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 email@example.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!!
Here’s an article of interest from the-tls.co.uk by Carol Tavris, Age 74
“Age only matters while one is ageing”, said Picasso, at the age of eighty. “Now that I have arrived at a great age, I might as well be twenty.” Well, bully for him. From where I sit, far more people at eighty feel they might as well be seventy-eight. Or ninety-eight. Carl Honoré’s Bolder: Making the most of our longer lives tells us that Michelangelo finished the Pauline chapel at the age of seventy-four, Frank Lloyd Wright finished the Guggenheim Museum in New York at the age of ninety-one, and Benjamin Franklin invented bifocals at the age of seventy-four. Well, bully for them, too. Anyone can continue creating great things all their lives if they are Michelangelo, Lloyd Wright, or Franklin. Besides, their creative work began decades earlier, probably around the age of eight.
A review of books on ageing is inevitably filtered through the age, health and optimism quotient of the reviewer. Thirty years ago I wrote an essay for the New York Times, cheerfully titled “Old Age Is Not What It Used To Be”, full of encouraging news from the newly burgeoning field of gerontology. In those days, “old age” usually referred to people in their sixties and seventies, with some outliers in their eighties and even a few in their nineties. (Bernice Neugarten and other gerontologists had recently begun to speak of the “young old”, who are healthy and mentally competent, and the “old old”, who aren’t.) My essay was populated with thriving old people who were as witty, active, happy, sexually active and intellectually engaged as they had ever been, and by researchers assuring us that we won’t “lose it” so long as we remain witty, active, happy, sexually active and intellectually engaged. All very nice, cynics muttered, but how are we supposed to retain those satisfactions when every joint aches, we have lost a life partner and too many close friends, mental sharpness blurs, hearing declines, the grown-up children have decamped to foreign lands, the identities that provided meaning are gone, and we start to feel like a bump on the log of life?
As the population surges into young old age and old old age, the number of books wrestling with that question has grown from a trickle to a tsunami. Today the field of gerontology is, dare I say, older and wiser and I am older and warier. “Old age” has crept up a decade or two, reflecting the steady rise of people living into their nineties and, the fastest-growing category, into their hundreds. Many are living well, without mental or physical incapacitation, but anywhere between a quarter and a half of the population will show signs of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia by the age of eighty-five. The cost of care – emotionally and financially – is already immense. Understanding the social, physiological and economic consequences of this massive demographic change has thus become more pressing. So has the need to help people cope psychologically, now that old age can arrive almost without warning. People may go along feeling youthful and vigorous, but pain or infirmity caused by injury, bone deterioration, illness, arthritis, stenosis, or any other condition, can alter that overnight. A seventy-four-year-old friend who has spent a decade hiking in exotic places abruptly developed excruciating back pain, forcing her to curtail her adventures. “I suddenly feel old”, she said
Apart from the science journals and science-fiction novels debating whether is it possible or desirable to prolong the lifespan by fifty or a hundred years, or (might as well go for it) eternally, books designed to help readers navigate the treacheries of ageing fall roughly into three categories: the scientific, the personal and the political.
Books in the first category may provide empirical research on all aspects of the ageing boom, from biology to demographics. Sue Armstrong, the author of Borrowed Time: The science of how and why we age, is an appealing guide through the evidence and the controversies. She is a woman in her late sixties, “still swimming happily in the mainstream of life”, who watched her mother “lose her sight, her hearing, her beloved life partner and most of her friends, and finally her mind, across her ninth and tenth decades of life”. (This also describes my mother, who lived to be ninety-seven.) Armstrong goes right to the crucial issue: “what will life be like for us as we reach these venerable ages? No matter how positive and philosophical one’s general disposition, one cannot ignore the evidence that for too many of us old age is nasty, brutish and long”. A five-year-old child in the UK today can expect to live to be about eighty years old, but, for many, around twenty of those years, she observes, “will likely be dogged by ill health” – a fact that has generated immense research and argument. Is ageing (and its attendant cellular damage and decline in immune function) an inevitable result of normal wear and tear, in which case might it possibly be delayed or repaired, or is it a result of genetic programming, over which we have no control? The controversy is especially pressing today given that, in the words of one gerontologist she quotes, “health care hasn’t slowed the ageing process so much as it has slowed the dying process”.
Armstrong usefully details what ageing consists of at a cellular level and why human lifespans vary so widely. Passions in the search for an “elixir of youth” run high because the payoffs are high: psychologically, of course, but also financially, because the fountain of youth will spew fountains of gold. Can we develop a drug that works as an “anti-ageing” compound, as the immune modulator rapamycin is thought to do? Rapamycin, typically used to reduce the rejection of transplanted organs, was found to significantly improve the heart function and overall health of old mice. Unfortunately, in human beings it can have some serious side effects; its very ability to suppress the immune system and make a transplant successful also makes people more susceptible to infections and inflammation. (Recent research on rapamycin continues, with the aim of solving these problems by manipulating the dose and timing.) Another popular anti-ageing theory touts the benefits of a super-low-calorie diet, a notion born of a study showing that rodents on a severely restricted diet (low calorie but high nutrient) lived more than twice as long as the controls. Armstrong beautifully tells the story of the CRONies (the acronym stands for Calorie Restriction with Optimum Nutrition) – researchers and true believers who subjected themselves to severe caloric restriction in the name of science (and, it must be said, immortality) in spite of “constant, nagging hunger”, the disruption of social life, and other deprivations. Today, Armstrong reports, most of them have eased up: “You don’t have to do this quite so intensively to get the benefits” on health, said one investigator.
Whether the intervention involves drugs or diet, Armstrong shows, excitement is often followed by dismay when the drug has unacceptable side effects or the method doesn’t work in humans as it does in mice. She concludes with a sobering caution about any new drug that promises to prevent or reverse the ravages of time: “we all respond differently to drugs, depending on our personal biology, our genetic background and our environmental exposure”. For the scope of issues it addresses, this book serves as a fine introduction to the research and controversies about how we age.
Michelle Pannor Silver’s Retirement and Its Discontents: Why we won’t stop working, even if we can provides a thoughtful investigation of a specific transition of ageing – retirement “For many people,” Silver begins, “retirement is a much-awaited and enjoyable time in life. This book is not about those people.” It’s also not about people who retire because of health issues or who have financial struggles. Silver’s research focuses on a narrower constituency, five groups of people – doctors, CEOs, elite athletes, professors and homemakers – who were discontented in retirement because they loved what they used to do and because that work was woven into their identities. What happens now that it’s over, and over not by choice but because they felt forced to leave, or because circumstances dictated it? How do they decide what to do next? How do they structure activities, in ways that provide the social connection, fulfilment and meaning that they enjoyed throughout their careers?
These are crucial questions now that people are living longer, in many cases well beyond official “retirement” age. The answers do not necessarily come through travelling, volunteering, learning a language, or taking up art lessons – activities that can certainly be enjoyable but which for many people do not provide meaning, deep satisfaction or a new identity. I recently met a man in his seventies, a radiologist, who, once retired, spent all his time carving wood pieces of exceptional artistry. “When did you begin to develop your skill in this hobby?” I asked, expecting to hear that he was sixty or so. “At sixteen”, he said. “And my hobby was being a radiologist.” In my experience, friends and colleagues who retired with glowing fantasies of learning to play the lute, becoming a woodcarver, or acquiring another skill that takes years to master, often discover that it will take too long to make performing or creating intrinsically enjoyable. Silver’s interviewees concur, leading Silver to explore “the larger structural problems that society must grapple with as individuals confront the mismatch between an idealized retirement and the reality of giving up identity, income and status”: becoming invisible where once they were centres of attention, the person others went to for advice, help and wisdom; feeling unneeded where once they were essential. The heart of the dilemma, she writes, is that retirement, a life without the “burdens” of work, can be a burden itself: “Herein lies the irony of retirement’s lack of boundaries and lauded freedoms, which can feel like a forced rupture from our core identity”. That irony captures the bittersweet feelings that people may have at their retirement parties: “Sure, thanks for your tributes – but now what? Tomorrow you’ll have forgotten me”. (As George S. Kaufman famously noted when he saw his fellow playwright S. N. Behrman in his office the morning after the latter’s farewell party, “Ah, forgotten but not gone, eh?”) While some of the retirees Silver interviewed enjoyed a honeymoon phase – time, at last, for lute playing – most went directly to the disenchantment phase, followed by efforts to forge new identities and satisfactions. Some succeeded. Some still struggle.
By far the largest category of books aimed at the ageing consists of first-person narratives. Readers may choose among an array of companions to light and lighten the way: a spiritual guide, wise elder, psychologist, philosopher, or poet. I favour Mary Oliver (1935–2019), especially her poem “I Worried”, from which I quote:
…Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows can do it and I am, well, hopeless.
Is my eyesight fading or am I just imagining it, am I going to get rheumatism, lockjaw, dementia?
Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing. And gave it up. And took my old body and went out into the morning, and sang.
Oliver just about sums up the themes of many of today’s guides to ageing, which often have the words “flourishing” or “thriving” or other hopeful language in their titles. Among the most popular recent additions are Mary Pipher’s Women Rowing North: Navigating life’s currents and flourishing as we age and Parker Palmer’s On the Brink of Everything: Grace, gravity and getting old. (Pipher’s women are rowing north, but Palmer notes that as we age, everything is moving south: “Energy, reaction time, muscle tone, the body itself – they’re all headed back into the earth, as far south as it goes”.) Carl Honoré has written the perkiest contribution but, at fifty-two, it’s easy for him to be perky: “Denying how old you are, even in jest”, says Honoré, “denies who you are, what you have lived and where you are going. It gives the number a power it does not deserve”. Hear, hear, young man, but what if that power confers the right for your employer to fire you or not hire you at all? Pipher, just turning seventy, is warm, cheerful and optimistic: “If we can keep our wits about us, think clearly, and manage our emotions skilfully, we will experience a joyous time in our lives … if we have good maps and guides, the journey can be transcendent”. Palmer, at eighty, concurs. He likes being old, he tells us, “because the view from the brink is striking, a full panorama of my life – and a bracing breeze awakens me to new ways of understanding my own past, present, and future … I’m not given to waxing romantic about aging and dying. I simply know that the first is a privilege and the second is not up for negotiation”.
These books and many others belong to a genre as old as old age itself. (In his treatise “Hygiene” in about AD 175, Galen, ahead of his time, proposed that ageing was a natural process that could be slowed with proper diet and exercise.) Most of today’s authors convey the message that, while we cannot escape the countless losses, memory lapses and physical insults that accompany ageing, nor escape death, we can choose how to live: “choices made difficult”, Palmer acknowledges, “by a culture that celebrates youth, disparages old age, and discourages us from facing into our mortality”. Instead, we are exhorted to resist those cultural messages, recognizing that love, sex, laughing and learning are human pleasures at every age (levity is the opposite of gravity, says Palmer). Most of all, the authors emphasize the need to reframe our experiences, focusing not on what we have lost, nor on the sorrows, regrets and fears we all experience, but rather on what we can still do and enjoy. Living alone? Your friendship network has diminished? We can “learn to alchemize loneliness into solitude”, advises Pipher, and “reframe the time we spend alone as positive time and find more ways to enjoy ourselves”. Those ways include making a delicious meal, watching movies, reading and using our memories to “visit all of the people in our past”. (Why that wouldn’t make a lonely person feel even lonelier beats me, but this advice reflects the level of Pipher’s psychological sophistication. It’s kind, well-meaning and simplistic.) Nevertheless, it’s certainly true that if we no longer engage in the same work or other activities that gave our lives purpose and meaning, we can find new ones, and the new ones don’t have to be big and momentous. Honoré references the Japanese concept of ikigai, roughly meaning “a reason to get up in the morning”, something people need at all stages of life, though what that reason is will change. It can be tending the garden, walking the dog, working for a cause, doing something useful for someone you love, or a neighbour, or a stranger.
For those who prefer their guides to be less sanguine, I advise William Ian Miller’s Losing It (2011), worth the cover price for the subtitle alone: “In which an aging professor LAMENTS his shrinking BRAIN, which he flatters himself formerly did him Noble Service … A Plaint, tragi-comical, historical, vengeful, sometimes satirical and thankful in six parts, if his Memory does yet serve”. Miller is literate, surly, brutally honest and very funny. Consider this entry in the index under “Life”:
as struggle not to be laughed at, 6 unseemly clinging to, 34, 40–41 when determined happy, 244–245. See also cowardice; Cronus; death; dementia.
Because my own Memory and shrinking BRAIN so often do not serve as once they did, I read Miller at regular intervals.
The third category of books confronts discrimination on the grounds of age. Ashton Applewhite, the author of This Chair Rocks: A manifesto against ageism, focuses on “the last socially sanctioned prejudice” of age bias. Once aware of it, she began to see it everywhere: in ads, in “anti-ageing” products (“anti-living”, she growls), in pressures for facelifts and cosmetic surgery, in casual comments that someone is “too old” for a job, a haircut, a relationship. “Like racism and sexism”, she writes, “ageism is not about how we look. It’s about what people in power want our appearance to mean.” Like Honoré, she thinks the first anti-ageist action we can take is to admit our age; hers is sixty-six. Neither of them want us to be pleased at the pseudo-compliment “you look good for your age”. The correct response is: “Oh yeah? You look great for your age too!” Like Palmer, she is amazed, after interviewing an eighty-eight-year-old artist, that “life could become more fun in your eighties”. Like all writers in this genre, Applewhite wants to shatter ageist prejudices and beliefs, such as the assumption that most old people are depressed, lonely and no longer have sex (everyone seems to want to dispel that idea). Like Silver, she knows that one person’s ideal retirement is not for everyone – she is not about to “take up pole dancing or marathon running”. Nonetheless, she admonishes old people to “step up and step out”, to stop conforming, not to worry about being the oldest person in the room, and to fight age segregation, whether institutional or self-imposed. Applewhite’s spirit is fun and contagious: “Naming and claiming and de-shaming are crucial components of all successful social movements”, she concludes. Along with “Black is beautiful” and “I Am Woman” it’s time to add “We’re old, we’re bold, behold!”
I am not given to chanting, and nor was Diana Athill, whose exquisite memoir Somewhere Towards the End, published in 2008 when she was ninety, is a treasure to re-read. Athill was clear-eyed about her worries and problems. Not for her today’s crop of inspirational observations about the “transcendent journey” of ageing: her closest friend and former lover “has beaten me to physical collapse, so that I have to look after him. And I haven’t got the money to pay for care of any kind”. Her attitude is matter-of-fact: “Whatever happens, I will get through it somehow, so why fuss?” The reason to reframe our pessimistic ways of thinking, in her view, is not that optimism will make us feel better but that pessimism is so boring: it’s not surprising that old people easily slide into a general gloom, she writes, given how much we lose in our later years, “but it is very boring and it makes dreary last years even drearier”. Not for her Applewhite’s argument that all ages can and should intermix; one should never expect young people to want the company of old people, says Athill, nor make the claims on them that one makes with friends of the same age: “Enjoy whatever they are generous enough to offer, and leave it at that”. Athill died recently, after a brief illness, at the age of 101. I was relieved to learn that she did not spend her last years, as she had feared, in a geriatric ward. She had moved into a home for the “active elderly”, telling an interviewer she enjoyed her “life free of worries in a snug little nest”. And that is the ultimate issue: what are societies doing to ensure that the very old can end their lives free of worries in a snug little nest, or are able to “age in place”, at home? The answer to that question will surely go further than psychological nostrums in alleviating feelings of anxiety, loneliness and meaninglessness.
Until we have that security, we have ample advice from writers on how to fight ageism and live with the inevitable changes of body and mind that ageing inflicts. The rumble of voices, male and female, older and younger, differ but converge on the conclusion: acknowledge those infuriating gaps of memory but move on briskly to the joys that life still brings. Contemplating a potted tree fern with its nine fronds, each with a little nub at the base, Athill wrote: “This little nub is the start of a new frond, which grows very slowly to begin with but faster towards the end – so much faster that you can almost see it moving. I was right in thinking that I will never see it being a tree, but I underestimated the pleasure of watching it being a fern. It was worth buying”.
We will all make this journey one way or another, and it’s up to us to console and delight one another as we do, perhaps even repaving the road as we bump along, somewhere towards the end.
I am writing this in the hope that all Seniors will learn that ageism is alive and well. I was sent to the Motor Vehicle Department, by my GP, for a Medical Assessment for no other reason than a stiff neck and being old. It has had a huge impact on my well-being. I tried for several months to get this referral overturned but even with my Physiotherapist’s report in hand, I was unable to accomplish anything.
Before I even had the Assessment, they suspended my license, so I was unable to drive for months. The Assessment is very intrusive. For a simple neck problem I had to have a vision test with a report from my Optometrist, a two-hour physical evaluation for my range of motion, joint movement, strength, sensation, balance, reaction time and mobility, as well as cognitive and visual assessment relating to attention, concentration, memory and divided attention. This was followed by an on-road driving test with an instructor, a physiotherapist as well as an intern physiotherapist, in the car. I had to spend nearly an hour driving through the city and on the freeway.
This referral started a bewildering list of tests that were completely unrelated to my neck, and for all this, I had to pay them over $670.00. This would not have happened to a 25 year old person with a stiff neck. I know I, and many Seniors, cannot afford to hand over that amount of money for something that was not of our making. Needless to say, I’m no longer seeing the Doctor that made this disastrous referral with no thought to my well-being. I finally received a letter informing me that I had passed the Assessment in the top 90% and that my License Renewal Application was being sent. After receiving it, I was told to phone for an appointment for another Education session, for which I must wait another two months and pay more money. For people on a pension, the cost of this Assessment can cause great financial strain. The last ten months have caused me great stress and has had a huge impact on my quality and enjoyment of life.
I turned 70 last November… I also became a widow shortly before I turned 70. It has been quite a year for me. I have both oars in the water now and not sure what the plan will be but, there is a plan!
I work one day a week cleaning a Rectory!
I enjoy cooking, baking, and love eating out but rarely do that now as I did when we were married!
Life is good!
What a lovely relief to discover your page when I was idly Googling ‘feeling sad at turning 70’, which I was last week on February 18th.
I had decided that this year, after excruciatingly disappointing previous landmark birthdays, 40, 50 & 60, I would make this one count (last chance saloon?) and so I booked a long weekend in Rome with my best friend. What a wonderful weekend it was, blue sky, sunshine, and visiting all my favourite places in that most beautiful city, truly wonderful.
On returning home, aside from somehow becoming host to a stinker of a cold, it all felt a bit different. Having had the company of my dearest friend for four days, the solitude of my home hit hard suddenly. I have lived alone for twenty plus years now, me and my adored dog.
I have worked all my life, reasonably successful in my career, but three years ago I was rather brutally shown the exit door by my company, no happy farewell party for me, with balloons, champagne and gifts galore, but a sudden redundancy. Boom, the end. It hit me really hard having worked all my life, feeling valued and popular and yes, I’ll admit it, I thought I was Queen Bee.
I sat for days on end weeping and staring out of the window that December, and slowly descended into what I can only describe as the black hole, lonely, feeling pretty worthless and altogether pointless. Anxiety attacks had me keeling over, me, of all people, Ms. Confident. Who’d have thought. I had good friends and a beautiful son and two grandchildren, as far as they were concerned all was well. I was a master of disguise you see (which is why the ‘high functioning anxiety’ label was eventually attached). It was only when the front door was firmly closed, the smile dropped and the tears fell.
Anyway, fast forward, I realised I was never going to find another perfect job, with hours that suited, so after a couple of awful ones, and my God, they were awful, I gave up trying to find one. I’d cut my suit according to my cloth, and budget to stay within the realms of my pension, using my savings for ’emergencies’ only. Slowly slowly I climbed out of the black hole, I rejoined my gym that was once a company perk, as an off peak member and got back to my much loved Yoga and Spin classes. What a tonic they were, a couple of hours every morning out of the house and with other human beings, of course. Staying for a coffee and a catch up after classes was out of the question, couldn’t afford that now, but who cares, I have a Nespresso machine at home!
So, for the last eighteen months plus, life was good again, Hoorah! No more rushing to be anywhere I didn’t want to be, no constraints, come and go as I please. Yes, sometimes over holiday weekends I might feel a little melancholy, after all, wasn’t everyone else in the whole world having a marvellous time with their families and friends? No, I know they most likely weren’t, but…..
So, I’d settled at last into ‘retirement’. I did nothing I didn’t want to do, never rushed and loved walking my dog for miles through the glorious countryside around me, occasionally seeing a friend for coffee or dinner out, (my close friends are all younger than me, with husbands and kids at home and full time jobs) and even less than occasionally seeing my son and grandchildren, who, have the busiest schedules under the sun, with a myriad of out of school activities and my son working long shifts for the NHS, and his wife also with a full time job. Everyone busy busy busy, and all envying me not working, hmm, if only they knew. Nevertheless, I felt content and life was good, again.
And here we are right now, the best ever birthday trip, and the warmest February in the UK on record, with the sun blazing every day to date and Spring right there on the horizon. So, why, I wonder, do I suddenly feel rather sad? That now, time feels like it’s running on low, like a petrol tank that cannot be refilled. Me? The one with Carpe Diem tattooed on her wrist? Oh the irony. Me? The one that’s always preaching mindfulness and to look no further than tomorrow? Yes, that me. I do so hope this melancholic feeling is fleeting, I never realised that a landmark Birthday could on one hand be so fabulous and on the other, actually rather daunting. Perhaps it’s this awful head cold I’ve picked up, which has sapped my energy to zero and made me a sneezing and snotty prisoner almost, in my own home for the past week. Or perhaps, it’s because I’ve turned 70? Answers on a post card please?
I had the pleasure of meeting the engaging 98 year old Mavis at my friend’s house.
She told charming stories with vivid detail of her childhood in French Quebec, and of her adventure-filled career as a professional coloratura soprano.
She allowed me to interview her about her current morning routine. I share it here as an inspiration for us all, and created the following reverse acronym in her honor.
Muscle Activation Via In-bed Stretching.
An interview with Mavis, age 98
Morning exercise to me is the most important thing in my life. Making myself do it becomes a plus because I hate to get up in the morning, so this is a good reason for staying in bed a little longer.
I had fallen in Canada where they said, “Go to your doctor and tell him that you’re too old for us to do anything here.” So I came back to the U.S. where my doctor sent me to an excellent physical therapist. He was wonderful, and he’s the one that gave me these exercises to do. He said don’t miss one, and don’t get out of your bed until you do them. I haven’t.
What are those exercises? Well if it’s cold, and I like to sleep in a cold room, I pull the covers off of half of my body, lengthwise. I put my foot out, and wiggle a toe to see if it’s warm enough to stay out. Then it’s up to the chest with my knee and then up to the ceiling with my leg, and back down again. I do that stretch up to 25 times on each leg. I have also added something else because sometimes I find when I do the second leg the same way I get a little stiff, so here I do something for my ankle at the same time. I twist my ankle to the left and to the right. By then I’m tired, and he said I could rest in between, so I do. By that time I can let the covers off the other leg and test the temperature, and do the same thing again on the right side.
I usually start with my left leg. I don’t know why. I think it’s because I sleep on my right side and so when I turn over flat on my back that left one seems to have priority.
Now for the upper part of your body, your arms, your chest, you need to get some deep breathing in. I used to be a singer and know how to deep breathe, so that wasn’t a problem. But to do it while you’re doing your exercise, that’s more complicated. First of all, I tried panting, but that didn’t work, because it was too short. So I do the deep breathing where you use your abdominal muscles. Deep breathing does it for me. Our French voice teacher used to say, you don’t have to gulp a whole bunch of air, that doesn’t do you any good. She always told us, “ You need enough breath taken in to blow a rose petal off your hand.”
The upper part of your body needs as much exercise as your legs do. So here’s what you do.
Lying in bed, you put your arms at your side. Your raise them up above your head and then bring them down hard with elbows bent, and then stretch them back up. When you pull them down you have to press strong, so ladies with long fingernails, you better watch it. You’re squeezing your hands so you’re getting limber fingers.
Now this is something I added myself because I found it on PBS from a lady who was giving a lecture on exercise. She had everyone in the audience stand up and shake their whole body.
For those who are well developed, what she did next sometimes is a little complicated. What you have to do, while you’re lying on your back, is straighten both arms out wide and then cross them across your chest. Then open and cross them again several times.
And finally, after all this you get tired, so you put one leg out on the side of the bed and then you drag the other one out, so you’re sitting. Then as you sit you kick as hard as you can and as high as you can, up and down.
And then, you can reach for your cane and stand up!
For those of you who enjoy writing, I pass along this information about AgelessAuthors.com. Deadline for submissions is March 15th. Check out the website to read rules and writing categories.
Full disclosure: I’m a judge for the contest…but all submissions are judged without authors’ names, so I can’t play favorites.
Good luck with your entries!
Ageless Authors, is an international group exclusively for senior writers age 65 and older. This group is now conducting its third annual writing contest, awarding cash prizes and publishing. Deadline is March 15.
Visit agelessauthors.com/current-contests/ to submit stories or volunteer as a judge in the contest. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
After my divorce, I lived 25 years alone. In an effort to survive, I didn’t have time to think about being lonely until the weekends came. I remember how I hated weekends. I would start planning something already on Thursdays. Looking through the newspapers, to see if there something good happening. By good, I mean a free or cheap entertainment. Movies were an option, but my anxiety at being alone prevented me from really enjoying the entertainment. I would go around visiting my handful of friends I had. I lived in a relatively big city, but I was alone and lonely.
Then there is the stratum of citizens that are having the hardest time being alone. Older retired people, some of whom are heartbroken from the death of their spouse or disillusioned after divorce. Retirement removes the daily routine and responsibility of going to work. Without any hobby to fill in their free time, they become grouchy, depressed, sick, miserable, lonely.
I am married, but I am lonely sometimes. It goes like this: I am miserable, I don’t talk to my husband because he hurt me. He was rude! He offended me. He cut me off. He didn’t let me finish my sentence. Apparently, he knew what I wanted to say. And so, we walk by each other without a word, without eye contact. I walk and look through him. He is not there; he is invisible to me now.
I talk to myself about what a rude and disrespectful jerk he is. I have tears in my eyes whenever I think about the deep perceived injustice that happened to me. Nevertheless, after a few hours the veil of invisibility dissipates, and I forget why I’m not talking to him. Then there is the awkward situation. When we pass by each other, he has his eyes full of remorse and says “hi.” He has no clue what happened or why. So, I say “hi” back, and it’s over. “What can I do for you?” he asks, and I offer to make a dinner together.
There is that strange loneliness when there should not be any reason for it: people who live together, but don’t talk or see each other much; a family breaking apart when the kids leave home. Of course, there are marriages that never lose their spark, but I am not writing about that. I am exploring loneliness.
I’m very glad to have found 70 Candles, but I must admit, at 69+, I am not at at all thrilled about my next birthday.
Young to Old:
Brought up to believe that looks were everything, I knew that one day when mine faded, I was going to be very unhappy! Mothers today, unless their heads are firmly buried in the sand, have become wiser regarding this foolish and unhealthy dynamic, especially when raising daughters. However, since money is to be made and our world is more greedy than ever, the push to be physically appealing continues. Parents need to find ways to encourage their kids to find interests, passions, hopefully, that happen outside themselves so that they can grow and flourish from within. This is where true beauty lies. Fortunate people are born with a calling, pursue it and live purposeful, productive lives. I know that this is where true fulfillment and happiness live.
I have never been a happy, happy person. My upbringing was rocky with a perfectionist, critical mother and an alcoholic, melancholic dad. Despite, I knew they loved me and boy, did I love them. All I wanted was for them to be happy and for mom to speak to dad. It was tough. When I became a teenager, all thoughts turned to “boys.” My parents did not care about how lousy a student I was. I was definitely ADD but that was not yet a thing. College was not discussed. I was very immature. My older brother, who did have a calling and pursued it, told my parents that girls now *had* to go to college. Since he was their idol, I went to college. Again, the immaturity – I was not ready for college, never studied and basically just enjoyed living in the dorm and socializing. I am glad that I went though because, for the first time, I was noticed, even among 30k others,by guys who were smart, cute, motivated, some even with “callings.” That did help boost my very low self-esteem.
After graduation, I became an elem school teacher, like so many others. I was basically forced into teaching, but I liked it at first. And, it was yet another source of self-confidence, I actually felt like I was respected for the first time in my life. I went on to work for IBM and HP. Though the greed and Old Boys Network sickened me, I loved working for these companies. I still had a lot to learn about how to conduct myself in the “adult world.” I met a guy at IBM, we married and had a daughter. I didn’t want kids and neither did he, but boy, did we adore her. I tried my best to raise her with confidence, praise, encouragement, as a feminist, etc., and she has done well, but though we were very close, she did do the teenage rebellion thing and quite fiercely. Once she was in her early 20’s, our good relationship returned. However, when she turned 25, she began to act strangely around me and I found out that she thought I was pretty much a loser with no self-esteem, no confidence in my decisions, I allowed my anxiety issues to affect my life (yes, that has been a real “joy”to live with since age 21), etc. Today, I am still not comfortable with her and feel like a loser in her presence. It’s exhausting. I have to hope that this is a 2nd adolescence and that she will change back one day. I just don’t know. It makes me feel like I really was not a good mother at all. “She saw thru me” kind of thing.
Through the years, my work became my oasis. There, I had purpose, I was productive, I had some friends, definitely found comfort in the presence of others going through the same things in life. When both my parents died, I went to the office to work after the funerals, both on weekends when it was quiet and I was all alone. It was my safe place where I felt best about who I was and what I could do. I could focus on other than bad feelings and my constant feelings of failure as a person.
Once I was booted in an ugly way from my HP job in 2010, set up mercilessly for failure in 2008, age-related, I did find other jobs, but they were pretty horrendous. After almost 20 years, I had become a mentor of sorts at HP, felt pretty good about myself finally. I still had so much to give, more energy than most of my co-workers and had finally learned how to behave in the corporate world! I fought so hard to stay, so hard. In these new jobs, I was a newbie at 60+! And everyone was younger, much younger. I began to notice the lack of connection with others. Let me say here, I like being around people and am outgoing, but have never needed a robust social life. Always liked one on one relationships with a few good friends. Needed alone time very desperately.
Until age 67, I looked much younger and did not yet feel invisible! One day I woke up with crow’s feet, age puckers between my eyes, crinkly chin and wrinkled neck! My very fine hair began to shed. I also found out I had Lynch disease, a cancer syndrome. And here I was, a cancer-phobe who freaked over health issues in general, (a definite trigger for that lifelong paralyzing anxiety). I was old.
An avid exerciser since my 20’s has held me together emotionally and physically. I can’t do what I once did and now have found out I have osteoporosis of the lumbar spine, so that of course, impacts what I can do working out as well as everyday activities.
I stopped working in 2014. I was with a small firm and the owner was quite mad. That was fine with me, as believe it or not, I have a very upbeat and quirky sense of humor. However, when his political beliefs became an every day rant, I had to leave.
Since then I have done all I can think of to do to be *purposeful.* It has taken years for me to find a few things I enjoy that I do each week. I believe that I could still work full time, but if you don’t use it, you lose it. And I have lost the desire really to work at all. I don’t want someone to tell me what to do anymore. I did so for many decades at much lower pay than men or obnoxiously aggressive women.
When I was young, I had issues but I had HOPE. I saw life as a lovely upward path, paved with stones and flowers. Today I see nothing but sickness and pain and the end of life for myself and people I love. Some days I feel almost human, and I do feel better when around people, but I can’t do late evenings anymore *with* people, only by myself. I do enjoy those couple of hours before bedtime when I almost feel like my old self. I am unable to stop thinking about the reality of being a short timer and I find it terrifying.
Sorry this is not a happy story. I wish I could live each day in a mindful way. I’ve tried classes in mindfulness, meditation, been in therapy all my life. Nothing works. I used to have moments of such great joy and happiness, it’s not possible to describe, even in my earlier 60’s. Now, sometimes when I work out, drink wine, hear certain songs (I love music) or am inspired by the many people I know in their 70’s living vital lives, dealing with whatever comes their way, I do still feel a slight blip of joy, but it doesn’t last. When my looks and my job went away, my hope went with them. I would like to fulfill the one constant dream I’ve had since my first bouts of panic and anxiety in my early 20’s: Peace.
I know this is a negative bio, but I can be quite helpful to others and do have an upbeat nature at times. I hope I can learn to look at life in a healthier way through 70 Candles and also bring some of my better self to others. At least those feeling as I do will know they have a sister.