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!! 

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I LOVE aging!

Mary,  Age 70

My name is Mary, almost 71 at summer’s end and am a California (Santa Monica) transplant to Boston since 2009. I’m grateful for many, many things but one in particular is having been brought up in CA with the culture of healthy living, exercise, nutrition, self-development and all that goes with “the beautiful” people. Folks, it’s one big Hollywood but if one chooses to concentrate (as I did) on the positive of the “La-La Land” culture (while keeping your head on your shoulders and staying grounded) this mind set pays of huge DIVIDENDS – as in my case.

Like most of my sisters out there, I have had my share of challenges both professionally and personally but like a horse with blinders on, I have always had that focus and confidence that sports coupled with education gives a woman: power, strength and independence. Above all, a POSITIVE attitude about everything and SELF love that will certainly come in handy in droves during our wonderful twilight years.

I LOVE aging; love it. And, once I accepted the fact that, unlike my girlfriends in CA who can afford at our age to still look fab like Jane Fonda, I’m doing it the old fashioned way and still look damn good: youthful, thin, athletic and well groomed to the best of my ability. I work at it: I love myself.

I have found that ATTITUDE plays a major role in ageing and if we focus on the negative and challenging side of it (health issues) we’ll stay stuck. Like classic cars, our body parts have begun to wear out so we deal with them the best we can – and move on. We do our best; that’s all we can do. But what we put in our head and hearts, the influences in our lives (toxic people), what we read, watch or listen to has EVERYTHING to do with it. This is my secret:

1) Count your blessings; 2) Exercise 3) Eat healthfully or pay the consequences 4) Concentrate on the GOOD in your life; 5) Seek out people who think like you and stay away from downers 6) READ all the great stuff on ageing and spiritualism – not necessarily religion

Above all, if depression plagues you, get help. Moving your body, for starters, will get those endorphins going but if you need motivation, please seek it. It’s imperative we make the most of every moment and our attitude, focus and commitment to OURSELVES is our only solution. Above all, LOVE yourself and don’t be a victim; just do your best because that’s what you are – the BEST!

Posted in 70candles, Goals ahead, Gratitude and Spirituality, Looking ahead, Our bodies, our health, Resilience, Share your story, What do we do with our time? | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

80 is the new 80

Lois Cronholm,  Age 85

80 is the new 80. While anyone reading this title is likely to know why I am writing this tome, I ask your indulgence to read on. There are some half dozen expressions that either bore or annoy me. “How are you” when they really would not want to know. Or “You look wonderful” which translates into “For her age.” But the two worst are: “70 is the new 50” and “Age is only in the head.” 80 is not the new 60. 80 is what comes after 79 and it is on its way to 81. Age may be in the head, but as an uninvited invader that removes fond memories; age is in the arthritic encroachments into what were agile muscles and bones.
If luck follows you into this decade you will get there with your spouse. But you will not be planning your next trek up Mt. Everest together, or washing sand off your back from that great lay on a dark beach. One of you is or soon will be a caregiver and one a caretaker. You will find this is more challenging than scaling mountains, less romantic than a swirl in the sand. Once I was a role model for young women aspiring to the kinds of professional success I enjoyed; now I am a role model for how to be a successfully formerly successful old lady. Once those boots were made for stomping; now they are in that Good Will bag before that fall which is the scourge of old people.
‘Tis true: old age is not for the timid. I am old and not timid. How old? As of this writing, closer to 86 than 85. While I am a non-timid happy old lady. I loathe people who pronounce the key to their happiness a universal principle. So I won’t do that, never have. But I will drop the principle of privacy as all of us who write our stories must (or should) to give you one of the endless streams of mottos that punctuate my tale. To thrive, not just survive old age, fight but don’t deny. (Hah, I slipped two homilies into that one short sentence — I, about whom it is said “It takes her a paragraph just to say hello”, with a painful reminder it is my own adored son who thus portrays his mom.)
So my tale is about how I stumbled into readiness for the fight, how I enthusiastically fight now that the time has come, how I recognize time to deny, and how I became ridiculously satisfied even in denial. If it fits wear it. If it doesn’t it will be a good target to criticize; either result is my gift to you.

Posted in 70 from other perspectives: looking forward and looking back, 70candles, Ageism anecdotes, Caretaking, Family matters, Goals ahead, HUMOR, Looking ahead, Our bodies, our health, Read Stories, Share your story, What do we do with our time?, Work life and retirement | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

questions that come after 70

Beverly Schultz,  Age 72

Am enjoying your blog. At about age 65, I joined with about 9 women from The Boston Club [all Presidents or VPs of companies in and around Boston] and we have met about once a month for the last 7 years or so. We’ve struggled with so many things that we share as part of what we call the Third Age Group.

I retired from a position as Senior Vice President of Engineering at a company that was about to be bought by GE. I loved technology, and would not have retired at that time if my husband wasn’t ready to retire and travel. I thought we should retire at the same time, and we have, and for over 10 years we’ve just taken such advantage of life! My husband had a quadruple bypass at age 55, and so that was his motivation to “retire early”.

Women over 70 who have had responsible positions and exacting careers have a hard time retiring. We worked HARD to get where we were. We thrived on the challenges and we were seen as successful and competent and responsible. When I quit my job my biggest regret was losing my administrative assistant. She had made my plane reservations and travel plans, handled every minuscule job that I needed done so I could concentrate on the work I was hired to do. I managed over 300 engineers for probably 20 years. Retiring to play golf or cook or teach English to those who need help or take up new hobbies does NOT feel good to someone who worked so hard to be a leader in industry.

So we’re like other retirees, we need time with our grandchildren, and our spouses, and we want companionship and fun, but we also don’t want to waste this time of retirement. With my husband, travel was a highlight over the past 10 years, and making our own explorations….like taking 3 months off and driving to Alaska!….and we work to be with interesting people. We are always interested in what others are doing in their retirement.

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Crossing the finish line

Margie Smith,   Age 75

Last June, two days before my 75th birthday, I did a 5K on the Detroit River Walk. I am not an athlete. I never won a medal for a physical feat of any ilk. I play golf and pickleball, but I’m not intuitively competitive.

Nevertheless, I joined seven friends for a 5K/10K walk/run in downtown Detroit. The event was sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan as a fundraiser for The Detroit Riverfront Conservancy. The Detroit River Walk is a groomed trail that meanders along the Detroit River from the Ambassador Bridge to Belle Isle.

It was what a friend used to call “a bluebird morning:” sunny; bright blue sky; temperature in the high 60s; light breeze; spring flowers and trees in bloom. We are all senior citizens. A 5K is only 3.1 miles. I figured I probably walk three miles while shopping at Costco or volunteering at the DIA. This would be a piece of cake.

We mingled with a convivial bunch of men and women of all ages, races, sizes and abilities. The route began beside the river, then meandered around some side streets and finished back on the riverfront in Rivard Plaza.

We picked up our T shirts and numbered badges. Imbedded in each badge was an electronic code to record the exact time we crossed the start and finish lines as well as our names and ages. It was comforting to know that in the event of my collapse and/or death, someone would be able to identify my body.

Runners started at 9 a.m. Walkers at 9:20. Five of our group maneuvered to the front of pack, but my friend and I were in the middle of the crowd. There were several hundred people ahead of us; hundreds behind us.

We admired the sunshine glinting off the rippled waters of the Detroit River. We watched the passing freighters, guessing what their cargos might be. We noted the landscaped areas, the conveniently placed benches, the flower beds, the budding trees, the screeching seagulls, the small wooden boxes on platforms where people could borrow a book on the honor system or leave a book for someone else. We talked. At the water stations, we stopped and sipped and thanked the volunteers. We offered to take pictures of other groups with their cell phones.

As we sauntered past the 4K marker, I looked over my shoulder. Where was that crowd of people who were behind us at the start? Duh. I realized this was a RACE. For most of the participants, it was more than a pleasant morning walk. As my friend and I – and the two women a few feet behind us — neared the finish line we joked about our slowness, but linked arms as we crossed so nobody would be tagged “last.”

Those embedded electronic things are extremely accurate, however. The statistics for the run and the walk arrived by email a few days later.  I was last. Dead Last. My friend, second last.

However, according to the email, I was the second oldest woman to finish the walk. One woman was in the “75 and up” age group. I looked for her name in the race statistics.

She beat me by about five minutes.

This appeared on my blog, The Newfangled Gramma, and in a local magazine, Detroit River Living. My blog can be found at margiereinssmith.weebly.com

Posted in Goals ahead, HUMOR, Our bodies, our health, Share your story, Stories, What do we do with our time? | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What is 70?

 

Diana,  Age 71

I’m the same person I was at ten only a bit slower of foot and intellect. My mind doesn’t feel seventy, but then it didn’t feel ten. I still have dreams and ambitions, fears and regrets.

I’m still the same person, perhaps experience and past mistakes have given me a little wisdom, but I just feel like me. Not an old lady. Just Me.

I still like to travel, but those long flights are a downer. I’m trading them in for city stays with afternoon rests. I enjoy art and music, reading, gardening and cooking as much as ever, and with the help of cataract surgery and glasses I see quite well. My hearing’s compromised a bit with mild tinnitus and age related hearing loss, but my major hearing problem probably isn’t hearing related at all. I have trouble with comprehension when people talk fast. That’s probably more a brain function. Whatever, it’s my new reality, along with the need to pace my activities since my stamina wanes. I don’t want to define myself in terms of my health, but my health seems intent on intruding on who I am.

My husband and I still handle all our own finances, but now instead of worrying about job loss, we worry about our pension plan being defunded, the effect of future inflation on our income and savings, and which will last longer – our money or us. We’ve written wills and dealt all the other elder care legal issues . And we’re agreed that we’ll never make a major decision without talking it over with both our children. We do all our banking online, and as we age will eventually set up automatic bill pay. Our next big decision is probably deciding when we move into an apartment. So far there’s nothing in our community that we like, so we’re giving ourselves more time.

Of course I have health issues. And far less stamina than I had when younger. So I garden for shorter intervals early in the day since I can no longer take the heat. Twice a week I lift weights at the local YMCA. I do Yoga and ride the exercise bike twice a week and walk for an hour each day. But, nevertheless, I understand that while I’m buying flexibility and strength, I’m not delaying my eventual death. I’m just trying to make this part of my life as enjoyable as possible.

My husband and I have handed over some of our responsibilities to others: we have a handyman, bi-weekly cleaning service, lawn service….the list will only grow longer. I call them all my ‘Easy Button’ and enjoy my free time.

I’m living proof that all grandmotherly-looking women aren’t necessarily patient and gentle, but I do my best to fake it. I come closest to losing my cool when patronized. Please don’t reassure me that I shouldn’t be ‘afraid’ of the buttons on my washing machine and don’t be ‘impressed’ that I use the calendar on my cell phone. I’m old, not helpless. Please don’t remind me that someday I might be.

What’s hardest for me? I miss those I love who are no longer here. I miss the involvement of work and the friends from my past who are no longer part of my life. I’m lonely for those long laughing lunches with other women and summer vacation with my small children. Hardest of all is the sense of helplessness. I’m getting old and frail, I know that I’m not as sharp as I once was, and the economy and my health will do what they do. I never could control the forces that govern my life. I still can’t. So I try to focus on today and accept that the world will spin along without me.

Yet these are among the best years of my life. I have the time to appreciate that I have a good marriage and that my children grew up to be nice people. I can do what interests me and ignore a lot that doesn’t. I can take the time to smile at the checkout girl at the market and thank those who help me. I can glory in the fact that my daughter and daughter-in-law can hold the positions of authority that were denied me (even if I join their grumble at pay inequality). I have time to savor the moment and the knowledge of how fleeting that moment is.

I know that health issues will eventually create stress and my life will be far less smooth, and that for most people their last few years are difficult. But I’ll face that when it comes and make the best of things that I can. For my major job in old age is to prove to my children (and myself) that if one focuses on the quality of a well-lived life it is indeed worth living.
Who am I? Actually I turned 71 on Sunday. I’m a Caucasian Southerner born in New Orleans and living in Knoxville. I taught English composition and worked as a GSUSA director. I have a husband and two adult children, two grandchildren, and a good, if quiet, life.

Posted in 70candles, About turning 70, Ageism anecdotes, Family matters, Finances, Goals ahead, Looking ahead, Our bodies, our health, Resilience, What do we do with our time?, Where to live, Work life and retirement | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

How I live a healthy life

Karen,  Age 75

I’m not sure what the motivating factor was but somewhere in my early 20’s I decided that I would learn how to take care of myself physically and emotionally. And so began a life time of learning. I have a PhD in Information Science and I specialized in computers in medicine in my professional career. When I discovered the rather fraudulent (i.e. ‘adjusted’) data used by allopathic medicine (especially cancer data), I began to do research in alternative medicine and became a convert. And so I took (and continue to take) worthwhile supplements and had a genomic profile done so I could make sure that the supplements I was taking supported those areas in which I was less than perfect. I had to put up with a fair amount of ridicule over the years for taking care of myself but now that I am aged, friends/family ask me for the ‘secret’ that has allowed me to live a healthy life. I take no medications, am very phy sically active (I walk 2-4 miles every day and go on hiking vacations where I hike 10-15 miles a day) and have no health problems. I will die of something of course – my aim was not to prolong my life, but to ensure that I had quality of life. I wish there was a way to reach young people about the importance of taking care of themselves but I have given up – each person seeks and follows their own path. I live my life trying not to judge and follow the precept: be kind, everyone is fighting a hard battle.

Posted in 70candles, Our bodies, our health, Traveling, What do we do with our time? | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Seek out activities

Wendy Tavendale,  Age 68

 

I have just had my first anniversary of retirement. The first year has disappeared very fast. I loved my job as Finance Manager of a social service agency, and I thought I would be there for ever. However, I was finding I was becoming tired. I was getting up at 5 am to have an hour’s walk before work, but by the end of the day was falling asleep in the chair. There were changes at work with staff, and I just wasn’t getting the job satisfaction that I had previously. Time to make that decision!
Adjusting to being home all day took a few months. My husband had been retired for six years, and had done most of the cooking and cleaning, so we both had to readjust. I kept wondering if all was going well at work without me. (A rather conceited view as no one is indispensable)
I decided not to rush into new activities as I already had hobbies. I am spending more time with my passion of quilting, have taken over writing the newsletter for the governing body of Patchworking and Quilting in our area, joined the committee, and also started a facebook page for the group. I am on the committee of our local branch of Scottish Country Dancing, we meet every Monday night. I enjoy this because it is great exercise as well as keeping the brain stimulated remembering the dances.
Every Monday morning I attend gentle yoga classes and try to continue the practice at home. This requires discipline, because after an hours walk I usually feel I have done enough for the day.
Two weeks ago I felt I needed to start my volunteering, what I wondered, help with the elderly? I am not great at that (to close to home) work in an op shop? (No, cant stand the smell). I know the local SPCA! (Which by the way has its own smell, but doesn’t seem to worry me), I had been walking a little pomeranium with my dog because her elderly owner is unable to walk her anymore. The dog has been rehomed because her owner has become to frail to look after her. I have missed the little dog quite a bit (although still visiting her owner) hence the SPCA. They were so behind with their data entry so I have been helping with that and really enjoying it. I love computers!
So after a year, my days are as full as I want them to be, love spending time with the grandchildren, having cups of coffee with friends, enjoy a wine before dinner with my husband, and after all that, I still find plenty of time for my passion, Quilting!
I think it is important to seek these activities out, they won’t come to us.
Napier New Zealand

 

Posted in 70candles, About turning 70, Finances, Goals ahead, Looking ahead, Networking, Resilience, Technology and contemporary culture, What do we do with our time?, Work life and retirement | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Looking forward to new adventures

 

Isabel,  Just turned 70

 
Well it happened! I turned 70 two weeks ago after lamenting about it for 6 months. I thought it would be like last year when I turned 69 and every other year in my 60s; after a few days no big deal. But that didn’t happen. I’m starting to notice things that were probably there 2 weeks ago, like creepy skin, more lines around my eyes, and it looks like my nose got larger.
Well enough of the negatives. I am in good shape for my years so I plan to take a hiking adventure in some exotic place. I’ve started my research and plan on learning the language of that country (well at least well enough to order food and ask directions). I am looking forward to some new adventures, maybe make some new friends and break out of the expectations of the 70s.

Posted in 70candles, About turning 70, Goals ahead, Looking ahead, Our bodies, our health, Resilience, Traveling, What do we do with our time?, Work life and retirement | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Navigating the years ahead

Anonymous,  Age 69

 
Dear 70 Candles
How inspiring to find a location to “hobnob” with my fellow wizards. I recently turned 69.

I am looking at a number of large changes in my life and navigating the years ahead in a positive way becomes more and more important. I will be leaving a life I love (full-filling job, lovely home, wonderful community) for a new adventure with my husband. We need to downsize and we have the opportunity to live a very rural life that is simpler, more self sustaining and near the family business. There are notable “down sides” (I think) so I am already putting in place various social and inspirational anchor centers where I can feed my own interests. I am particularly interested then, in stories of lifestyle changes in one’s 70’s.

Although I have many step children and step grandchildren (a term so cumbersome I rarely use it). I would like address here the fact that I had my own daughter at the age of 45. She is wonderful. Nevertheless, having a child that late brings up issues and concerns. Of course it is a major motivator to stay as healthy as possible to be able to share as much of her life as possible.

I think I will leave it at that for now. I look forward to perusing the website for other stories, and will no doubt contribute more as my changes kick in full time.

Thanks

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Nothing stays the same from year to year

Sheila,  Age 69 11/12

70….it sounds OLD, but mentally I feel about 40. Some concerns at this age:
1) loss of confidence in physical agility with noticeable balance insecurity particularly after a few minor falls”
2) “crepey” skin particularly on my arms and inner thighs. It suddenly just appeared, much to my horror
3) the “neck” as Nora Ephron would say
4) dressing appropriately : is it matronly or even worse, old lady trying to look hip? Several of my girlfriends are a decade younger and some look fabulous but others are starting to cross over into the “looks inappropriate” category
5) the loss of physical intimacy
6) the knees, the hips, the teeth are all showing signs of wear
7) too many friends are dying
8) too many conversations are about ailments

On the other hand, having retired four years ago, after a long and rewarding career,
1) I love my free time and independence
2) spending time with grandchildren is an unimaginable gift
3) my girlfriends are a solid source of fun and support…we make sure to get together for an overnight, or dinner monthly, and plan a week away every year
4) I continue to learn to not ask my son about who/if he is dating; and remind myself that my married daughter is entitled to do things her way

Nothing stays the same from year to year but somehow turning 70 is really sharpening the awareness of major change in the last couple of laps. How long should we keep the house? Who can I travel with and where do I want to go? Should we worry more about money?
Guess we’ll just have to wait and see…

Posted in 70candles, About turning 70, Family matters, Finances, Financial Challenges, Goals ahead, Looking ahead, Our bodies, our health, Resilience, Stories, Traveling, Where to live, Work life and retirement | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments