A book recommendation

Frances, Age 69

I recently moved (from one residence to another, in the same city). While I was packing up, I weeded out my books (again), and I came across “Necessary Losses” by Judith Viorst.

Some years ago, a friend had given it to me saying that it was a ‘must read’. However, all I knew about Mrs. Viorst was that she was a columnist for some women’s magazines — that alone was enough to turn me off. Additionally, the book was written in 1986 — so how relevant could it possibly be, so many years later. However, instead of putting it in a box for the thrift shop, I put it in the box of books for my nightstand. Right after I moved — the first night in my new home, I opened the book at random and read Chap. 18. And I cried. Then I read another chapter at random — and I cried some more.

I wish I’d had this book in my 20s — except it wasn’t even written then 🙂 — and I probably would not have understood it in my 20s. However, by my mid-40s, I would have understood a lot of it. Now that I’m almost 70 — I understand all of it (I think). Too bad. My life might not have been much easier if I had read this in my mid-40s — I mean, events in my life would have unfolded as they did and were going to — but mentally, emotionally and even spiritually, I would not have so ‘tempest tossed’.

This is a great book for us. Stop whatever you’re doing, go to Amazon, and order a used copy. When I start my 70Candles group in the fall, this is the first book we’re going to read and discuss.

I’ve been saying for years that we’re looking at old age completely wrongly, but I’ve never been articulate enough to explain exactly why. This book explains very well why we have been seeing old age incorrectly without directly saying so.

Just for the record, this is not a ‘pop psychology’ book nor is this a ‘clinical’ book and unreadable. Ms. Viorst, who is now 87, spent 6 years at Freudian-based Washington Psychoanalytic Institute (don’t let that scare you), and the notes in the back of the book are voluminous. It is a very well-written and well-documented book.

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16 Responses to A book recommendation

  1. Joe says:

    Hi Frances!
    How do you ‘look at old age’ now after you have read this book?
    Please advise.

    Joe W.

    • Fran says:

      You REALLY don’t want to get me started. I often write too-long posts.

      So I’ll do it in segments. Or — I think my e-mail address is under the 70 Candles Book Groups or Gatherings tab. We could e-mail back and forth.

      First of all, I think retirement is different for men than it is for women. It is much harder on men than it is on women. Without doing into a lot of detail, I worked, for 30 years, with A LOT (125+) of men and a lot (125+) of women — the majority were the same men and women for all those years. When the men retired, they (at least 50%) wanted to come back to work — at least PT — within 12-24 months of their last day of work. I think the other 50% wanted to come back (at least some of them) but their wives wouldn’t let them. The women — married or single — never wanted to come back (or at least they kept it secret). I carried warm memories of work for years — we were like family, and I liked my job. If I could have continued to work PT after retirement — I might have. In any case, I truly never really had any deep desire to go back. My ex-BF, who is now 82, was forced to retire almost 10 years ago, and he STILL hasn’t adjusted to retirement.

      Retirement is hard on men. If you ask a woman to tell you a little about herself, she will (if she is married and/or a mother) start out by telling you about her kids and/or at least saying that she is married and a mother. If you ask a man the same question, he will start out with what he does for a living. Work is how he defines himself. If he likes his job/career, it is his No. 1 reason for living. It’s a little different with our adult children. It is a lot different with our grandchildren. And it will be VERY different with our great-grandchildren. Work is something they do (and hopefully enjoy) to support themselves — family and friends are much more important to them. (Remember — I am speaking only in generalities.)

    • Fran says:

      The book is for men too! 🙂

    • Fran says:

      My view of old age did not change after reading this book. The only thing that changed was that I have stopped being somewhat embarrassed by my view of old age, because my view is such an unpopular view and goes against the general view we old ones have. //// We spend a lot of time and money on trying to look young. We try to act young. We try to dress younger. We get plastic surgery and/or facial peels. We don’t want society to think of us as old. BUT — WE RE OLD, and that is absolutely nothing to be ashamed about. What I find ridiculous — and sad — is that we spend all this time and money so that others will think that we are younger than we are — WE OURSELVES refuse to accept that WE ARE OLD. We don’t want society to think of us and old age as something shameful — and yet we ourselves think of ourselves and old age as something shameful. If we’re not proud of ourselves in older age — just as we are — if we waste time and money to look ‘young’ (we do that, of course, to not look ‘old’), how do we expect society to respect us/old age?? I’m not saying that we should dress in bad clothes and not wear makeup and not get our hair done or not go dancing — if we want to start a business, we should do so — but we should dress and act appropriately. WE ARE OLD, and we should be proud of that fact. Until we respect ourselves in our old age, no one else is going to either.

  2. Nancy says:

    I also recommend this book..read and reread through the years!

    • Fran says:

      I can’t believe it sat in my bookcase FOR YEARS. And just for the record: I don’t go crazy over books like this — and I love this one. I’ll be reading it off and on until the day I die.

      Who would have believed she could write such a great — and readable — book. Who would believe she spent six years studying at The Washington Analytic Institute? I had always thought she was just a columnist for women’s magazines.

  3. Linda Yeager says:

    Viorst is 87?!!! Wow. Time passes. I remember her for her children’s books. Particularly Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Somewhere in my boxes of books I have Necessary Losses. I’ll try to find it and give it a read on your recommendation. I’m 71. An artist, organic farmer, widow remarried. I’ve also recently had an epiphany about balancing the good and bad in my life a bit better. I haven’t bought into the need to look a certain something for many years thank god!

  4. Lesli says:

    Very interesting!

  5. Ruby in Manhattan says:

    Getting old sure beats dying young. We need to own our histories, embraced adapt to the changes, if not turn them into fabulous new opportunities. Since I joined The Radical Age Group, my consciousness has been raised about the issue of ageism and how we can live our best lives.

  6. Blog Mavens says:

    Thank you for sharing the link to the Radical Age Movement!
    The YouTube video interview there is well worth one’s time.
    I hope everyone will view it and share their reactions.

    I was intrigued, as the topics discussed reflected conversations that took place at our 70Candles! gatherings. These issues matter to all of us!

    • Fran says:

      I’ve watched the video twice in the past 12 hours. I can’t do it again.

      It seems that what the founders of this movement want is what we all want, no matter what our age, all around the world: to not be invisible, to be paid attention to, to be valued, to have enough money, to have decent housing, to have the workforce open to them. I can’t remember if they mentioned it, but we should all have GOOD medical care (unfortunately, compared to other First World countries, medical care in The US, in general, is pretty bad.)

      Just a very few years ago, Elizabeth Warren said that everyone in The US, including retirees who no longer work, should be paid a livable wage, which, at the time, she said was $22.50/hr. Based on the research I did re her statement, she was pretty spot on. That — $22.50/hr. — absolutely should be minimum wage. And The US could do this, rather easily, if it weren’t pouring money into military defense and if the corporations/rich were taxed appropriately.

      Ok, back to old age. Here are some facts — and they are sobering — and they should be sobering — most of us live in huge denial.

      According to Medicare/Medicaid, at least 50% of the people who turn 65 each and every day — they are no longer working due to illness and/or injury, and the vast majority of them will never be able to work again. (One of the reasons why raising the age to quality for SS is so ridiculous.) Secondly, of all the people who were born 80 years ago today (today — April 10, 2018) 93% of the males are already dead. Of the 7% who are still alive, 50% of them are living in nursing homes, assisted living homes or with relatives because they can no longer live and function on their own. 85% of the females are already dead. Of the 15% still alive, half of them are living in nursing homes, assisted living homes or with relatives because they can no longer live and function on their own. Of the 7.5% (give to take) who can still live on their own at age 80, by the time they are 85, 50% of them will need assistance with daily tasks, such as getting up in the morning, bathing, dressing, meal preparation, housework, etc.

      Anne, who posted earlier, is a huge anomaly. She married a man much younger than herself. She is still working out at the gym. She is still volunteering. But at age 77, Anne IS NOT at all ‘the norm’.

      A little ‘aside’ here: in the past few years, legislation has been introduced to state government in a number of states (it’s been introduced twice in my state) which would mandate that anyone 70 and over would have to have an in-car driving test every single year from then on. It has always failed for a number of reasons, which I won’t enumerate here. My point is this: Almost 100% of us should not be driving after age 72. We don’t have the reflexes/reaction timing to avoid a potential accident. There is a reason our auto insurance goes up so much every year after age 65: the 65+ age group is the second largest group, after the 16-24 year olds, that have auto accidents (and that is true even though we tend to drive much less than 16- to 24-year-olds). Another little aside: I recently had a neighbor who got his doctorate at Princeton and taught at colleges and universities all his life. He was sharp as a tack at 90. However, he couldn’t get a DL (because he couldn’t pass the in-car test), and, consequently, he couldn’t get auto insurance — but he drove anyway — and he thought it was VERY humorous that he was still driving without a DL and auto insurance. He was on oxygen and he needed a walker to walk — but, no matter what, this guy was going to keep driving. Well, he finally fell and broke his hip, and he’s now in assisted living (where he will be until he dies).

      More later.

      • Bebe says:

        Is there any way you can relay the Medicare/Medicaid link that your statistics above were derived. I’d like to see more on that regarding other ages.

  7. Fran says:

    Before I go back to bed:

    In the past year or so, I’ve been going around to the different churches in my city, to find out what they offer to their 65+ members. I’ve spoken with parishioners, church receptionists/secretaries, and some pastors, mostly in person but some by phone.

    My city is fairly large, and only two churches in my city offer anything for seniors. One is The Unitarian Church (which has a thriving, active senior citizens group, which has been going on for 16 years now), and the other is a Big Box church which offers some things for seniors.

    The rest of the churches offer nothing.

    There is one mainstream liturgical church in my city that has a web site that lists all the groups and activities that it offers to seniors — except none of those groups and activities are active. And when I spoke to the 65+ woman lay leader who heads up the group, somewhere in the conversation, she said (and I quote exactly): “The old and elderly are an endless pit of need.” I thought my hearing was bad, so I asked her to repeat what she had said — and she did!

    My goal (and I am working on it steadily) is to get The Roman Catholic Archdiocese in my state to do SOMETHING for its 65+ members. ANYTHING. The Roman Catholic members of the RC parishes do most of the volunteering at their parishes — and they get NOTHING in return.

    If we are invisible to even our churches, we are in even deeper S than we know.

    The reason I decided to focus on The RC Archdiocese is because, in my state, it is the largest presence after state and local government(s). If The RC Church gets on board in my state, other churches will follow. HOWEVER, two of the largest dioceses in The US — NY and Boston — don’t have anything for seniors either!

    Just for the record: my city is Paradise for Old People. My city offers TONS of stuff (like free breakfast and lunch, Monday through Friday — and that is just ONE thing among many) to its 60+ (yup, 60+, but it doesn’t get real good until we are 65+). I spent a lot of time researching every state and every major city in every state, in depth, and none even begin to offer what my city offers. We have bad medical care (in general), but we have everything else we need. So if you want a good life, courtesy of local city government, particularly if you are poor, move to my city. 🙂

  8. Fran says:

    In my city, there are four older men who offered computer classes. They are aged 76, 78, 82, and 83. They all worked together, in very prestigious positions, at a very prestigious place, and they all retired around the same time. While they are overweight, none of them are fat, and none of them have any major health problems (they said, and I tend to believe them).

    However, not one of them should be driving. Oh, that reminds me: I just moved into a new 55+ place (my third in the past 10 years). The couple in the parking spot next to mine: she is 82, and he is 86 — and he can barely walk — and they just bought a brand-new SUV! Talk about denial. Anyway~

    The 76- and the 78-year-old no longer teach classes. They just monitor the computer lab three mornings a week. They say they can’t handle teaching anymore. The 82- and 83-year old — they are teaching but they are driving me crazy. Each class (each class is a set of four classes) is 2.5 hours long. First of all, they are so slow that each class could easily be just 1-hour long. Secondly, if you ask a question, they get flustered. Thirdly, the students (all 65+ and mostly single/divorced/widowed women) slow the class way down because there are a few who just can’t get enough attention and because they flirt with the instructors.

    If I were an employer, I wouldn’t hire any one of these four guys to fill any position in my company. And these guys are the sharper ones of their age group.

    Sounds like I don’t like them? I adore them. They are the nicest guys in the world, and they volunteer their services — none of them get paid — AND what they do is very important because, although it is changing, most seniors don’t know how to operate a computer.

  9. Fran says:

    This is the last.

    Poverty, invisibility, etc., are related but they are still also separate issues.

    First and foremost, no one in The US should be living in poverty. No one. Also, everyone should live in decent housing. Thirdly, everyone should have good medical care. (These issues are not just senior’s issues.) I have no idea how those problems are going to be fixed. (For seniors, it’s not like we can strike or get in the streets and protest.) What I do know is this: if you think we seniors have financial problems now, it’s only going to get worse and in the near future.

    IF seniors had enough money, decent housing and good medical care, PERHAPS they would not be so anxious to work. As someone said, not all that long ago, in AARP (who I am not a big fan of): “Self care takes time, and the older we get, the more time it takes.” I know that, at my age, could not take good and proper care of myself if I were working FT — or even PT. And according to government stats, most of us 65 and over can’t work anyway.

    As for being ‘invisible’ — we can’t command visibility from our society. What we can command is respect wherever we go. Not all that long ago, when I would go out, I would just take others’ disrespect. I won’t take it anymore. I speak up. My favorite one is: “I’m old. I’m not demented. Don’t speak to me like that.”

    My question is: why do we have to be ‘visible’ to society? By ‘visible’, I mean: why do we need others to notice us, to stand up and applaud us? Who the H cares if they do or not? For example: the head of my college’s philosophy department finally retired at age 70. He said he just couldn’t do it anymore. During the following 14 years, until he died, he read, wrote books, tended to his garden and paid attention to his grandchildren and did a very little guest lecturing. He was the most peaceful and content older person I’ve ever known. (BUT, granted, he had more than enough money, he lived in quite decent housing, and he had good medical care.)

    No matter what we do or don’t do, as we are, our eyes will get dimmer, our strength and stamina will wane with each passing year. Sooner or later, unless we die in our sleep relatively young or die in an accident, we will develop health issues and then major health issues. And then we will die. There is NOTHING we can do to stop the progression, which becomes more and more rapid as the years go by, to the end of life.

    Instead of getting up in the morning and thinking about all the things we can no longer do, thinking about how invisible we are to society, thinking about all that we no longer have, we could get up in the morning and ask ourselves what we can do that day to make someone else’s life a little better and how we are going to take better care of ourselves for just that one day.

    As for those of us who are truly poor — who don’t have enough food, who can’t pay their utility bills (and there are a lot out there who can’t), who don’t have transportation to their doctor(s) — I know what it is like to be very poor. I’ve also been homeless (and then through a quirk of fate — not The Lottery — I had more than enough money). I KNOW how desperate and lonely and sick that poverty can make us. But I’m not sure what we ourselves can do about it. What we need is the generation just below us and the generation below that — our middle-aged and our young — to advocate for us. I’d say “our adult children and adult grandchildren” but a lot of us are estranged from our families OR our families are too busy to help us much (and, in this day and age, they really are very busy). If nothing else, we need the healthiest (and also the wealthiest) among us to advocate for us. And to me, that means writing our congress persons — and writing and writing and writing — frequently. And writing anyone else we know is in a position to help us. Writing Letters to The Editor of our local newspapers.

    I’ve got news for you: it’s not that we are all that invisible — it’s that our government doesn’t care about us. We don’t work FT and so we can’t continue to make the rich richer. We (most of us) don’t pay that much in taxes. If we were properly taken care of, we would be a drain on the federal budget. And no matter what happens — we’re going to die soon. So why in the H should our government care about us?

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