Not especially enjoying life

Susan, Age 71


My husband was diagnosed with degerative spinal stenosis 14 years ago. Previous to that we had 15 years of health and financial difficulties after moving to North Carolina. His disease has definitely gotten worse with each year. The past eight years he has been unable to work part time, to go out of town, to walk any distance, and he’s in pain 24/7. In addition our 35-year-old son still lives with us and he also has mental and physical problems.

We had decided to move back to the West Coast before my husband was diagnosed and we followed through on that plan 14 years ago. We live in a two bedroom apartment which is a challenge for three adults. We do not go out to dinner, we do not go to movies or vacations. I try to get out on my own as much as possible but I really find it difficult after having a partner for 40+ years, to do this by myself.

I am really writing just to let others know that there are some of us in our later years that are not especially enjoying life. I am not asking for sympathy or empathy, but just to have people realize how fortunate they are to be able to still enjoy life. My advice, don’t waste a minute worrying about the smaller things.

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16 Responses to Not especially enjoying life

  1. Sharon says:

    Thanks for sharing and speaking for the silent suffering majority for whom the picnic is generally over. We are stronger than we feel. May you find comfort and peace and a measure of happiness as you continue to deal with multiple challenges. Big hugs for you and your family…

  2. Bob Coulson says:


    Thanks for the reminder to have an attitude of gratitude for life, hard or easy. I am inspired by your resilience and strength. I would also like to encourage you “to live your best life” even under these trying circumstances and challenges. I see you did not say you were not open to potential helpful resources so I am suggesting these I have found supportive, just in case you were not aware of them.

    1. A Certified Senior Adviser (CSA) “age-ing specialists” may be able to sort out potential resources and options. They can be located at the Society of Certified Senior Advisers.

    A CSA may be able to guide yo to resources you are entitled to or eligible for but were not aware of to include caregiver supports.

    2. A local Wisdom Circle may be helpful in supportive, positive age-ing.
    Check the website the Sage-ing International organization.

    You are a strong person and have reached out to strengthen others with your email. May your outreach effort be blessed by others and may you use your outreach strengths to build the better reality you seek. There are many seniors with chronic health issues, you are not alone. Connect with others and it will be an additional strength for your journey. Keep reaching out and may you be blessed in doing so.

  3. Fran says:

    This is somewhat synchronistic because, well, because I’ve been thinking about this for a long time, and yesterday I decided that as soon as I have time, I’m going to write Jane and Ellen about this.

    My posts are always way too long, so I’m going to try to cut to the chase.

    Medicare/Medicaid stats states that 50% of the 10,000 people who turn 65 every day are already not working due to illness and/or injury, and the vast majority of them will never work again. My own personal experience of the past 13 years (I’m 69 now) is that is true. Plus, there is no one 65+ who I have met and known (and even befriended some) over the past 13 years who do not have some major problem. Wife is sick/disabled. Husband is sick/disabled. Married couples with financial problems (usually due to not enough money). Single/divorced/widowed retirees with who simply cannot make basic ends meet. Widows and widowers who were happily married and now simply can’t function very well without their spouses AND are having major financial problems now that they are alone. However, the news and the internet — and organizations like AARP — make it seem like there is something wrong with us if (in retirement) we’re not starting a business, writing a book, climbing Mt. Everest, traveling all over the world, and/or gathering many “Volunteer of The Year” awards (from whatever organization). Poor us who are not doing any of those things — because we’re not doing those things ONLY because we are depressed and don’t know how to enjoy life. And definitely no one talks about the high percentage of retirees — married, widowed, single, divorced — who commit suicide at a relatively younger old age.

    I don’t know anyone who is not carrying a heavy burden. I was just speaking with a neighbor just yesterday — one I have never known well. She lost one of her adult children to illness 5 years ago. Her second adult child — a son who suffered a major injury in HS football — he is 40 and mentally and physically disabled. Yesterday the doctor told her and her husband that this child is going to die in the next 2-3 years. I cried with her.

    So, Susan, everyone I know 65+ and have known is — and has been — carrying at least one heavy burden and often more. You are not alone. I hope you find some comfort in knowing that.

    As for getting out — there are a lot of people who attend a church or a synagogue just for the social side of it. So go to church — find a GF who is also loves going out — and get out as much as you can. Check with your city’s department of senior affairs (all big cities have one, altho’ the name can be somewhat different) and look into respite care. Often someone, who is reputable and trained, will come into your home (often times for free or for a small fee — this is quite different from home care businesses). In fact, see if your city has one (or more) senior centers and go see what they are like. My city has 7 or 8 — and these centers offer everything. Physical fitness centers. Meals (no one has to pay for breakfast or lunch) — great meals. Drama classes. Language classes. Last year one of them offered Beginning Arabic! 🙂 Fiber arts groups. Computer classes.
    All-day trips, by van, all over my state. So, by all means, contact your department of aging and see everything that it offers. (If you’re in CA — where I lived almost all my adult life — CA cities don’t appear to offer much of anything to seniors — but call anyway.)

    And if you ever just want to talk, let me know. There has to be someway we can hook up via e-mail.

    And I bet this is way too long. Well, I’m not going to look! LOLOLOLOL

    • Sandi says:

      May I ask where in California? How would anyone get together via email through these posts?
      Thank you

      • Blog Mavens says:

        There’s a list of emails of contact people in various cities on our Gatherings page. Find it on the right side of the top bar, above. Check to see if anyone lives near you.

        If not, you can add your name if you would like to be a contact person in your area.

      • Fran says:

        Sandi, I’m not in CA anymore. After 57 years in CA, I retired and moved to New Mexico. If you’re in CA, you would have a hard time attending my group (the group I hope to set up soon). 🙂 But I’ll see if I can follow the instructions below and get my e-mail address on the list.

        I think — I may be wrong — in that men have an easier time in retirement than women ONLY because men don’t expect to be happy in retirement. I was just speaking with five older men who were hired, around the same time, at one of our nuclear labs here in NM. They worked together until retirement, became friends during the work years outside work, their kids grew up together, and they all retired around the same time. We were discussing their adjustment to retirement and how they were doing now 10-15 years later. It was interesting to me that they all wished they were younger and still working (at the work place and jobs they loved so much), but life is life, and although growing old has been difficult, they rather expected it would be. So although they’re not ‘happy’, they’re not at all miserable either. Oh, I forgot to mention: some years into retirement, they started their home-based business, setting up and repairing home computers, AND teaching basic computing to older people. Since they charge so little, they’re not getting rich, but they’re always busy. (I’d like to speak with their wives. 🙂 ]

      • Fran says:

        Oh, I am already listed.

        I wish there was a way on 70 Candles to ‘edit’ our posts.

  4. Fran says:

    Yes, it’s way too long. Oh well. Sigh. And I forgot to tell you to try Meetups in your city or surrounding cities. There are like coffee groups and lunch groups were people just hang out with each other.

    Ok, now I’m done.

  5. Pat says:

    Yes, I just turned 70 in October, and most of my friends are all within a year or two of that big number.
    And each one of us say to each other..”I never gave any thought to what my life would be like at 70, but I am pretty sure this isn’t what I was expecting”
    I also have little money, a loveless marriage, a house that is falling down. Old cars that break way too often. However, I am blessed with 3 grown children who live nearby. I really would like a partner…even though I am married, I have no support system. When I found out my one son was diagnosed with MS, I drove around crying, with no where to go for comfort..the last person I would go to was my husband, who I knew would make me feel worse. On Facebook, I see all my high school friends traveling the world, their homes big and glorious, I have plywood kitchen floors..Are they happy? 70, almost done with life, and I wish I could “live” just a little more.

    • Fran says:

      Pat, I am so sorry about your son. I lost my only daughter to mental illness, after 14 really bad years. Her father and I were divorced at the time, but he was no help whatsoever. My mother refused to believe that my daughter was mentally ill. My sister was off somewhere and uncommunicative. I know what it’s like. My cousin died of MS — but that was decades ago. So much progress has been made with medications for MS. I hope your son is one of the ones who does well with his illness. And as for your HS friends — they are making their lives much better than they are — or they are lying. Life is often hard and painful. It can often be worse in older age. No one escapes real life. No one. I have three GRADE school friends — one I’ve known since kindergarten. Their lives seem great on FB — but I’ve renewed my friendship with two of them, we’ve talked, and their lives are not nearly as rosy as they seem on FB. I’m not happy that they aren’t as happy as they have portrayed on social media. I’m simply saying what I’ve said before: life is often difficult and painful. THAT is reality.

  6. Diana says:

    Susan, your post obviously resonated with us. Sometimes life sucks. Many of us are loathe to admit that.

    Perhaps one of the problems of the ‘facebook age’ is our tendency to try to make our lives sound more enviable than they are. (If I hear one more old lady claim that she doesn’t look her age, I’ll barf!)

    I won’t offer false comfort.

    The only constant is change. I hope that the changes that the future brings help you find the peace that eludes you now.

  7. Pat says:

    Susan –
    I hope things get better for you and your family. Maybe someone on this forum will show you a new path that will make a great positive difference in your lives.
    I regret that I don’t have anything to offer.

  8. Ellen says:

    When Jane and I started this blog, I think it was in 2010, we envisioned a few contributions from women celebrating their 70’s. It’s turned into something so much more. We’ve now received well over 1,000 submissions from all over the world, and every post I read gives me a deeper sense of life as it is. Susan, thank you for being real, and thank you for the kind and inspirational responses. I am awed.

  9. Roseann Cervelli says:

    Dear Susan,
    I read your post and it has stayed with me in my heart for many days. I was trying to think about what I could write to bring a measure of comfort, when there is so much pain and heartache, when life is so unexplainably difficult.
    Have you read any of the work on Self- Compassion by Kristen Neff and others?
    This is a most beautiful philosophy, which teaches us to truly love ourselves and others, as we are, in the moment, without judgement…and with tremendous love and caring…You have endured so much in your lifetime…May you find a measure of Peace from your own Courage and Perseverance…May you find warm and loving comfort within you for all the care you have given to those you love- your husband, your son…so selflessly for love of them…May you find a sense of humble pride in the fact that you have stayed the course and -despite all these many difficulties and heartbreaks- have remain committed to all the promises you have made from the depths of your Heart and Soul.
    Life is such a mystery…So many stories live within us all…So many paths…One thing I have learned on my spiritual journey is to not compare my journey with another’s…We are each so unique, and we all have unique missions to live, unique promises to keep. When I see no outer rewards for my efforts, or when my ego pops up unexpectedly to complain that life is unfair and so on, I have learned to look within for my “rewards and treasures.” Sometimes the Journey is about developing Inner Gifts of Heart, Mind and Soul…We all need to give ourselves well-earned and well-deserved Compassion and Love for jobs well done. We need to give ourselves gentle and loving pats on the back for being such good people!
    You are so right in saying not to worry about the small things and that we should be thankful for enjoying life. When things are hard, I do try to find the joy in the little things- its amazing how when we hold up a magnifying glass to small things, how big and wonderful they can become. I find real joy and am truly thankful for the yummy english muffin I have each morning with butter and strawberry jam…And real moments of happiness can come to me when I take photographs and make pretty note cards with them and give them away as gifts, so that others can send them forth…For me I find that nurturing myself with little things helps me when big things cause pain and suffering.

    The work on Self-Compassion has helped me so much. It is a spiritual and very gentle and meaningful practice for every day life- it is not pity at all…It’s being able to treat ourselves with the same loving care and kindness that we are so often able to give to others, but which we seem to deny ourselves. We each need to remember what really Good Ladies and Gentlemen we are, and how great a difference our Love and Kindness, and yes, often Sacrifice, has made to those we love and care for, how great an impact our love has had in ways big and small and sometimes, in ways that we may never know or see. We cast the pebble in the pond and the ripples truly go forth farther than we know…

    May you have peace, Dear Susan… May you and your loved ones be safe and healthy…May you and all you love be free from suffering…May you be happy…And may you know how precious your life is, and how much you matter to all you have touched with your Love and Dedication…
    One day at a time, sometimes, one moment at a time…It is so good to know we are not alone…

  10. Jeanne says:

    Sad. I believe that you need to develop a spiritual life.

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