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 | 13 Comments

8 concerns of women in their 70’s

We heard from women in their 70s here n our blog at 70candles.com and in 70candles discussion groups across the country, from New York to Texas. With decades of life ahead for many of us, it’s a great time to reassess our lives and examine our options.

Here are the topics that matter most to women in their 70s:

1. Work and Retirement: When to retire — when is too soon, too late, just right? What to do with the ocean of unstructured time that lies beyond long and in so many cases satisfying careers? How to stay engaged, feel fulfilled, and participate in life meaningfully?

2. Living Arrangements: Where to live once the family home or current living arrangements are no longer tenable? Stay in place? Move nearer family? Remain in familiar terrain, but smaller quarters? Become involved in a new community? And when might it, if ever, be time for senior living, for assisted living?

3. Ageism: How to react to the attitudes of others — even old people themselves, ourselves — who view old people with pessimism, fear, even disdain? Who patronize? What about the invisibility of old women?

4. Caretaking: Many are taking care of parents, partners or spouses, sometimes even grandchildren, and feel the stress of that responsibility.

5. Social Connections: Above all, women on their 70s do not want to be isolated. We thrive on social connectivity. Some of us continue to have colleagues at work. Others take courses, volunteer their time, participate in local activities, become members of a religious community perhaps for the first time since childhood, and travel with others. Women friends are critical for 70 year olds, but for some it can be challenging to maintain social connections. How to best do this?

6. Functional Changes: Although women in their 70s acknowledge bodily changes and perhaps some memory losses, our tendency seems to be clearly to go forth, regardless. We stay active and avail ourselves of the newest assistive technology — hearing aids, eyeglasses of course, new joints, mobility scooters, and much more. The issue seems mostly to be about timing. Akin to retirement for those of us who work or worked, when is the right time to have that hip replacement, begin to wear hearing aids in both ears, and so on?

7. Grandparenting: There are so many ways to be a grandma, especially when families are spread across the country. Some feel estranged and disconnected, others derive joy from frequent Skyping and periodic visits. Some move across the country to be near their grandchildren or provide baby-sitting services several times a week or more. What is the optimal kind of contact? And what about those of us without grandchildren?

8. Loss and the End of Life: How do we face the loss of dear friends and family members, particularly spouses? And, ultimately, how do we best prepare for the end of our own life?

We’ll visit these topics in more depth in future posts as we share what women in their 70s have told us and taught us.

Digested from our book, coming soon:
70Candles! Women Thriving in Their 8th Decade

What matters most to you?

Jane and Ellen

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

When we outlive our joints and our senses

Jane, Age 74

We seniors are fortunate to live in an era of robotic advancement.  As we age, and our parts wear out, we can turn to medical science to find replacement joints, organs, and sensory implantations.

Ellen is back to playing tennis with her new hip.  My friend Shelli proudly sports two new knees and a new hip, all in working order…great relief from the pain she experienced before each of those was implanted.  Her husband has recovered from the new anterior incision for hip replacement, looks forward to returning to  his treasured racquetball game.

As my hearing abruptly decreases and my hearing aids strain to accommodate to my current deficits, I read up on cochlear implants.  That technology has come a long way in these last decades.  It does appear that I am outliving my audition, but I treasure my ability to hear, listen, converse, and bathe in environmental sounds. Time to have a chat with the best implant surgeon in town.  I can’t imagine my life without hearing.

Posted in Looking ahead, Our bodies, our health, Resilience, Stories, Technology and contemporary culture | Leave a comment

Confessing ageism

Amy, Age 29

OK my confession,

I must thank you for your inspiration. I however must admit I am no where near the wisdom levels that you have achieved.

I have come across this site by a stroke of luck or just divine intervention. I am a second year college student. At the request of my Gerontology Professor, I am required to write a paper on imagining my self at 70 years of age. I have been reading through the stories, and I find myself, laughing at the variety of life experiences you have all had. However, I also find my self feeling ashamed, for the assignment I just completed for College, I made the 7th generation age group seem like lifeless dolls, collecting dust on a shelf.

I am sorry to say but, I have just written a 13 page paper on the idea of what I envision my life to be like when I turn 70 years old. The medical break down of everything imaginable that I fear will be wrong with me. The fact that I wrote an entire paper on being “too old” to do anything. I envisioned that I will sit on a swing, and pet my dog who would love a nice walk. He will never see one because I would be too sore, to take him, the fact that I will watch my great grandchildren from a chair because my bones will ache too much to play.

I must apologize for my ageism. But I fear that I really had no idea what I was writing about. It is interesting to think that I was able to write a paper about something that I obviously know nothing about.
I was concerned about my 30th Birthday coming up next month. But I suppose you would be the wrong group to complain about that to.

Thank you for this new information that I have found and the inspiration to know that my time is far from over and there is no need to assume that just because we are told life is short does not mean it is over already.

Posted in 70 from other perspectives: looking forward and looking back, Ageism anecdotes, Looking ahead, Our bodies, our health | 1 Comment

Make what’s left of life count

Barbara, Age 70

Today Sept. 12th 2014 is my 70th birthday and I believe finding this web site was one of the gifts God has given me today. I live in Phoenix, AZ and married for 51 years to a great man six months older then I. So far it been a great first day being 70.

My mother lives to be 90, and I am my mothers daughter. Looking for 15 to 20 more good years. In 1992 I had a heaven experience so I am not afraid to die, but now that bugs me. Been fairly healthy most of my life, do have IBS and IC, and I am overweight by about 40 lbs. Very hard to lose weight as many of you know after 50. Had ovarian cancer in 1978, but they got it early and so I live.

I am a pastor and bunker teacher. A Spanish Jew only on my fathers side, but love my Jewish roots. Two grown girls, and three great grandchildren, one girl and two boys. Not much more to say except in the 70’s I found a sign in a junk store that says: “Enjoy what you are!” And I have turned hard to do that.

I want to make what’s left of my life count. Today at lunch I was touched deeply. There was a man and his wife across from us, and he was feeding her because she could not. I watched him, he was kind and loving, and I wanted to do something nice for them, so unknown to them I paid for their lunch. When the bill came, the man looked puzzled, I heard him say the lunch is free

Posted in About turning 70, Family matters, Gratitude and Spirituality, Our bodies, our health | 2 Comments

Be well!

Kay, Age 69

I was so happy to find this today. I will be 70 in Feb.
Needless to say I finally admit I am having issues with it.
If I live to be 85 I only have 15 years to be “myself” & do the things I really long to do.

Today I had to have an exercise stress test! Yikes !
There I was in cardiology with a lot of elders.A good reality check!

Now that I can resume exercising I am more determined than ever to get back in shape and start painting & drawing again.

I work 36 hrs @ a Commumity Health Center as a Medical Asst that sees mostly Pts who are on Medicaid. I was an RN & have had several diverse careers. My job is 10 mins from home and I call this my “fun” job.

I enjoy Zumba,kayaking,riding my bike and music. I do feel alone in this since most people I spend time with are 15 – 30 years younger than me.
Be well

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

Hear! HEAR!

Hear! HEAR! Jane, Age 74

I’ve had 74 years of good, and then good -enough -when -amplified hearing…I feel very grateful for that. But suddenly everything is changing…

Here’s what I have to ignore: A very high-pitched shrieking sound in both ears, a pulsating whoosh somewhere on the right side of my head, and an occasional loud mid-frequency humming in my right ear.

The high pitched tinnitus is like a frantic siren that won’t quit. The pulsating tinnitus reminds me of the nighttime rhythm of the old pump house that echoed up to my cabin each night at summer camp. And the hum sounds like a small plane flying low…in my ear.

I’m able to ignore these pretty well when my hearing aids are in place, especially when I’m actively involved in some pursuit that holds my attention. It’s when I sit quietly or lie in bed that the cacophony reverberates. When the airplane hum awakens me during the night, I’m thankful that I’m able to insert my hearing aids and turn on a Zen channel that offers a pleasant irregular chime sequence that can distract me, calm me and allow me to fall back to sleep.

Along with these sounds has come another set of new experience, occasional dizziness, loss of balance and sudden increased hearing loss. A lot to get used to.

I tell people, in person, and on the phone, that I’m having difficulty hearing and I need them to speak up, and slow down a bit. Although it may be an imposition to others, these accommodations really help. Most are cooperative; some need reminders. I appreciate the efforts they make. It is a problem for both of us when they look away or decrease their volume below my threshold.

Here are some nice things I’ve noticed about hearing less well: People who want to talk with me must come closer. Conversations feel more intimate, and I have the full attention of my conversational partners, as they watch to be sure I’m understanding them. People get to the point more quickly, with less non-essential chatter.

Here’s what I hate: Missing conversations a few feet away, having to say “what?” a lot, missing the topic sentence of others’ conversations, not understanding the high pitched, soft voices of my grandchildren, distortion of voices and music on my car radio, using a cell phone.

My concerned doctors have been trying to figure out the source of all these changes, but alas the mystery continues, in spite of angiograms, MRI’s, lumbar puncture and various auditory tests.

My wonderful family is supportive, and concerned, even as my adult children worry that this might happen to them. My loving husband, who always enjoys a good conversation, even room-to-room….with the TV on…finds it frustrating to talk with me, but he’s conscientiously trying to find just the right loudness level as we speak at a new closer range. Together, we’ve begun to enjoy a nightly Netflix foreign film with sub-titles or closed caption. I’ve started to teach him some basic sign language and finger spelling. I had an uncle who was deafened by meningitis at a young age, so all my family learned finger spelling to communicate with him… As a kid, I taught it to my friends so we could converse silently and secretly during rest hour at camp…My children learned it as well, as a game. It will certainly come in handy now.

I have always thought of myself as healthy, optimistic and adaptable, so as I grieve this significant loss, I try to adjust to my new reality…to focus on what I still can hear, rather than what has disappeared. My new mantra to those trying to talk with me is “face-to-face in a quiet place.”

I watch children born deaf, happily play in the waiting room of the audiology clinic —a reminder that life can be lived fully, albeit a little differently. Many of the children are sporting cochlear implant devices. They are working to gain the experience of sound, a commodity that we all so often take for granted.

I’m starting to read up on cochlear implants, for I feel a compelling need to hear better. I appreciate more than ever the importance of audition in my life, for socialization, communication, entertainment, and the enjoyment of environmental sounds. Did I mention that as a speech-language pathologist I am now an oxymoron? This looks like the end of my long and most satisfying career.

Back to my audiologist for yet another hearing aid tuning. As he increases the power of my aids one more time, he tells me I am now indeed within the range of candidacy for a cochlear implant. Perhaps I’ll join the 60,000 adults in this country who have those robotic ears. I feel very fortunate that there’s a viable option for some improvement ahead.

What’s your experience with tinnitus and hearing loss?

Posted in Looking ahead, Our bodies, our health, Resilience, Share your story, Technology and contemporary culture | Leave a comment

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, Resilience | 2 Comments

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 | 6 Comments