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 | 23 Comments

Wonder and enthusiasm at independent bookstores

 

I attended the opening night reception of a new independent book store in Dallas, called Interabang. It’s named for a little known punctuation mark that combines a question mark with an exclamation point, communicating both wonder and enthusiasm.

To my delight I discovered our book, 70Candles! Women Thriving in Their 8th Decade for sale on the Body/Mind shelf in the non-fiction area.

There’s our book!!

Guest of honor for the evening was author Ann Patchett who owns Parnassus, her own independent book store in Nashville. I gave her a book to take home with her. Fingers crossed that she’ll order it for her Nashville readers.

Ann Patchett at Interabang opening reception

Our book is now designated “returnable,” making it more convenient for bookstores to carry it. If you have an independent bookstore near you, consider introducing them to 70Candles!. We’d love to have it spread to stores everywhere.

Let us know if you succeed.
Jane

Posted in 70candles, Older women connecting, Stories, What we're reading | Leave a comment

Life is not easy to sort out

My husband of 48 years passed away almost 5 years ago. My friends and family comment on how well I have done moving forward and living independently. My choices are: look forward with optimism or backward with grief. Being human, there are certainly times when grief is overwhelming but I am fortunate to have a loving family and network of friends.

I try to stay open to new ideas and experiences. I did move to a new city in Michigan to live near my son. My previous retirement location with my husband had been in the backwoods of Michigan and that no longer worked for me. And when he was alive we bought a condo in Fl. and had 5 years to develop a social network. So I now live in Michigan 6 months and Fl. 6 months. I love my little house and neighborhood but miss my old friends.

My health is good and I joined the local YMCA and go to various classes. My love is ping pong and in Fl. there are opportunities to enjoy this activity with my age group….not so much in Michigan. I love gardening and am content with my own company which helps.

I think it is very important to surround yourself with optimistic people or find things in your life that keep you directed on a positive course. This age sneaks up on all of us and dwelling on an uncertain future is nonproductive.

I stumbled upon this website from a book I am reading: 70 things to do when you turn 70…edited by Ronnie Sellers. It is an enjoyable read. And this blog is such a good idea. Good luck to all my fellow “age mates”. Life is not easy to sort out and dealing with loss and physical debilitation is not for the weak of heart.

Posted in 70candles, Dealing with loss, Older women connecting, Resilience | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

No longer shy about retiring

Ellen, Age 76

I’ve long been afraid of my own retirement, partly because I’d lose what I love to do, and I couldn’t imagine who I’d be if I weren’t employed. Most of all, I wondered and worried how I’d know when the time was right. And then it happened.

In May of this year I completed three years at my college. I received a letter from the Dean (I used to be a Dean myself) saying that my third-year review was coming up.

Some may remember the tensions of the third-year review, typically for assistant professors poised to rise in the academic ranks. I thought, “Really?” I asked my department chair and she said, “Really.”

Now this school has an incremental three-year retirement plan. It consists of the first year full-time, the second year three quarters or half-time, and the third-year quarter time. There is even the option of working full-time for all three years. That was it for me. The lightning bolt had struck. The sign, the epiphany. There is no way I would participate at my age, with my experience in a third-year review.

I’ve now announced that I will retire in three years, and I have no regrets. I’m reminded of the woman who chose a yoga class over a business meeting. That was her sign. This was mine. Perhaps I will start to collect stories—when did you figure out it was the right time to retire? Was it your own decision or someone else’s? (Hmmm, I guess I’ll always be a psychologist looking for my next project.)

What have I learned from the books I’ve read and written, the women I’ve listened to? What lessons do I want to bring with me as I am now heading toward my own retirement? Is there a “bottom line” to a meaningful retirement? Here’s what I’m thinking—actually my advice to myself—at this moment:

Combat ageism wherever you find it, and it is everywhere; Stay active in mind and body; Look to the future (Martin Seligman calls this “prospecting”); Identify your meaning and purpose; Expand and nurture your social connections (remember, there is no such thing as a happy hermit—Chris Peterson).

And finally, I want to channel George Vaillant for a moment: Question—Who are you when you no longer contribute to the GNP? Answer—A fourth grader.

Enjoy!

Posted in 70candles, Goals ahead, Looking ahead, What do we do with our time?, Work life and retirement | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Giving to others brings the best satisfaction

Sherry, Age 69

I am 69, looking forward to any day that Mother Nature allows. I have been a nurse for 42 years and by helping people, I learned that, by giving, I am getting many rewards. I went on “permanent vacation” 2 years ago. I also call it “perpetual Saturday” – my favorite day when still working. Retirement, I say, is for going to bed at night.

I learned, when my Mom died at age 60, that I needed to suck out of life everything I could. She was vital, full of life, fit, and very active, yet stricken by her genetic predisposition to breast cancer. Whatever life held for me at that juncture, I was not going to live in fear of dying young; or old. I learned to ride a motorcycle and bought a Harley and traveled far and wide. I learned SCUBA. I went to cooking classes. I love sewing and reading, joining a book club. I often volunteer at the Elks Lodge as a member and again, find by giving, I get back. I make life a theater, dressing for occasions to celebrate.

I moved to the place I loved: Colorado Springs, three years ago. I have put into perspective my mistakes and have not second guessed my choices, which I thought were right at the time. I sleep very well, tired from making the most of everyday. I have a BIG garden and find joy in watching things grow. I enjoy the laugh of my neighbor’s children.

My Grandmother Kennedy used to say, “who will know in 100 years from now?” That has helped me decide what is really important. I have an attitude of gratitude, thankful for what I have and always consider, “is this what I need or what I want”. It helps clarify my purchases.

I have no children, by choice, and have only two brothers who live States away. I have family of choice: dear girlfriends who sustain me in times of joy and grief. I have dog rescues and cat rescues and caring for them gives me such joy.

I am healthy and do not take it for granted. Yet, I have drinks at night and smoke cigars. I have a mantra: “where there’s a will, there is a woman; and, that would be me”. I don’t pay for anything that I can do myself. I am fiercely independent, yet believe that Mother Nature has it all in control. I do not fear death: Mother Nature has it in control.

My definition of happiness is “peace and contentment”. I have my “blue days” and surrender to it and get busy doing SOMETHING. I have been married twice, not interested in doing that again, but am open to companionship and sharing in mutual interests.

I do not involve myself with negative thinkers or people who are in crisis all the time: “life is too short”, as Mom used to say. I love people, but only those who, maybe selfishly, contribute to my joie de vie.

No one will give me anything, life is for the taking for your own happiness; yet, giving to others is the best satisfaction for me.

Posted in 70candles, Gratitude and Spirituality, Older women connecting, What do we do with our time?, Where to live, Work life and retirement | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Seeking wise words

Jo, Age 71

Hello,
Already I feel less alone reading the blog posts. Here is my story. I am almost retired as an autism consultant and former academic. I’m single with 3 grown children in 3 corners of the U.S. Seattle, Western CT and Miami. I was recently diagnosed with CLL, chronic lymphocytic leukemia and although it can be a chronic condition, I have some markers for poor survival. That being said, I’m active, hike the Appalachian Trail, play in a music group and do some work-related writing. I’m feeling pretty well and will probably need treatment within the next year.

I live alone in Metro D.C. My sister lived 5 miles away but has moved to Wisconsin. I have had several health crises and have had very little support from my friends. Most of them are older than I with health problems or are carers for their spouse so I can’t depend on them. I grew up in the NE in a huge Italian-American family with aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins. I have always felt “something isn’t right” without family. My grandchildren are in Seattle, across the country. While I like Seattle, I would be moving away from my other children, cousins, and everything I have ever known. To complicate issues, my family in Seattle isn’t happy there and are working on finding jobs elsewhere. Although I am very welcome there, and the medical care is good, I am apprehensive, given my health issues, to move and move again, following my grandchildren all over the map.

If I am going to sell my home in D.C.,I want another small house, garden, bird feeder, 2 laying hens, etc., and the time to settle and make new friends. Seattle is so expensive, that wouldn’t be an option. Condos are nearing 1/2 million.

My son in CT, who has no children, would like me to live near him; he and I have more of an emotional compatability than my other kids. Western CT is affordable, clean, lovely, but medical care would require a trip to mid-town Manhattan about once a month – a 2 1/2 hour trip on Metro North. He is suggesting that I buy a small home near him and spend several months a year in Seattle to be with the little ones. My son in Miami is a chef/restaurant owner and doesn’t have time for himself, let alone me so Miami is out.

I could also stay here in D.C., and while I have a good oncologist, acupuncturist, am in a mindfulness meditation group and know my way around since I’ve been here since 1988, I have had several hospitalizations and health crises and had to deal with them on my own. I think the kids look at me as Wonder Woman and while that’s a great thought, reality is my health is fragile at times and the kids have not stepped up. I realize they have their own lives and none of them is within reasonable travel distance; the drive to CT is a good 6 hours from here and its getting harder and harder for me to do. I am always, 90% of the time, the one making the effort to stay connected. I’m tired.

I have been in the process of sorting, purging, donating for over two years. I accumulated an embarrassing amount of stuff, including my mother’s things. She lived with me (and turns 95 next month) but is now with another sibling since my diagnosis.

I go around and around; Seattle, CT, D.C., sometimes depending on which of the two kids ticked me off; the Seattle contingent or the CT group. I know the life I want (small cottage, garden. maybe walkable community) with my family nearby). This is affordable in CT; not in Seattle. Seattle has the kids and part of the lifestyle but a built in “waiting for the other shoe to drop” since they want to move away. I am getting more accepting that I am going to have to make new friends so I’m not as stuck there. I would sincerely appreciate any wise words from my sisters on this blog

Thanks very much. Hope this wasn’t too long winded.
Jo

Posted in 70candles, Caretaking, Family matters, Grandparenting, Looking ahead, Our bodies, our health, Where to live | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

On Nearing Seventy

ON NEARING SEVENTY
by Janet Adams Dunn

This one is different.
The sixty-nine others came and went so smoothly.
They didn’t change me, or cause discomfort.
They didn’t mess with me like this one.
I still felt the same and smiled each year.
I even scoffed, “You can’t scare me”, I said,
With confidence. But not this one.

Seventy? Is seventy old?
It sure doesn’t feel old. Not even close.
I still deadlift and grow strong new muscle.
I walk fast and hold myself up straight.
I still dance and move with rhythm.
I still seek knowledge, and laughter and …. affection.
I am still quite alive, thank God.

Yet I wonder ….
Are years counted on all my fingers,
Of one hand or two? Oh God I pray for more.
How many hugs and holidays with my children?
Or glorious sunrise snuggles and coffee?
It’s far too foggy and unsafe ahead. I prefer clarity.
I already miss what I don’t even know I will miss.
I grieve. I think too much.

These thoughts are new to me.
They swirl around inside my mind like fake snow,
floating and trapped within a water globe,
never comfortably settling. Drifting without answers.
Taunting me with uncertainty.

Don’t speak to me the platitudes,
or feed me false assurances.
I have heard them too many times.
I have even spoken them all …. to others.
I realize now they are powerless,
As I start my eighth decade.

Yet ….. this unsettledness, these thoughts,
The anxiousness – there is another side.
A different meaning to “uncertain” seventy.
It speaks to me in dark of night.
I feel it’s urgency when I wake.
It’s my own voice and it’s growing louder.
It shakes and moves me. It even dares me.
It is time. It is now.
Or not at all.

Posted in 70candles, About turning 70, Goals ahead, Gratitude and Spirituality, Looking ahead, Our bodies, our health, Poetry | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Sharing a dilemma

Patti,  Age 71

This is the first time I’ve ever written into anything! LOL! I found this website this morning and knew I could share my dilemma and get others insight….so here goes

Three years ago I sold my sweet little house in NC and bought a house in MS. I did this so my daughter could be near her son. I had lived in NC for 25 years and had many great girlfriends with lots to do and fun times. I have not adjusted well to this life in MS and long for my NC. Last year I bought a condo back in NC near my old house. I found I don’t do condo living well….I must have dirt in which to play. Even though the condo was near my old neighborhood it just didn’t work. I sold it and moved back to MS where I still owned a home where my daughter and her son were living so here I am back where I don’t want to be!

My daughter is in a serious relationship and her son just started college. I have relatives living two hours away, but I don’t see them any more than I did when I lived in NC. I’ve always been the one to travel for visits. I don’t feel I can sell this house in MS as long as my daughter needs a place to live so that means my funds are small for purchasing another house in NC…but doable. I could also purchase a small house here in MS, but I’m still stuck in MS if I do that.

I truly want to go back to my friends and NC, but is that the right thing to do at my age? I am very healthy and active and I would like to find peace and happiness.                     Any thoughts out there?

Posted in 70candles, Family matters, Looking ahead, Where to live | Tagged , , , , , | 26 Comments

What book has mattered most to you?

What book has mattered most to you?

An intriguing question for those who have read throughout their lives. My PageTurners book group recently read The Book That Matters Most by Ann Hood. It’s about…well a book group that distributes a year of reading to each of twelve members. Each must choose the book most important to them, explain why and lead that month’s discussion.

The best part of our PageTurners conversation centered on our own personal choices. The books cited by the assembled women were very varied, and through each heartfelt description, we learned a lot about each other.

I thought long and hard about this assignment, discovering that different books stood out depending on my life’s stages and circumstances. My mind resurrected images of myself in contexts of my youth, adolescence, college days and through my adult life. People I read with, read for, and read to came to mind. Finally I settled on two to discuss.

The first was The Bobbsey Twins…yes my first childhood chapter book. It was the winter of 1948, I was 71/2. It arrived as a surprise last minute gift from my dad, who handed it to me as I sat buckled into my airplane window seat. As I visualize that moment, I recall I was wearing a blue and white checked suit…(we dressed well for travel in those days). He briefly boarded the Eastern Airlines plane about to fly me off to Florida with my mom, then quickly disappeared as the hatch closed behind him. I spent the entire flight immersed in and enchanted by the world of the twins, Nan and Bert, Flossie and Freddie. This book launched my self-propelled reading career. I read right through Laura Lee Hope’s Bobbsey Twins series and then moved on to Nancy Drew.

As I got older, my dad would strategically bring large hard cover, beautifully illustrated classics to me from our treasured – rather antique and rickety – St. Agnes Branch library on Amsterdam Avenue. I remember sitting propped in my sick bed absorbed in Treasure Island, Around the World in Eighty Days, Don Quixote, and more. How much I now appreciate his low key encouragement.

The second book that rose to the top of the book stack of my life was A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. I was twelve, close to the age of the protagonist, Francie Nolan, and living in New York City. I remember being shocked and frightened by her stalker, and inspired by her choice of a hat pin to protect herself from pinches and gropes in the city subways. The emotional impact of the story has stayed with me, but I couldn’t recall more details of the narrative…so I recently reread it.

What intrigued me this time was the historical context. Now considered an American classic, this coming of age story chronicles the lives of a poor and struggling extended family in the early 1900’s, in Williamsburg Brooklyn. It was the very context in which my dad lived as a child. He, the youngest of six children, worked as a boy in his father’s corner grocery store. As I read, I caught a glimpse of his neighborhood, and his neighbors and the spirit of those times. It was again a memorable read, but in a very different way.

Books remain part of my life, comforting, intriguing, enlightening, and entertaining; wonderful escapes to other times and other lives. My favorite of this year, A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles.

I’ve discovered that this question, about one’s favorite book, is a terrific conversation starter. Those asked immediately pause to review the life-long landscape of their readings. Some ask for more time to decide. There’s so much to reflect on – and to talk about.

What books have meant the most to you?

I hope you’ll share your choices and recommendations with our 70Candles! family.

Jane

Posted in Read Stories, Stories, What do we do with our time?, What we're reading | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

Such is life

Elaine,  Age 70

Well I am wondering how to live under the pressure that 70 is the new 60! Really….Tell both of my arthritic knees that. I remember my grandmother holding onto everything as she walked and I as a little girl said to myself, no matter how much I hurt I won’t walk like that! Wrong! But I go to the senior center 5 times a week and lift a few weights and pedal a sit down bike and get to feel pretty good, except when it rains.

I do acrylic painting, nothing great but have fun! I wrote a short story and some poetry. Lately I worry about the legacy to my grandsons…everyone is so busy I am left behind, the last to come up, I can’t compete with the other 2 grandmas.

Oh well such is life….my husband is great, now after 46 years….we always say life is good as the saying goes. I color my hair and listen to the newest and oldest music on the radio and sing along!!!

Posted in 70candles, About turning 70, Grandparenting, Our bodies, our health | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Am I insane for taking all this on, or should I just keep on trucking?

Noel,  Age 70

I must be in complete denial. I am 70, will be 71 in December. I have broken my femur, two wrists, a pelvic fracture 11 years ago, and breast cancer when I was 57.

This week, I will graduate with a masters degree in Mental Health Counseling and I expect to work part time as a therapist until I am 80. I am single, was married briefly in my thirties(no children) and started my own business when I was 49. Fortunately, I did well so I have been able to put aside some money (not a fortune) but enough to see me through until my demise. I am estranged from the only family I have, two sisters, but I do have friends. I own a horse, who is boarded 7 minutes from my house and I anticipate riding again when I return from moving out of a recently sold house (lost money on it) upstate New York.

Recently, I have become a little frightened. I look much younger than my years, but my accidents coupled with aging skin, has weakened my fortitude. I love Jane Fonda’s talk on Ted that we are not going to sink into decrepitude but I am beginning to feel like I am on shaky ground and that maybe I should move in to a one bedroom retirement community and scale back big time.

Am I insane for taking all this on, or should I just keep on trucking? Would love to hear from similar type a ladies.

Posted in 70candles, Finances, Looking ahead, Older women connecting, Our bodies, our health, Resilience, Where to live, Work life and retirement | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 32 Comments