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 | 31 Comments

Life’s a trip!

Monica, Age 71

This is the first time I’ve been on a blog. Since turning 70 last year, my health dramatically changed. In October, I fell and ended up with 2 injured shoulders. I am currently recuperating from rotator cuff surgery on my right shoulder and will need a shoulder replacement on the left side. Also, I found out I have 3 herniated discs in my lower back and one compound fracture just above them. Before I had the rotator cuff surgery, I had to have an EKG. From this, it was discovered that I have atrial fibrillation. This past week, I was diagnosed with sleep apnea which may be causing the a-fib.

I am stunned by all of this, especially, the heart stuff. This growing old is taking its toll on me. Facing mortality is one thing; being disabled is quite another. They both keep me fully anxious! Oddly, I am in a pretty good space, otherwise. I am happily married, work 3 days a week, love to read , cook and travel.

When I was young (and younger), I was a mischief maker, an imp, a trouble maker. I was the kid parents didn’t want their kids to play with. I was never disrespectful; I was full of an anxious energy. I was expelled from 2 high schools and one college. When the 60’s hit, I fell into the whole hippie scene. To this day, I smoke pot every night and drink (mostly wine) a few times a week.

My medical issues have put a crimp on traveling, but I am learning how to accommodate them. For example, I mail my suitcase to the address of where I will be staying. I also request a wheelchair at each airport. These two changes have made it doable for me to visit my family and friends back East. I am so grateful for them!

Also, I am leasing a new car that has an automatic transmission! I cannot tell you how switching from a manual to an automatic has improved my day-to-day life. One other item – a placard for disabled drivers! Parking close to my workplace has resulted in my being in so much less pain.

My exercise routine is pitiable. I do my physical therapy exercises and go to P/T twice a week. To support my back, I need to use my abs for moving my torso, instead of relying on back and leg muscles.

Because I don’t feel sick (no fever, sore throat, etc.), and when I sit, the pain decreases significantly to the point of being easily manageable, I feel like I am taking advantage of someone or thing.

Another thing that I’ve become insecure about is appearance. It may seem shallow, but I love clothes and shoes, especially sandals and boots. Thankfully, there are so many shoe makers that make attractive, trendy comfortable shoes. They cost more, but they allow me to feel stylish and comfortable. Brands I buy are Born, Easy Spirit, Sofft, Clarks, etc. I like some height (I’m now 5/2″) but don’t wear anything over 2 inches high. Clothes are more problematic for me. What does a short, slightly plump 70+ year old wear???? I still love jean, leggings, cropped pants, skirts that hit just below the knee to midi length, summer dresses that are below the knee, preferably midi-length. Maxi dresses make me look like a fire hydrant (Johnny Pump in Brooklyn!).

It’s the wanting to enjoy each and every day of my life while facing mortality when that thought creeps into my mind. Every decade has it’s trials and tribulations and I am as ill-prepared for the 70’s as I’ve been for all the other decades I’ve had the good fortune to live. Ageing forces one to be humble.

My marriage is in a really good place. During my recovery, my husband has taken such wonderful care of me. We grow closer every day and laugh a lot. As with any marriage that has lasted 26+ years, we’ve had our life challenges – job losses, unemployment, cancer, deaths of loved ones. We seem to come out the other end closer and more in love, if that can be ;possible.

I am close with my family, which is a large one. I have a few extremely close friends from high school and college, and a few more great friendships have developed over the ensuing years.

When I look back over my life, I realize that I have everything I ever wanted – to live in California, to be with my husband and to have had a rewarding, exciting career. More money would be nice – I could travel in style!

Throughout my life, I hope I have helped others to achieve their goals, to get through a difficult time, to offer a shoulder upon which to cry, feel joy and glee, and to laugh….often.

Years ago, I went through a very difficult time in my life and I promised myself that I would try to help anyone else who I encountered who was going through something similar. I hope I have been observant enough to see a need in others where I could reach out to help.

Many of my friends and family members regret things they’ve done in the past, mainly life-altering decisions or choices that became life altering. I’ve searched deep into my heart and soul and I do not find I have regrets. Yet, I am filled with constant anxiety. Life is a TRIP!

Posted in 70candles, Attitudes about aging, Caretaking, Family matters, Our bodies, our health, Resilience | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Greetings from Chile!

Patricia, Age 81

Hello, I am an 81-year-old woman, in good health (with a few exceptions, normal like car with a lot of miles).
Married, twice, two sons, two grandchildren. I live in Chile, by the sea side, a small place called Maitencillo, 60 kms from Valparaiso…this place is probably more famous.

I have two dogs, a male and a female, one black one white. Worked my whole life and lived in Santiago, and owned this house where we spent our weekends.

Traveled a lot, being to the USA several times, I have a brother who lives there. In general, looking back, I have enjoyed my life, laughed a lot, something I still do.
I love reading, watch the sea side while we have a cup of coffee on Saturdays,(coffee shops only open on weekends). This place is flooded with people on long weekends and summer, and the peace returns.

Wish you all lots of fun, smiles, laughter and friedship, from a very very far away place.

Posted in 70candles, Aging, Attitudes about aging, Share your story, What do we do with our time?, Where to live | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

Jane Brody’s 2016 “Aging in Place” New York Times article

Today is the second anniversary of the publication of this, the second in Jane Brody’s two-part New York Times series on adjustments to aging. It features our 70Candles! book, and a topic of great importance to women our age…where to live.  We share it once again for those who might have missed it and for those who may enjoy reading it anew.

To join the ongoing conversation about ‘Where to live’ on our 70Candles.com blog, find that category on the right side of the blog site and see what others have to say.

Jane Brody on health and aging.

When I asked the other three members of my walking group, all of whom are in their mid to upper 70s, whether they had any concerns about future living arrangements, they each said they had none despite the fact that, like me, they live in multistory private homes without elevators and, in two cases, without bathrooms on every floor.

My Los Angeles son asked recently what I might do if I could no longer live in my house, and I flippantly replied, “I’m coming to live with you.” The advantages: I’d be surrounded by a loving and supportive family, and the warm weather is a benefit for someone like me who becomes increasingly intolerant of the cold with each passing year. The disadvantages: I’d lose a familiar community and a host of friends, and his house, unlike mine, is on a steep hill with no nearby stores; if I could no longer drive, I’d have to be chauffeured everywhere.

Probably my biggest deterrent would be relinquishing my independence and the incredible number of “treasures” I’ve amassed over the last half century. The junk would be easy, but parting with the works of art and mementos would be like cutting out my heart.

I suspect that most people are reluctant to think about changing where and how they live as long as they are managing well at the moment. Lisa Selin Davis reports in AARP magazine that “almost 90 percent of Americans 65 or older plan to stay in their homes as they age.” Yet for many, the design of their homes and communities does not suit older adults who lack the mobility, agility and swiftness of the young.

For those who wish to age in place, the authors of “70Candles: Women Thriving in Their 8th Decade,” Jane Giddan and Ellen Cole, list such often-needed home attributes as an absence of stairs, wide doorways to accommodate a walker or wheelchair, slip-resistant floors, lever-style door knobs, remotely controlled lighting, walk-in showers, railings, ramps and lifts. Add to these a 24-hour help system, mobile phone, surveillance cameras and GPS locaters that enable family members to monitor the well-being of their elders.

In many communities, volunteer organizations, like Good Neighbors of Park Slope in Brooklyn and Staying in Place in Woodstock, N.Y., help older residents remain in their homes and live easier and more fulfilling lives.

While many young adults chose to live and bring up children in the suburbs, a growing number of empty-nested retirees are now moving to city centers where they can access public transportation, shop on foot for food and household needs, and enjoy cultural offerings and friendly gatherings without depending unduly on others.

One reason my friends and I are unwilling to even consider leaving our Brooklyn community is our ability to walk to supermarkets, banks, food co-ops, hardware stores, worship and recreational facilities, and get virtually everywhere in the city with low-cost and usually highly efficient public transportation. No driving necessary.

We also wallow in the joys of near-daily walks in a big, beautiful urban park, remarking each time about some lovely vista — the moon, sunrise, visible planets, new plantings and resident wildlife.

Throughout the country, communities are being retrofitted to accommodate the tsunami of elders expected to live there as baby boomers age. Changes like altering traffic signals and street crossings to give pedestrians more time to cross enhance safety for people whose mobility is compromised. New York City, for example, has created Aging Improvement Districts, so far in East Harlem, the Upper West Side and Bedford-Stuyvesant, to help older people “live as independently and engaged in the city as possible,” Ms. Giddan and Ms. Cole wrote. In East Harlem, for example, merchants have made signs easier to read and provided folding chairs for seniors who wish to rest before and after shopping.

In Philadelphia, a nonprofit organization, Friends in the City, calls itself a “community without walls” designed to bring members closer to the city’s resources and to one another. It offers seniors a daily variety of programs to suit many cultural and recreational interests.

Also evolving is the concept of home sharing, in which several older people who did not necessarily know one another get together to buy a home in which to live and share responsibilities for shopping, cooking, cleaning and home repair. For example, in Oregon, Let’s Share Housing, and in Vermont, Home Share Now, have online services that connect people with similar needs, Ms. Giddan and Ms. Cole report. There’s also an online matching service — Roommates4Boomers.com — for women 50 and over looking for compatible living mates.

Of course, there are still many older adults, widows and widowers in particular, who for financial or personal reasons move in with a grown child’s family, sometimes in an attached apartment or separate floor. Host families may gain a built-in babysitter, and children can develop a more intimate relationship with grandma or grandpa.

For those with adequate finances, there is no shortage of for-profit retirement communities that help older people remain independent by providing supportive services and a host of amenities and activities. Some have extensive recreational and exercise facilities, as well as book and craft clubs, discussion groups and volunteer opportunities. Some take residents to theatrical productions and museums and on trips to nearby attractions.

I confess that retirement communities that house only older adults are not my style. I can’t imagine living in a place where I don’t see and interact with children on a daily basis. I find that nothing cheers me more than a smile or comment from a toddler. I guess I take after my father, who used to flirt with every child he noticed in a car near his. But I realize that, just as some people are averse to dogs, not everyone enjoys the companionship of a high-energy child.

For older people likely to require help with the activities of daily living, there are many assisted living facilities where residents can get more or less help, including aid with medications, feeding and ambulation, according to their changing needs.

And should I ever have to leave my home, Ms. Giddan and Ms. Cole point out that there is a new and growing cadre of professional organizers and moving managers to “help people sort through accumulated belongings, distribute and disperse what won’t be needed in the new setting, and assist with all stages of packing, moving and then unpacking, and staging the new home.”

Posted in 70candles, Looking ahead, Older women connecting, Where to live | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Spinal fusion recovery

Diana, Age 72

I discovered 70candles.com about six months before I turned 70. I was so grateful to have found both the book and the website, because as I approached 70, although I felt a measure of satisfaction with my life I also had some apprehension as to how life would unfold after this “landmark” birthday. My sense was that time was limited for all the things I still wanted to do and accomplish.

When I turned 70, the future looked bright. I was active and in apparent good health. I looked forward to many years of a happy retirement with lots of time spent on traveling and hobbies. Now 72, I have recently had spine surgery (March 26, 2018): a laminectomy and a lumbar spinal fusion. My L5S1 nerve was compressed, causing weakness and foot drop in my right leg.

I’m grateful that my recovery from surgery seems to be going well at this point. Fortunately, almost six weeks post surgery, I have no pain, only some low back muscle soreness now and then if I sit too long in one position or try to do too much. The symptoms of nerve weakness in my right leg are still very noticeable, but I’ve been told that it may take up to a year for full nerve function to return. I am able to get out to local parks every day to walk as much as my leg will tolerate, but other activities, such as working out at the Y, cycling, etc., are restricted for the first six months.

I had been in the habit of thinking of myself as one of those seventy something women who would be active right through her nineties, but, now I realize I may have to live with a certain degree of disability and also the likelihood of possible future surgeries.

I would love to hear from other women who have undergone spinal fusion surgery and recovery. I would so appreciate if you would share your stories, your advice, your encouragement.

Thanks to everyone for their blog posts. I am so glad we all have this wonderful resource and can share our joys as well as our sometimes formidable challenges with each other.

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

Caregiver for older parents

Anonymous, Age 70

Well, here I am. I retired on July 1 almost 3 years ago and became very involved with my 93-year-old dad and my 90-year-old mom. She became very sick and was hospitalized 2 1/2 weeks into my “retirement” for the better part of 7 weeks, and my dad went into memory care in September. I subsequently moved in with my mom at her request in September when she was discharged. She was still quite ill. Then my Dad died in January. They knew each other for 75 years and were married for 70 of them. So, I retired from social work and became a full time care giver.

I’m sure there are others in similar circumstances so I’m not the only one. My brother and one sister are retired. Both married. I’m divorced for 20 years after 32 years married. Two sisters work full time still. I am not in a position to think about what I want for the next 10 years.

I don’t have a problem being 70. I just wait to see what happens tomorrow.

Posted in 70candles, Aging, Caretaking, Dealing with loss, Death and dying, Family matters | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Do you feel orphaned?

Anonymous, Age 71

Great site…..
I always wonder if others feel like orphans when our parents pass no matter what our age?

Posted in 70candles, Aging, Death and dying, Family matters, Older women connecting | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

A 70Candles! Gathering: a place to feel supported, embraced and KNOWN

Dear 70Candles! Friends,

Just wanted to let you know that we had our third 70Candles Meeting this past Sunday here in New Jersey and it was wonderful once again!

Twelve lovely ladies were here to share a lovely, meaningful, social, emotional and spiritual afternoon. It seems this gathering has a way of touching all the many parts of us…We gather at first socially ing the kitchen- sharing good conversation while munching on cheese and crackers, sweets, fruit salad, dips and chips, coffee, tea etc. Then, we move into the living room and begin our meeting. Here we seem to touch the emotional, psychological and yes, at times spiritual parts of ourselves. After listening to a meaningful song for some centering thoughts, and sharing a poem or two, we begin to enter the wonderful flow of conversation and sharings. This month, we had decided to share “Challenges”- either one we are currently having or one that we had in the past, how we lived it, what we learned from it etc.

Since there were 12 of us and we knew we probably couldn’t get to everyone in one meeting, we decided that whoever wanted to share a challenge would put their name in a basket. We would then draw a name and that person would then share.

Three of our women shared amazing stories and as they did so, others who have or had had the same also shared and contributed their Wisdom and Experience.
One woman shared her journey of breast cancer and how that led her to joining with other women and forming a Community Cancer Support Center. Paying it forward in an amazing and inspiring way!

Another woman, who had always wanted to have a child, but sadly did not have this life experience, spoke about what it is like to be childless- the grief so many women who, through no fault of their own, could not have a child. She spoke about how hard it is to realize that the life that she had so dreamed of and wanted when young did not manifest…and how lonely it is to not have a child, grandchildren…How hard it is when others minimized her pain- or told her how lucky she was that she could do whatever she wanted, travel etc. – when all she ever wanted was to have a child, a family.
This woman’s story opened our eyes and hearts tremendously to a seldom talked about topic in our society…the grief many women carry silently in their hearts because they have never known the joy of having a child.

A third woman spoke about the challenge of her mother’s death – from the time this woman was five years old, her mother was ill. The mother passed when the daughter was 21. She addressed how no one ever talked about the mothers’ illness or passing, that she had no framework to understand death…and how it wasn’t until she was in her early 60’s that she really was able to face how this death impacted and influenced her life. We spoke about how to talk about death to family members, even to grandchildren who ask questions about death- how do we answer them? It led to an amazing discussion.

Though our topics were serious, I cannot begin to tell you how good everyone felt as the meeting ended. It was like we all uplifted one another…I said to myself that this was more than just a social “get together” and it wasn’t therapy either- it was something magically in between– a meaningful sharing of our life experiences, of the Wisdom learned and the questions we still face as we grow older. And, yes, it was a wonderful way for all of us to come to know one another more.

Recently I went to lunch with another friend and she said to me the one thing that she most wants to feel before she dies is to feel that she is truly KNOWN…That is a profound statement. Many people think they “know” someone- but what they truly know is just the surface or just their projections or their judgments or “storylines” about a person. This group- as it is coming together- truly is offering the participants, a place where they can feel supported, embraced and KNOWN…

I hope that others will think about forming such groups in your own communities…Being able to speak and have others there who are truly listening is a great experience. Very Healing…and very needed.

Thank you for taking the time to read this entry- I just wanted to share and thank you for providing us with the “GPS” to helping one another as we touch 70 and beyond!

With Love and Gratitude,

Posted in 70candles, 70Candles! Gatherings, 70Candles! Gatherings - the experience, Attitudes about aging, Dealing with loss, Family matters, Networking, Older women connecting | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Attitudes about aging

Here’s a new article from the Washington Post about the effects of our attitudes about aging.

Let us know what you think about this.
Jane and Ellen


Posted in 70candles, Attitudes about aging, Men aging | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Positive Aging Newsletter-More from the Taos Institute

Happily Ever After: Emotions in Old Age

The stereotypes of aging as a time of regret, loss, and longing are one-sided and need to be challenged. Continuing evidence reveals that emotional well-being improves from early adulthood to old age. The present study adds significant new turn: More positive emotions are life-giving.

The research is based on a sample of 184 men and women spanning early to very late adulthood, and was conducted for more than a ten year period. The sample, carefully chosen to represent each generation, wore monitors for one week. At five random intervals during each day, participants reported their emotional states. This procedure was repeated five and then ten years later. Participants rated the degree to which they were feeling each of 19 emotions. The list of emotions included 8 positive (happiness, joy, contentment, excitement, pride, accomplishment, interest, and amusement) and 11 negative emotions (anger, sadness, fear, disgust, guilt, embarrassment, shame, anxiety, irritation, frustration, and boredom).

As the results showed, with greater age there is higher overall emotional well-being and greater emotional stability. These findings remained robust regardless of differences in gender, ethnicity, and physical health. Contrary to the popular view that youth is “the best time in life,” the present findings suggest that the peak of emotional life may not occur until well into the 7th decade.

Of great interest is also the fact that emotional well-being is related to longevity. Controlling for age, sex, and ethnicity, individuals who experienced more positive than negative emotions in everyday life were more likely to survive over a 14 year period. This does not mean that if you are unhappy now that your life will be shortened. Happiness so often depends on joining in social life, and remaining active. These are daily choices.

From: Laura L. Carstensen, Bulent Turan, Susanne Scheibe, Nilam Ram, Hal Ersner-Hershfield, Gregory R. Samanez-Larkin, Kathryn P. Brooks, and John R. Nesselroade Emotional Experience Improves With Age: Evidence Based on Over 10 Years of Experience Sampling. Psychology and Aging, 2011, 26, 21- 33.


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Positive Aging Newsletter-from the Taos Institute

Life Purpose: Seizing the Days

One problem many confront when they retire is the loss of purpose. The workplace is no longer demanding one’s attention and the nest is empty. Most of the challenges of earlier life – schooling, finding work, finding a partner, and the like – are no longer present. Nor does it seem very nourishing to live out the remaining years just resting and relaxing. So then what? This is no small question, as our lives are held together largely in webs of meaning. Together people generate ideas about what is important or valuable to do – both from day to day and across time. It is important to “win a game” for example, because we have come to agree that it is. Take away the agreement, and who cares? So, moving through and beyond retirement, we may find ourselves heading toward the cliff of “who cares?”

In our last Newsletter we reported on research that is worth revisiting. The research reported that having a purpose in life is literally life giving. In a study of more than 6,000 people, researchers found those with greater purpose were 15 percent less likely to die (over a 14 year period) than those without aims. Those with purpose also slept better, had fewer strokes and heart attacks, lower risk of dementia, and less risk of disability.

There are many reasons for these life advantages. People who have purpose are more likely to be active, thus contributing to fitness. Having a purpose is also associated with being optimistic, and as we have reported in previous issues of the Newsletter, optimism is also a life-giver. Research also shows that those with a strong sense of purpose are also more likely to embrace preventive health services, such as mammograms, colonoscopies and flu shots.

On the positive side, many people find that aging opens a wonderful door to new possibilities. There are all those hobbies, skills, and curiosities – wood working, fishing, painting, gardening, designing, and so on- that had to be put on hold during the demand period of the middle years, now waiting to be rekindled. And there are long-held dreams that can now be made into realities – learning to play an instrument, earning a degree, writing a book, building a house, and so on. We have written much in previous issues about the great benefits that come from voluntary work – in schools, churches, hospitals, and the like. We recently learned of a program run by Experience Corps, an organization that trains older adults to tutor children in urban public schools. Research showed marked improvements in mental and physical health among the volunteers. They also experienced higher self-esteem, and acquired better mobility and stamina. (The children also benefitted.) We are particularly strong advocates of activities in which others participate. As we believe, these webs of meaning making are precious and powerful.

Ken and Mary Gergen

From: Finding purpose for a good life, also a healthy one by Dhruv Khullar, NYTimes, Jan. 1, 2018, online.

Posted in Stories | 4 Comments