Flourishing in the Eighth Decade!

Women everywhere, welcome to our blogspot, a space for sharing experiences, thoughts, and ideas about how to overcome obstacles and thrive as we approach and endure in the eighth decade of life. We hope this exchange will be a source of inspiration for the next generation of seventy year olds. Those baby boomers are hot on our heels, and want to know more about what lies ahead. Nobody gave us a guidebook or shared what this path might be like. As we burn those seventy candles, we can help shed some light on the trail for them.

What has this transition been like for you? Serious, funny, commonplace, unusual, short, long stories, all are welcome. How does it feel to be among the oldest in the crowd? What does it take to thrive in this decade? How do you think others see you? What contributes to well-being and yes, flourishing at three score and ten?

We welcome the comments and reflections of women everywhere. All cultures, ethnicities, socioeconomic status and backgrounds; as diverse a sample as we can reach.

Please contribute brief anecdotes, observations, thoughts, ideas, and life stories by posting them in the comment section below.

Alternatively, you could email longer stories to us at 70candles@gmail.com. Please include information about your age, ethnicity/cultural background, geographic location, education, and work status. We will organize, collate, and share your emailed stories anonymously on this blogspot. Ultimately this may become a book about how our generation flourishes. Spread the word!! 

Posted in 70candles | 12 Comments

Lessons from a Hip Replacement

Ellen, Age 73

Three years ago, at age 70, I began to experience pain in my upper right leg after playing tennis. I diagnosed myself with a groin pull and made an appointment with a physical therapist. After about five minutes, she said, “Ellen, I hope this isn’t a shock to you, but I don’t think you have a groin pull. I think you have osteoarthritis.” Wow. Really? I’d fast-walked a bunch of marathons, I was a slow but avid tennis player, worked full-time, was healthy as a horse. My medicine cabinet consisted of an emergency asthma inhaler and a bunch of vitamins.

Now fast forward. I had a total hip replacement on May 31, 2012, eight months after that first pain. I am an unusual case in that most people say they waited too long. My fear, as I was making my decision about having or not having surgery, was that I was waiting too short. Now, and ever since the surgery, I have no regrets. None.

At first (pre-surgery), I tried everything to reduce the ever-increasing “groin pain.” I went to physical therapy which helped for a few months. I had a cortisone shot that brought joyous relief for exactly two-and-a-half weeks. I then started on the course that I maintained right up until surgery, and for much of that time, I was pain free.

I continued to work. I went to pool therapy twice a week and loved it (in my experience there is nothing better for pain relief than spending an hour in a very warm “therapy pool”). I took six Tylenol-arthritis pills every day plus an NSAID. On the downside, I stopped playing tennis and going to yoga classes. My life became pretty sedentary, but my plan was to put off surgery for a year or two, for so many reasons.

I wanted to enjoy the upcoming summer; we had a lot of plans. I knew that hip replacements don’t last forever, and the longer you wait, the less the chance of it wearing out. Maybe there’d be advancements in technique or product if I waited. But really, I did not want to face my own vulnerability, my frailty, my imperfection. I was fine thinking of myself as old, an old lady, an old granny, but old and strong, old and athletic, even old and beautiful, old and healthy as a horse. The idea of a joint replacement was, for me, incompatible with that.

Three things changed my mind about waiting. One, I started to read about the effects on the liver, of the meds I was taking. Two, I went for my annual physical and my primary care doc said he’d like to see my hip X-ray. He called me the next day and used terms like “bone on bone” and “necrosis.” Although originally fine with my plan to wait a year, he now advised surgery sooner than later, with some urgency. (Interestingly, my orthopedic surgeon kept saying the timing was completely up to me.) Three, although I had been avoiding physical activity to control the pain, I loved nothing better than hiking. So my husband and I planned a short hike, under an hour. I experienced a little pain, but it was worth it. Then we drove to an annual Greek festival in our neighborhood. We sat down with our huge souvlakis and I couldn’t get up. The pain (despite all the painkillers) was over-the-top. I scheduled an appointment with the surgeon the next day.

The rest was straightforward. My surgeon was miraculously able to fit me in, the following week. It was great for me that I had little time to prepare. I immediately shifted to preparation mode. I cancelled all my summer plans through the middle of August. I bought two long, loose summer dresses at Walmart, knowing that for a while I wouldn’t be able to bend over to put on shorts or pants. (The funny thing is that I have come to love these dresses. They cost $16 each; far less expensive than anything else in my closet. I bought them as throwaways, but they’ve become keepers. In fact, I recently had them both shortened at $25 a clip.)

One of my sons, my sister-in-law, and a dear neighbor offered to assist my husband, Doug, and me with any post-op care I might need, and it was a relief to have that lined up in advance. I figured I’d be in the hospital for the standard three or four days and then go to a rehab facility for a few days before coming home. That was the plan.

The day of my surgery, I felt great and wondered for a few seconds if I was jumping the gun. Luckily Doug was there to remind me about all those Tylenols. What I remember next is waking up after the deed was done and being wheeled through the halls of this large teaching hospital. I felt fine, almost giddy. I had told the nurses I’d like a private room, but they said there were only two on the orthopedic unit, and they were both taken. Bummer.

So we arrived at the door of my assigned room. I looked in and saw an empty space for my bed, and noted that the patient in the other bed was… a man. Gulp. What quickly went through my head was, “Well, I know it’s a new world. Men can marry men and women can marry women, women can be frontline soldiers and CEO’s, men can be stay-at-home dads. I think that’s all great, but really… this is carrying gender liberation too far.” At that point, the orderlies who were wheeling me around burst into laughter. So did I. They said, “Well it looks like there’s been a mistake. Sorry, we can’t put you in this room.” Thank god.

Soon after a nurse came over and said, “We have a private room ready for you now.” I have no idea how all that happened, but I spent the next three days in a lovely room with a beautiful view. Doug was there all day, every day. I got gorgeous flowers from family and friends, and they were deeply appreciated. The first flowers to arrive were from my Dad, who was 97 at the time, with a perfect brain. Amazing, really, that he knew to send them, when and where, no help.

A few things stand out about my hospital stay. One, my surgery was on a Thursday. I stayed in bed that whole day, as I recall. On Friday I needed a blood transfusion and then the weekend arrived. The upshot was that I had almost no physical therapy while I was in the hospital, since weekends — at least in this hospital — are not fully staffed. Lesson: Plan your surgery for early in the week to get the best help.

Two, there was a tremendous range of nursing care. My favorites were Jerome and Fred, who were kind, competent, and good humored. My least favorite was a nurse whose name I don’t remember, who told Doug not to come until noon the next day because he’d just be in the way in the morning. Happily he paid no attention and arrived at 9 a.m.. When I told Jerome that story, he reported the nurse to his boss. Apparently, that’s the opposite of hospital policy. Family members are welcome and they have a positive influence on patients and staff. Lesson: Not all nurses are created equal. Don’t let the bad ones get you down, and express your unbridled appreciation to the great ones.

Three, I never saw my surgeon the whole time I was in the hospital. Oh well.

Four, because I kind of lost a day when I had the transfusion and I hardly had any physical therapy because it was now the weekend, I expected to be discharged on Monday. I was still planning on a few days of in-patient rehab in what I heard was a nice local facility. At 5 a.m. on Sunday morning, a pleasant young intern came to my bedside with a clipboard and said, “You’re discharged to home. You can leave any time today. Everything looks really good.” Lesson: Go with the flow.

Five, the discharge day is a bit of a blur, but Doug came over soon thereafter, and since I was not going to rehab, we ordered a hospital bed to be delivered to our home (I didn’t think I’d be able to walk up the 15 steps to our bedroom). Doug and I drove home with a walker and a few other assistive devices like a sock-aid, a raised toilet seat, and a reacher/grabber. I already had a borrowed cane. My son drove three and a half hours from his home to meet us at ours. I walked into the house, and immediately, with the help of my cane, walked up the 15 steps with relative ease. We canceled the hospital bed.

It was fabulous to have help from family and friends those first few days. I was using the walker, couldn’t bend, loved being cooked for and pampered. And Doug turned out to be hubby-nurse of the century, rivaled I told him only by Gabby Giffords’ astronaut. Lesson: Family and friends, I love you.

Today I am myself again, and have been for some time. I play tennis, hike, and with the exception of beeping through the old-fashioned airport security scanners, might not even remember that I have a bionic hip.

I want to close with the two the biggest takeaways for me. First, I am so glad I did not wait any longer than I did to have this surgery. It did not change me for the worse. It improved me. It improved my quality of life. It brought me back to myself. I will not wait in the future if I need help and help is available.

And second, the summer of my surgery, I slowed down. I erased my calendar in order to heal, and I found joy in doing nothing. I spent a lot of time at home, cooking simple meals, wearing shorts and a tee shirt (and my two Walmart dresses), and reading for pleasure, not information — that was the summer of the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy, and I read them all. I recently received an email from a friend who wished me a “summer with the right balance of fun and laziness.” Thank you, hip replacement, for forcing me to live this wisdom.

Posted in Family matters, Gratitude and Spirituality, Our bodies, our health | 1 Comment

Waiting for Inspiration

Anonymous, Almost 70

It is a muggy, summer’s evening. Daytime heat has cooled a bit. Thunder continues to echo. Wind bursts have quieted some but just a few drops of rain made it to the ground. The predicted storm seems stuck in mid-air. I’m feeling stuck, too. Finding this blog, be it a happy accident or a stroke of good luck, could be what I need to get me to a goal whose deadline fast approaches. An introvert by nature, posting here is not necessarily within my comfort zone but having read just a few entries, I’m interested to read more. And apparently, courageous enough to post something.

November 2014 will be my “Turning 70″ event. I retired in 2012. Quite ill at that time, I spent the next 6 months recovering. One of my grandsons introduced me to blogging, thinking it would be good therapy for my mind and my body. I began writing a memoir, at the urging of my family, a “Tell Us a Story” sort of endeavor. After more than 30 years of working in university and college offices as their “Girl Friday”, a hundred page attempt at a personal history some 25 years ago, other employment and lots of child rearing, I began my “Life and Times…” writing project.

Growing up on a small. cash-crop farm in Idaho, until my dad died one month shy of his 60th birthday, at 12, I assumed I would probably marry a farmer and be a stay-at-home mom like most all the women I had known. I wrote about life as I remembered it, and about leaving home at 17, thinking that if I didn’t leave the tiny community I’d grown up in, upon high school graduation, I might never have another opportunity to do so. Going to college seemed a financial impossibility.

Writing about my training and work in the field of Cosmetology, marriage to a college graduate, the couple of months we tromped around Europe before the children came, two of them three years apart, wasn’t difficult. I’ve wrestled with writing about molestation, as a small child, and as yet, have made no decision. Chapters, “What If There’s No Happily Ever-after?”, and “What Seems Like an End May Be a Beginning”, got me through my first attempt to write about the heartbreak of divorce.

In my late 40′s, four of my grandchildren, ages 4, 2, and 16-month old twins, came to live with me under a legal guardianship order. Each of them grew up in my home until their butterfly wings carried them out into the world. Tired as I was–a working beyond my home Grandma with challenges of Rheumatoid and Osteo Arthritis, and other inconvenient issues of health, there is much to write about, the funny stories, poignant ones, miracles performed by Earth’s angels, on our behalf, yet I’ve been spinning my wheels and making little progress. I thought this more recent 25 year period would be the easy part.

“If moving in one direction isn’t working, perhaps starting from the other end and working towards a middle might be my answer”, I’ve thought. So, how do I feel about becoming Seventy? Waiting for inspiration, the smell of rain has begun to waft in from my backyard vegetable garden. In Google, I typed, “About Turning 70″, and read quotes attributed to Mark Twain and Bob Hope. And then I saw “70 Candles”. One click, and here I am.

Posted in About turning 70, Family matters, GOALS: Summer 2014 Challenge, Looking ahead, Share your story, Traveling, What do we do with our time?, Work life and retirement | Leave a comment

Beyond my comfort zone…exhilarating!

Evelyn, Age 73

Last weekend I had a wonderful opportunity to participate in Curtis Summerfest, an intensive chamber music workshop held at Curtis, which happens to be 4 blocks from our home.  What an exhilarating experience it was!  I hadn’t played chamber music since high school, and I was extremely lucky to have an “embedded cellist”, 17 year-old Andres Sanchez, an incredible musician, with me for the weekend, as well as a clarinetist.  We had 2 one-hour coachings by Curtis faculty each day and an additional 2 hours of rehearsals daily.  The recital was Sunday afternoon.  We played the first movement of the Brahms clarinet trio, opus 114 in A minor.

Playing a 10-foot Steinway at the new Curtis hall – awesome!  
Playing at a level that made me proud – amazing!  
Going beyond my comfort zone to do something I hadn’t done in 55 years – as they say in the Mastercard commercial – PRICELESS!!!

I thank my family and friends for their interest and support of my musical endeavors – hopefully, there will be more to come!

Posted in GOALS: Summer 2014 Challenge, What do we do with our time?, Work life and retirement | Leave a comment

Goals: Summer 2014 Challenge

Jane, Age almost 74

I’ve read that having goals is healthy for mind and body. I just started my own summer lap swimming, adding two more lengths of the pool each time I go in. Started at 15…..now at 22.

As I swam this morning, it occurred to me that others might want to climb aboard.

What goals have you set for this season? Anything will do…just a little more, or a little different each time…walking, hiking, jogging, sewing, cooking, writing, reading, memorizing poems, socializing. You name it.

Let us know what you’ve chosen and how you are progressing.

Posted in GOALS: Summer 2014 Challenge, Our bodies, our health, What do we do with our time?, Work life and retirement | 2 Comments

Let the Clock Run Wild

Judy, Age 74

Judy Scher and Julie Coburn compiled and edited a book entitled LET THE CLOCK RUN WILD: Wit and Wisdom from Boomers and Bobbysoxers. Released this May 2014. Here is the opening to a story as well as a poem that speaks to the title and will, hopefully, encourage your readers to check out our website: www.lettheclockrunwild.com

A CIRCLE OF CRONES by Elayne Clift

There are among us one uterus, three ovaries, multiple husbands, numerous children, several grandchildren, and six interesting careers. Two of us are cancer survivors. Another has a chronic disease. One has been sexually abused. We know better than most that Bette Davis was right: Old age is no place for sissies. That is why we proudly call ourselves Crones – wise women of a certain age who are transitioning into the third stage of our lives with grace, spirited intelligence, humor and a sense of belonging in this world.

Kenneth K. Cohen

As I look into the mirror
Closer, closer, nearer, nearer
What I see with each fine line
Where past and future intertwine
Is all that waxes also wanes
So little of my youth remains
Except within my inner child
Uncompromised unreconciled
To anything but being free
Of feckless age as destiny.
No, I say, it’s not the end
My butterfly waits round the bend
To claim my spirit and to soar
My here and now forever more.
Uncompromised, unreconciled
It’s time to let the clock run wild!

Posted in About turning 70, Ageism anecdotes, HUMOR, Looking ahead, Our bodies, our health, Poetry, Read Stories | 1 Comment

Used to being undaunted

Claudia, Age 87

Share my story! Where to start and be brief! Start with the present?..
I live alone in a lovely spacious apartment overlooking the Hudson River, NJ, and the George Washington Bridge.
I have 4 children and 3 grandcildren all within 3 hours or less.
Have always been full of energy which is currently diminished by my health. In short since last august surgery for multiple meningeoma on my spinal chord and spine and three months later fell broke hip. Undaunted (most of the time ) I go to physical rehab x3 a week. But all that and Atrial fibrillation slow me down. So what now?
I am glad to have been pointed to this blog by my eldest son.
Enough for now, more later.

Posted in 70 from other perspectives: looking forward and looking back, Family matters, Looking ahead, Our bodies, our health, What do we do with our time?, Where to live | 2 Comments

Enjoying the ride!

Elaine, Age 70

Was so happy to find this site ! I just turned 70 on April 24th and am loving it…..I am currently recovering, at my daughter’s home, from a breast reduction surgery ! Wish I hadn’t waited so long for one, but am so happy that I finally did it !

I am a life-long equestrian; started riding when I was in Grade 5 and have continued on since then, riding and training and loving every minute of it. I am lucky to have a husband who fully understands my “affliction” as I call it and we’ve owned numerous horses over the years. Still mucking out; haying; and riding and training 5 days/week…..

Longevity reigns in my family and my Dad, who is 93 this July, is “still hanging in there”, as are 4 others of my Dad’s siblings….his older sister passed away last year at the ripe old age of 99….and I’m striving for that too !

I still do Pilates; lift weights; ride, and paint. I just love life, and think that is part of our longevity in the family too … I always find it kind of funny when younger equestrians call me “an inspiration”….I think….”what the heck are they talking about”? hahahahaha…..

I found this site in a book that my daughter bought me for my birthday, and will certainly be visiting often…..carry on folks!

Posted in About turning 70, Looking ahead, Stories, What do we do with our time?, Work life and retirement | 2 Comments

My decision to leave my home

Barbara Mott, now 90

Excerpts from Chapter Two written in her 80′s

While I am now blissfully settled in my new home, it was with much deliberation and soul-searching and almost sleepless nights that I had come to the decision that yes, I needed to make a change. It was definitely time to enter Chapter Two and put some new adventure in my life.

It certainly wasn’t easy. In fact, I changed my mind so many times that people started asking me, “What have you decided this week?” It was an agonizing period that I just couldn’t feel comfortable with. I loved my home. I would look around at all of the familiar things that I treasured and felt so comfortable with, and the idea of selling the house and moving was just too much to even consider. It didn’t help that friends would tell me now beautiful my home was. I thought so, too. Was I doing the right thing even thinking about moving? I had a lovely home, all paid for, no problems with the bills and upkeep, and Nickki and I were very comfortable there. And yet, I felt so alone. No matter where I went with friends, day or night, I always came home to an empty house.

…Assisted living/retirement homes are becoming the popular option for a lot of people my age and even younger. They are springing up all over the country and are a real blessing for people who no longer have the choice or desire to maintain the lifestyle to which they have been accustomed. Maybe it’s poor or failing health, or they have lost a mate, or the home is just getting to be too much to manage. It is a real comfort to know you will be taken care of onsite as your needs arise. Yes, it’s expensive, but so is professional personal home care. The locations are many, and if you look around, you’ll find one that will meet your satisfaction and pocket book.

… It’s amazing how much “stuff” we accumulate over the years that we forget about and don’t even need. But downsizing can be a good thing. It weeds out the excesses. My next door neighbor was planning a garage sale soon, so I gave her the remaining boxes of odds and ends to put in her sale. We were both happy.

…Maybe if I tell you how much the move has made my life happier, fuller, and more exciting, you may give some thought about how you would feel in a new environment. Here I have the advantage of all sorts of classes: computer, poetry, painting, exercising, Bible study, balance training, walking, writing. And there is often a special appearance of musical talents in the auditorium as well as book reviews and speakers. There’s a beauty shop and barber shop just off the lobby, also. What more could you want?

…Another treat is that I get the newspaper at my door every morning, and my mail is delivered to the mail room and the outgoing mail is taken by the postman. The bags of trash and garbage I set outside my door are quietly carried away. I’ve got to be careful not to get too spoiled.

…All of this information is meant to give you a different perspective of what life can be like if you can make the decision to let go of the past and face a more fulfilling future. I have not been lonely here, and have not had one moment to ponder if I did the right thing. I know I did…I keep pinching myself and wondering how in the world I could be so blessed and fortunate. My future is secure, and it’s nice knowing this is the last move I’ll ever have to make. I hope you can see yourself enjoying the last few years in a similar happy state.

Posted in Looking ahead, Networking, Where to live | 4 Comments

Alone, seeking connections

Lynette, Age 75

i just heard about this blog in a book i got for a friend – “70 things to do when you turn 70.” this is my first year being alone. when i was healthy, everything seemed ok. i could cope with my house and property. now that i have back issues, it’s harder. i have a wonderful supportive family that live nearby. i volunteer at a dog club, love to play canasta, knit, scrapbook, and read. i’m interesting in others with these same hobbies. i look forward to reading stories from other women in this age group. thank you lynette

Posted in Family matters, Networking, What do we do with our time? | Leave a comment

Now what?

Linda, Age 69

I am so happy I found your site. I will be 70 in August and have been pondering,”Now what?” That’s what I googled and found 70candles. I have taken your advice on makeup and hair, even got a short asymmetrecial haurcut that I had wanted to try since in my twenties. I figured it was now or never lol.

I was married for 27 years to a man who cheated on me for 25 of those years. When our children were 24 and 20 they said,”Mom you don’t have to live like this,” and I thought,”I don’t?”

It took me a while to find the old me and I sure like her. Nine years ago I sold my house and moved to a small mountain town to be near my daughter and two small grandchildren. It is very remote not much shopping or entertainment for 150 miles. It was great for a while, but now the grand kids are older and busy with their friends and sports. My daughter has gone through two divorces in nine years and now is struggling on her own. It is wearing me down and I’m thinking,”Now what?”

I would love to move someplace warm but I have muscular dystropy and use a scooter. Someone has to come every morning to get me up then I am good to go for the rest of the day. My son lived with me until last year and then he married and I am so happy he found such a wonderful woman. They moved back to the city where we lived for thirty five years. Things have gotten hard since he left he is very kind and helpful. They want me to live with them but that is no way to start a new marriage.

I had my home built for me nine years ago with my MD in mind. My daughter had one built across the street which was so nice for both of us. I kept the grand kids while she worked and she helped when I needed it but as I said before that was two divorces ago and she has been long gone from there for five years.

I have great neighbors that help. I’ve tried hired help and have gone through five aides in two years. They either don’t show up or steal. It’s a small town and not many to choose from.

I use the computer to do my banking and pay my bills on line. Have a smart phone, a kindle and keep in touch with old friends and my sisters who all live in different states. I also have two little chihuahuas so I’m not really lonely or bored. But I sure would like to have some fun!!!

So going to be 70 and now what?

Posted in About turning 70, Family matters, Looking ahead, Our bodies, our health, Stories, What do we do with our time?, Where to live | 2 Comments