longer fun (and that's before I look at the price tags!)

I've almost stopped reading AARP materials. The retirees they seem to be targeting are those in the 55-70 range--definitely NOT me unless they happen to be profiling an 88 Y/O marathoner. I totally agree that the writers must be "pre-elders". I unsubscribed to Next Avenue after reading the first few articles. I don't need to be challenged, thank you very much. I guess I'll just continue to take up space while awaiting my demise. How undramatic is that!

Oh the value placed on "keeping busy!" It's nonsense at any age. A chirpy, breathless young thing called me from my errant home insurance company yesterday, said she hoped I was having a WONderful day, and how was I? I let a couple of beats go by, then said in a slow but friendly voice that I was well, and hoped that she was also. Now she was flustered for a second or two, and finally chirped frantically that she was" BUSY, so BUsy it felt like MONday, but it isn't , it's TUEday." Yikes. Poor thing. I actually chore and work a lot, often it's too much. But within that there's daydreaming, thinking, contemplating space. And really, aren't elders supposed to Be more than Do? I always thought so, and still do. Or maybe we're all supposed to be robotic human doings until the end! Nah, not really.

I so agree. It actually becomes outrageous what these articles can say and yes I do believed they are written by the younger. They don’t have a clue.

But guess what? I couldn’t care less what they say. I live my life my way even if it’s doing absolutely nothing.

A fabulous book that speaks to this all so well is "Never Say Die", by Susan Jacoby. I highly recommend it.

Good for you, gang! You're all declaring your right to do what you like, where and when you like, and with no apologies. That's the spirit!

As someone in her late 40s who has chronic pain (not debilitating but definitely limiting) who also loves to nest - listening to podcasts, watching the full moon rise over the trees outside my window, streaming music from any number of NPR classical stations, reading so many things, writing friends emails or writing for my own explorations of language and thought - I applaud you all for doing less. It's not just older people who like/ want/ need to take it easy!

I'm a fairly active 76 year old, still working at gardening and landscaping for a few customers, which keeps me busy and happy. I am also founder of the website Third Act Project, and producer of an associated video series called Five Wise Guys who talk about issues of being older. At a recent performance, the Wise Guys were asked what they were "still burning to do" and we were split. A couple of us wanted the freedom from self-improvement. The other three still have fish to fry, including myself. The motto of the Third Act Project is "Don't die till you're dead" which, I've learned, means differentIndeed. things to different people. A pair of old Irish farmers I asked to respond in the town of Kildimey said: "Well, it's the rule of life now, aint it?"

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