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 | 41 Comments

Finding community

Susan, Age 73

In the mid 1990’s I blew the whistle on a couple of health care crooks whose companies I had managed. My then lawyer spouse wanted me to keep quiet and keep my job. In truth, the spouse never backed me up on anything. He was more concerned with himself. Always.

During the administrative law trial my life had been threatened, my car had been sabotaged after I left the court room and I had been followed. A death threat was written on my door. All of these things happened after I became the state’s key witness against these crooks.

After blowing the whistle on these crooks, it was time to look at my marriage. Time to end it. I could no longer live the corporate lifestyle. Both were incredibly empty.

My children finished college and relocated to follow their dreams. I relocated to follow mine.

I moved to the Smokies, bought land and designed a simple house. A friend in law enforcement who was ending his marriage wanted to come with me. He was a fine man. For the first time in my life I felt protected. We lived together for a few years when it became clear I needed to be on my own. We remain friends.

Living in the south, I told no one what I had been through. Honestly, I didn’t know how to talk about it. In my family of origin you kept a stiff upper lip and mustered on. Being independent, I felt I could move beyond all of this.

The small town I selected was the best experience. I lived there for seventeen years on the side of a mountain in the woods. Wildlife was just outside my door and I loved every minute of it. There was really no adjustment. I was so grateful to be there. I was involved in a lot of environmental causes. I felt needed.

Just about to enter my 70s, I knew it was time to live closer to family. Despite flying every 10-12 weeks since the divorce to see them, I was tired of airplanes, exhausted after each trip. My children were now parents and I wanted to be involved with my grandchildren. One lived in Maine. I liked the New England area and thought that might be a good place to live. My daughter’s marriage fortunately ended as it was not a healthy one from the start. Her daughter was two when I relocated to Maine. Both moved in with me when she divorced. Including the large dog.

It wasn’t easy having an entire household after so many years living solo. My house was small and sound carried everywhere. After five months she found her own townhouse and moved. They are doing really well. They’ve been there a year now. She has a nice boyfriend who seems very supportive.

My point in writing this is that I thoroughly enjoy reading what everyone has shared. I admire the deep honesty and willingness to share one’s pain. Throughout my time in the mountains, I always felt essentially alone. I know that is mostly a mindset. I was in more emotional pain than I could admit. Pain that I have no one to share my golden years. Having said that, I am grateful my life is as good as it is. But now it is time for me to fulfill that emptiness.

I moved to New England just before Covid. The first year or so I was sick, depressed and trying to find my comfort zone. I think we find it, then lose it, and find it or move along without it. Covid struck and I managed living without people (except for my family who moved in with me for five months) very well. Fortunately, I got vaccinated and never got the virus. Living in the mountains in a remote area taught me how to be incredibly resourceful and to live solo. But things were different now. I was different. Older.

We are coming out of Covid now I hope. My newly acquired asthma seems under control. At 73, I want a community here. A sense of place which I don’t have just yet. Mainers aren’t easy to know unlike the south. I’m on the outskirts of a city and have woods behind me. There are good services nearby and I can walk to many of them. My small house is wonderful. Easy to manage.

I know it takes time to adjust but the clock is ticking. I miss the mountains terribly, my community there. But we do take ourselves and our history where ever we live. I am grateful that I can finally talk about it.

The quest now is to find community, other than the one within.

Posted in 70candles, Adaptations and accommodations as we age, Aging, Family matters, Loneliness, Looking ahead, Where to live | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

The MIL/DIL dynamic

Mother-in-law, Age 72

I recently moved near my son to be near him and the grandchildren, and I had an incident the other day with my daughter-in-law that was the last straw. She has ignored me for years, despite my every effort to engage her in conversation or treat her to outings, restaurants, and presents. I have tried to honor her in every way I can think of. I have invited her a couple of times for a girls’ day out, and she hasn’t responded to anything beyond saying that it would be nice. Most recently, I treated her and my son and two grandsons to overnights at a vacation cabin to honor her and the wonderful job she has done coping with issues and raising kids during the pandemic, and I continued to be ignored…without even a “thank you.” Sometimes I withdraw; other times I try and engage. I compliment her cooking. I never offer advice. And I never talk about her with my son behind her back.

The last straw was when we all went out together recently. She and my grandson were sitting at a table while we were waiting to be seated at a restaurant, and when I went over to sit with them, she promptly got up, walked away from me, and went over to where my son was, acting all happy and cuddling up to him. This is fine, and I’m glad their marriage is so loving, but it hurt my feelings that she moved away from me so suddenly when I was simply trying to hang out with her. And as if this weren’t enough, every time we get together, most every Sunday, I continue to be ignored.

Consequently, I don’t know what to do with myself, and because I have allowed her to make me feel so nervous, I invariably say stupid things that may even aggravate the situation.

Several years ago, we were at a family reunion, and she was ignoring me, as usual, and I asked my son if she was OK because she seemed so distant. Naturally, he mentioned this to her, and he told me later that she was highly offended by what I had said.

I understand that my son’s allegiance is to his wife, as it should be. But does he not notice how rude she is to me? She constantly reprimands her children about proper manners, yet she doesn’t exhibit them herself to me. Her behavior, in fact, feels cruel.

Why do I have to be involved in such a stereotypical MIL/DIL relationship? How did this happen? It seemed to start when the grandkids were born.

I just don’t know what I did to create such a state of dysfunction. And now that I’m 72, it’s not so easy to up and move. And besides, am I going to move every time an unpleasant situation in life arises? I would be moving on a regular basis if this were the case.

The precious neediness of my dogs and my volunteer work with Hospice make me feel of some value. My grandkids do love me, but soon, they will become adolescents, and I would imagine the relationship will shift when that time comes as it happened between my own grandmother and me. And yet, I have allowed my DIL to make me feel devalued and unappreciated.

My conclusion is that there is nothing I could have done or can do to rectify this horrible situation. I thought I would see a therapist, so I contacted two via email, and they didn’t respond. They were 30 years younger than I am anyway, and part of me felt as if it would probably be more beneficial to connect with someone closer to my age who has had more life experience.

Jane and Ellen recommended I check out Barbara Greenleaf, who addresses this DIL/MIL relationship, so I bought her book, Parents of Adult Children: You Are Not Alone. The chapter on the dynamics of the DIL/MIL relationship was most informative.

Strangely enough, a woman I had met 20 years ago suddenly came to mind. She has been clearing past life patterns with clients for the past 40 years. She’s got to be in her 80s by now. I’m not sure if I really believe in past lives, but I contacted her anyway, and she gave me a session. And so, my energy has shifted dramatically. I feel much lighter. One of the things she recommended was to forgive my DIL as she is — in my heart — and to forgive myself as well.

I also started listening to YouTube videos of BK Shivani. Her teachings have provided a philosophy that resonates with me. Finally, after years of agony, I am feeling a positive shift — a feeling much more productive than getting nowhere while talking about this problem ad nauseam with friends. Some of the things that Shivani talks about are acceptance and that when people behave with meanness and cruelty, this is simply an expression of their own pain. We will add to their pain when we react to their behavior in anger or talk about them behind their backs. We absorb their pain and make things worse. We must live at a higher frequency of compassion. We must love them unconditionally. Eventually, their energy will likely shift, too.

In no time, I have moved forward from my own state of crippling pain to a much higher frequency. I even feel grateful that my DIL has given me this opportunity for growth. In the meantime, I’m going to live every moment and day as if it were the last. I want to break the old toxic family patterns of anger and abuse and be the positive influence on my grandchildren. I certainly hope that this will be one of my legacies.

Posted in 70candles, Adaptations and accommodations as we age, Family matters, Goals ahead, Looking ahead, Where to live | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Mesh curtain

Susan, Age 73

It must have been the mid nineties when I took one particular flight. I can’t remember where I was en route. I do remember the mesh curtain.

Flying steerage or non-first class was how I flew most of my life. First class was affordable, I just couldn’t see wasting so much money to be in the front of the plane. Seats were comfortable in the back. The aisles were wider. Restrooms were comfortable. It isn’t that way anymore.

It was the mesh curtain that forever changed how I saw flying. I got up to use the restroom. The one in the back of the plane was occupied. A few people were waiting for it. Not one to be curtailed to a corner, much less to the back of anything, I proceeded to the front of the plane, unsnapped the mesh curtain and used that restroom. It was cleaner and there were hand towels. Cloth ones. As I closed the door to return to my seat a flight attendant stopped me.

“That restroom is for first class. There is one in the back for you.”

Instantly I thought of Rosa Parks. And segregation. But this was economic.

I turned to the flight attendant.

“Are the folks in first class infected? There seems to be a bug screen separating us.”

I couldn’t resist.

Economic segregation. But a bug screen? Really?

My next flight will be in first class. I bought the ticket a while ago. I cancelled the flight due to my concern about being in a populated area during the pandemic. This time, a first, I am in first class because I simply can’t get in and out of these sardine can seats anymore. The seats get smaller, the aisles more narrow, rest rooms super tiny. My 73 year old musculo-skeletal system gets weaker.

Hopefully, this spring I can use the plane ticket. It’s a short flight and I don’t think I will encounter a mesh curtain separating us from the rest of the customers. But if I see one, I will definitely write the president of the airline and a few members of Congress.

I suppose I should be glad it is a bug screen and not a locked door.

Posted in 70candles, Adaptations and accommodations as we age, Aging, Our bodies, our health, Share your story, Traveling | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Older day-by-day

Jane Hallowell, Age 72

I had breakthrough Covid eight weeks ago and still find myself dozing on and off during the afternoon. But two things happened to me yesterday that made me question whether or not they were Covid- or age-related brain fog.

After one of many catnaps, I opened the refrigerator and promptly dropped a glass jar of milk that shattered all over the floor. I don’t even know how it happened, it happened so fast.

As if this weren’t enough, I had received a questionable-looking link from a friend on Messenger. If I had been in my normal state of mind, I would never have opened it. But being in a semi sleep fog (not to mention being addicted to checking messages as they come in), I did. Not only that, I typed in my email address and google password to boot to try and open the link.

After a few minutes, I came to and realized that this was just about the stupidest thing I could have ever done, and so I changed my passwords for my email and facebook accounts. Later in the day, my son helped me check the security features on both accounts. Everything looked to be OK. We shall see down the road if any problems arise. But what made this situation worse than getting hacked was how impatient my son was with me. The more impatient he got, the more I couldn’t follow his instructions. (My brain freezes when I sense anyone is frustrated with me.)

I don’t blame him for being so exasperated. I used to go nuts sometimes dealing with my grandmother and my father and all their senior shenanigans — much as I loved them dearly. I guess it’s my turn now to be the elderly dork. What goes around comes around.

And please don’t think my son is always short-tempered. He has been supportive and has helped me tremendously over the years in so many ways. In fact, not many people have as devoted a son as he has been to me.

What makes all of the above so especially unsettling is that today marks one year that I moved to my own place closer to my son and grandchildren because my partner of 12 years asked me to move out. We had what I would call a “Covid fight.” After having been closed up in the house for a year together, he simply blew up.

So, I left.

It was actually a good thing because the relationship was toxic. Believe it or not, I have never been so happy to have been thrown out, strange as this must sound.

And here I am one year older and getting older day-by-day, and especially after what happened with the Messenger hack, I feel out of sorts. Us elderly folk can be downright frustrating to deal with. And try as we might, we just can’t behave the perfect way we think we should. It’s actually an opportunity for growth as we navigate unfamiliar territory and gradually reach the end of the road. We will all have to face it eventually. But how do we cope with this final stage of life in the meantime as the house of cards gradually collapses?

I struggle every day now to try and figure this out.

Posted in 70candles, Adaptations and accommodations as we age, Aging, Attitudes about aging, Family matters, Looking ahead | Tagged , , , , , , | 25 Comments

Thoughts

Cindy, Age 71

I am amazed by the strength of women who survive their partner and go on to productive lives, making friends and even reaching for enjoyment. I am blessed to have a wonderful partner. We live with my brother, or rather, he lives with us, a rescue if you will, but a blessing to our lives. We have gown children, two mine and two his, all sons. Wonderful wives and grandchildren. We live on Vancouver Island in Canada and are blessed to have enough income and good health to be comfortable. More than comfortable.

Life has been good for us. We met in our mid forties and have had a lovely, easy relationship, despite a disabled adult son, and the usual travails that beset adult children – divorce and resettlement with new partners.

But I can not imagine how I would cope if I lost my partner. And I wonder how the next decade will play out. We are 71 and 72. Our best years are behind us, in terms of physical capacity. I still love to work, outside and in, but my work sessions are shorter now and less ambitious. We live on acreage and I wonder how we are going to cope with winter storms – two years ago we lost 17 trees in one huge windstorm. It’s a big thing to look at a hundred foot tree that is now down on the ground and your problem.

But we have help – disabled or not, and neighbours who want the wood of our trees and give us salmon and halibut. We miss dances and it looks like another Covid winter without that. I so enjoyed meeting people at the senior centre dances . They were from all over the world and i loved hearing the stories of what brought them here to our small town and our island. I miss that.

I wonder how long this “new normal” will be what is. I am learning about QR codes. I don’t want to have to learn about that, whether for parking or for Covid vaccination proof. it feels like we are getting left behind. Do I need an app for that?

I’ve been an introvert all my life. Relationships always seem expensive. So my plan is to go first. But I know that is naive. People don’t always drop on the floor or die in their sleep. I’ve never feared change but then change was interesting. Now, there is nowhere to go but down.

So I try to live in the moment and enjoy the beautiful September we are having. Hope your month is a good one.

Posted in 70candles, Adaptations and accommodations as we age, Aging, Caretaking, Dealing with loss, Death and dying, Family matters, Loneliness, Looking ahead, Men aging, Widows’ choices | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Embracing uncertainty

Amy Bryant, Age 81

Like many of you in the 70Candles generation, I grew up in an era of certainty. Graduate from high school, and college (if affordable), get married, be capable of working (but preferably spend several years as a stay-at-home mom), get a fulfilling job once the kids are older, relax into retirement, and live happily ever after. With the exception of heart attack, cancer or stroke, which we didn’t plan, but were not unheard of, if we played by the rules of our families, our religions, and our society, we pretty much controlled our own destiny.

Enter Covid-19, an outside enemy who didn’t care about our rules, let alone our plans; and who struck without warning, sparing no cultural group and ultimately, no age group. We 70 candle ladies (plus those of us who have graduated into 80 candles), were suddenly at risk. At any moment, we could breathe in the little covid monsters, end up on a ventilator, and perhaps die without warning.

We listened to the experts, wore masks, stayed away from crowds, stopped traveling, and the only restaurants we frequented had outdoor seating. We followed the experts who, themselves were caught up in a learning curve, so their advice shifted from time to time. All this added up to something our generation was unprepared for: uncertainty.
Can we attend our grandson’s bar mitzvah? Is it safe to go to our granddaughter’s first communion? Is it even ok to hug and kiss our grandkids?

We vaccinate to save our lives, and the lives of our loved ones, but how safe are we with breakthroughs overriding vaccinations, not to mention new strains? As the pandemic has lingered, I notice that telephone visits with friends in my age group have shifted. What used to be an interchange of the good things in our lives, now focuses on long drawn-out descriptions of physical complaints, followed by the doom of covid or politics.
Uncertainty is new for our generation, but many of us are descendants of people who lived through, and survived uncertainty, be it the slave ships, the Holocaust, or abject poverty in their homelands that they fled.

I’ve made a choice not to obsess about uncertainty. My first prayer for the day, is:
“God, give me something for which to be joyful today.”
Then I make it my business to go looking for that something throughout the day. I’ve limited my daily news watching to one half hour, enough to keep me informed, but not enough to feed agitation and hopelessness. And I’ve switched away from the cable news programs that focus more on editorial commentary. My local channel gives me the facts, and I form my own commentary.

I make sure to go outside every day. Luckily, living in in a warm locale with enough open space, I have plenty of safe unmasked time. I have found socially distancing exercise classes, keeping my endorphins flowing, along with much-needed human contact within the six-foot boundaries of safety.
In the past, I was always one for planning ahead, for setting goals, and striving. I find that the luxury of retirement allows me to look at each day as a separate entity unto itself. My mantra
“I am open and receptive for all that I need to know today.”
I’m delving into the calming effects of Yoga breath work, and neuroscience techniques of bringing calmness to the brain.

I find stability in the familiar routines that I now define as rituals: morning prayer/meditation, household chores –nurturing my home; making a ceremony out of mealtime—either in a restaurant or at home; family visits electronically, or in person when possible.
I look back on my ancestors who endured uncertainty, and call forth the strength in my DNA, embracing uncertainty with hope.

Posted in 70candles, Adaptations and accommodations as we age, Goals ahead, Gratitude and Spirituality, Inspiration as we age, Looking ahead, Resilience | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Sit back and enjoy the ride

Jane Hallowell, Almost 72

I tend to freak out when I am creating something. My recent pottery class — case in point.

I just started a six-week hand-building session this past spring at almost age 72 after not doing any pottery for the past 20 years. The class was a small one of five students, three of whom had been taking with this same teacher for the past several years. The other was a woman from India, an engineer, in her 30s, who had never done pottery before.

And what a difference these past 20 years has made for me! Just to wedge the clay alone to get out all the air bubbles took strength that I no longer had. Also, the table wasn’t low enough. Trying to get the right angle to knead the clay is extremely difficult when the table is too high. In fact, this was so strenuous, I took a 1.5 hour nap when I got home after that first class.

Anyway, the reason why I decided to go back to pottery was because I wanted a nice container to house my Dad’s ashes. He had donated his body to science when he died, and a couple of years after he passed, they were returned to me in a depressing-looking box.

I looked online for an urn that I thought my Dad might like, but they all looked so “urn-like.” They were also as costly as $350, and I know Dad would not have been happy to spend so much money, frugal Thoreauvian that he was.

Dad used to love the crazy things I had made out of pottery in years past, so I thought I would make the urn/container myself.

I found an example online that I wanted to use as a prototype. My pottery teacher liked it so much, she chose it as the project for the class. My three seasoned classmates chose different projects to work on, and the engineer and I were the only students who decided to make this piece.

I soon discovered that I had a really hard time processing the detailed instructions for assembling the clay sections. The engineer grasped everything instantly. I was faced with facing the fact that not only had I aged physically, was I aging mentally as well? The freak-out process had started. In fact, during the six-week class session, I was only able to make this one piece, yet the engineer made many others. And she had never even taken pottery before! Not to mention…her pieces looked so precise, and mine looked rough, clumsy, and crude.

The last session where we were glazing our creations was just about the last straw. I had “thrown” my back out during the past week and was struggling in pain. The teacher forgot to have me glaze my piece the color I had requested, and so I just accepted another color she had out and available. Every little movement involved pain because of my back. I was feeling like a demented, useless elderly person.

Needless to say, I left class that day feeling really down and like a total loser.

Thankfully, my back got better, and was fine by the next week’s session. I went to pick up my finished piece, and lo and behold, it turned out beautifully. Granted, it was crude, which I like, but it expressed passion. All the love I put into it was reflected in the final product. And I noticed that the engineer’s pieces weren’t any more special than mine after all…not to mention the fact that the trivets she made had warped in the kiln.

I am using this first piece to store my Nespresso coffee pods. This was the practice piece anyway.

The final piece, engraved with my Dad’s initials and dates, is waiting to be glazed. I sure hope it expresses even more passion than what I just made.

The bottom line is that what started out to be a challenging situation and my feeling so bad and incompetent resulted in something surprisingly positive and exuding in love.

The message? If you become frustrated and upset while creating something in old age, don’t get sucked into negative thinking. Sit back and enjoy the ride, no matter how bumpy along the way. You just may be surprised at the outcome.

Posted in 70candles, Adaptations and accommodations as we age, Attitudes about aging, Share your story | Tagged , , , , , | 14 Comments

Jane Brody on her milestone 80th birthday

Jane Brody Birthday Milestone: 80! – The New York Times 5/18/21, 11:08 AM

PERSONAL HEALTH
A Birthday Milestone: Turning 80!
The secret to a happy and vibrant old age? Strive to do what you love for as long as you can do it.

By Jane E. Brody
May 17, 2021

When a 50ish woman at my Y learned that I was about to turn 80, she exclaimed, “80 is the new 60, and you set a great example for the rest of us!”

At least, I’m in good company:
Dr. Anthony Fauci, national infectious disease guru, is five months my senior, sharp as a tack even under withering political fire;
Nancy Pelosi, 81-year-old Speaker of the House, also stands up well against fierce opposition;
Anthony Hopkins, 83, Oscar winner for “The Silence of the Lambs” and a frequent nominee, won again this year for “The Father”;
Morgan Freeman, also 83, acts with a voice of distinction bested only by his formidable talent. He has four upcoming movies and a TV series.
Bernie Sanders, former presidential hopeful who will be 80 in September, remains a force to be reckoned with in the U.S. Senate;
Paul Simon, a month younger than Mr. Sanders, has won 12 Grammys as a singer and songwriter in a now six-decade career. He recently sold his songwriting catalog to Sony for around $250 million.)
The list goes on. As my late husband, who didn’t make it to that milestone, would have said, “80 — not a record, but not a bad average.”

Indeed, many have done far better. Every day I read or hear about folks in their 90s who are still remarkably active and productive. Check out this recent feature in The Times on the indefatigable architect Frank Gehry. At 92, his latest project is a spectacular development in downtown Los Angeles. When asked if he’d consider retiring, he replied, “What would I do? I enjoy this stuff.”

That to me is the secret of a happy, vibrant old age: Strive to do what you love for as long as you can do it. If the vicissitudes of life or infirmities of age preclude a preferred activity, modify it or substitute another. I can no longer safely skate, ski or play tennis, but I can still bike, hike and swim. I consider daily physical activity to be as important as eating and sleeping. I accept no excuses. And, as you can see, I still write, although it often takes me longer than it used to. In my job as a health columnist, I’m paid to be continually educated and inspired by the research and interviews I do for my weekly column. They keep my brain and spirit alive. And when a word or its spelling eludes me, there’s Google and my editors to fill in the gaps.

The cohort of Americans who have lived for eight or more decades is rising steadily and projected to grow faster than the cohort of youngsters under 18 for at least the next 40 years. In fact, as more of us in the late decades of life continue to thrive, morbidity and mortality were rising among middle-aged men and women even before the pandemic. The average newborn today is not expected to make it to 80, thanks largely to poor diet and exercise and rising obesity.

Assuming most people would opt for a long and fulfilling life, Nature permitting, what does this take? What accounts for the growing number of octogenarians and beyond who are accomplished and still accomplishing?
Many clues have emerged during my decades of reporting on health. I’ve already alluded to the importance of regular physical activity, which supports a healthy brain and body. Assuming you don’t smoke, which was my husband’s undoing, Nature will usually take pretty good care of you for about half a century. Thereafter, it’s up to you.

Without regular exercise, you can expect to experience a loss of muscle strength and endurance, coordination and balance, flexibility and mobility, bone strength and cardiovascular and respiratory function. In other words, a sedentary lifestyle is a recipe for chronic disease and decline.
Abandon all excuses, as Todd Balf did after he became partially paralyzed following spinal surgery for cancer. Though he had long shunned being immersed in water, with a physical therapist as coach, he finally took the plunge and discovered that swimming back and forth in a pool buoyed both his body and soul.

Of course, like any machine, to maintain peak levels of activity the human body requires quality fuel. Growing up, most of us who are now 80 and beyond were largely spared the plethora of ultra-processed foods that now line the shelves of every grocery. My father, the family food shopper, was a big fan of oatmeal and shredded wheat, fresh fruits and vegetables.
Eating out was an occasional treat (and for me, still is). Most meals were prepared and eaten family style at home. Fast foods? Maybe a hot dog when we biked miles to Coney Island or celebrated my birthday at a Brooklyn Dodgers game. I was in my early 20s when McDonalds ballyhooed that it had just sold 600,000 burgers! (The company stopped counting in 1994, after it hit 99 billion burgers served.)

But exercise and nutrition are not enough. Studies suggest that motivation, attitude and perspective are equally important to a long, healthy and fulfilling life. I was still in high school when my mother died of cancer at age 49, and her premature loss became a lesson for me to live each day as if it’s my last with a keen eye on the future in case it’s not.
I entered college with plans to become a biochemist and discover lifesaving clues to cancer. But I found working in a laboratory boring and isolating, and in my junior year realized my true love was learning what others discovered and communicating that information to the public. So I married biochemistry with journalism, pursued a fulfilling career in science writing focused on personal and public health and, like a horse with blinders, never looked back.

My advice to students: Try to combine your passion with your talent and you’ll have the best shot at a rich and rewarding career. I also recommend choosing a supportive life partner who’s willing to share the mundane tasks of daily life and step up for extra duty when needed.

Having been raised to save, all my life I’ve shopped sales and bargains and parlayed the monetary rewards into scholarships for deserving students and fabulous nature, hiking and cycling trips for me, family and friends.
Have I any regrets? I regret taking French instead of Spanish in high school and I keep trying to learn the latter, a far more practical language, on my own. I regret that I never learned to speed-read; whether for work or leisure, I read slowly, as if everything in print is a complex scientific text. Although I’d visited all seven continents before I turned 50, I never got to see the orangutans in their native Borneo or the gorillas in Rwanda. But I’m content now to see them up close on public television.

If and when I finally retire, I’d like to work as a volunteer with young children. They lighten my step, warm my heart and enrich my soul. Their joie de vivre and innate curiosity foster hope that the world of the future will be a better one.

Jane Brody is the Personal Health columnist, a position she has held since 1976.

Posted in 70candles, Adaptations and accommodations as we age, Aging, Attitudes about aging, Goals ahead, Inspiration as we age, Looking ahead, Our bodies, our health, Turning 80 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Goodbye 70 Candles, Hello 80

Ellen, Age 80

I turned 80 18 days ago, on March 10, 2021, which means I have officially reached my ninth decade. No big deal, you say? I don’t think of myself as a particularly reflective person; I’m more of a doer—always busy, even during Covid, still employed, many projects. But there is something different about 80. Even in only 18 days, I think about death now…not my own, for some reason…but the death of my loved ones, my friends, and particularly my husband’s. He is also 80—a healthy and robust 80 year old who hikes and bikes and just finished writing a book about Chaucer’s The Wife of Bath. He talks about things like artificial intelligence and dark matter and the movement of the sun and moon—topics I consider more or less above my pay grade, but topics that suggest a very good brain. So why does my brain turn to his death now that I’m 80? Because I know the stats. Because I look around and see how many age-mates have lost their spouses. I swear I just about never, maybe never at all, thought about the possibility of widowhood until 18 days ago.
What else feels different now? It’s hard to separate what’s Covid/quarantine-related, and what’s age related, so for now I’ll leave it at that: the dread of losing my husband, of a life without the guy I laugh with every day. And what will I do about this? I will cherish the present and be grateful for what I have now; I will indulge in nostalgia; I will continue to plan for our future together. And I will laugh at myself. I just ordered Advice for Future Corpses (and Those Who Love Them): A Practical Perspective on Death and Dying, by Sallie Tisdale, recommended by a psychologist pal who knows me well. And I’ll probably start a new research project on this new decade to see how others are doing!!

Posted in 70candles, Aging, Attitudes about aging, Death and dying, Family matters, HUMOR, Looking ahead, Men aging, Nostalgia, Sad about aging, Widows’ choices | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

A change in attitude

Author unknown

A woman who has crossed 70 & is heading towards 80 was asked what sort of changes she is feeling in herself. She sent the following:

1 After loving my parents, my siblings, my spouse, my children and my friends, I have now started loving myself.

2 I have realized that I am not “Atlas”. The world does not rest on my shoulders.

3 I have stopped bargaining with vegetable & fruit vendors. A few pennies more is not going to break me, but it might help the poor fellow save for his daughter’s school fees.

4 I leave my waitress a big tip. The extra money might bring a smile to her face. She is toiling much harder for a living than I am.

5 I stopped telling the elderly that they’ve already narrated that story many times. The story makes them walk down memory lane & relive their past.

6 I have learned not to correct people even when I know they are wrong. The onus of making everyone perfect is not on me. Peace is more precious than perfection.

7 I give compliments freely & generously. Compliments are a mood enhancer not only for the recipient, but also for me. And a small tip for the recipient of a compliment, never, NEVER turn it down, just say “Thank You.”

8 I have learned not to bother about a crease or a spot on my shirt. Personality speaks louder than appearances.

9 I walk away from people who don’t value me. They might not know my worth, but I do.

10 I remain cool when someone plays dirty to outrun me in the rat race. I am not a rat & neither am I in any race.

11 I am learning not to be embarrassed by my emotions. It’s my emotions that make me human.

12 I have learned that it’s better to drop the ego than to break a relationship. My ego will keep me aloof, whereas with relationships, I will never be alone.

13 I have learned to live each day as if it’s the last. After all, it might be the last.

14 I am doing what makes me happy. I am responsible for my happiness, and I owe it to myself. Happiness is a choice. You can be happy at any time, just choose to be!

Why do we have to wait to be 60 or 70 or 80, why can’t we practice this at any stage and age?

Posted in 70candles, Adaptations and accommodations as we age, Attitudes about aging, Gratitude and Spirituality, Resilience | Tagged , , , , , | 12 Comments