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- 70 from other perspectives: looking forward and looking back
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To all our 70Candles! Friends,
Our thoughts are with you this holiday season as we send warm wishes for your best health, well-being and fulfillment in the New Year ahead.
As the world continues to spin precariously out of control, let’s hope we edge closer to civility and peace on this earth.
We thank you for enriching our 70Candles! family.
Jane and Ellen
Jane & Ellen,
I’m writing because I’m curious about what you think has changed in the almost 10 years since you turned 70. Even though there’s no fixed lines in the sand for some of these trends, it seems the 70Candles audience were among the first cohort of women who had worked and retired from a career or paid employment in a large number.
I’m turning 69 this week and as I approach the 70’s, the eighth decade, I’m wondering what might have changed, or what looking back from the eighties, women might have done differently. By my calculation, the first wave of Baby Boomer women reaching 70 started a couple of years ago.
I’m still working full-time and I enjoy my work. If I’m given the opportunity to keep working in my current position, I likely will. From what I’ve read of the 70Candles book, it seems a few of the women in your audience did retire and then went back to work, often by desire sometimes by necessity.
I’ve read ’70Candles’ and am curious about whether the situation or perspectives of women, including yourselves, have changed in the almost 10 years since you started the blog and research.
As you look back to the beginning of your 70’s are there opportunities or challenges you think might be different for me, women from the Baby Boomer generation retiring? I try to look back 10 years and it’s pretty hard to get a feel for what I think might be different about turning 60 today and then sort of extrapolate going forward into the next decade.
I suspect the number of women turning 60 while in the workforce is larger today than even 10 years ago. I’m also guessing the number of women who find themselves single in their sixties, either by choice or fate, is growing as a percentage of the overall total.
I’d appreciate any opinions you have to share regarding what to expect. I have an intention to live as ably and well as possible until I reach 100. There don’t seem to be many well-worn patterns to follow.
Longevity Explorer & Guide
Aging is Living
A very interesting question from Ann Fox. Maybe we can all think about this and add our perspectives.
Jane and Ellen
Barb, Age 71
Looking at many web sites re women and aging. Just found yours. Maybe some insight will follow.
My story is probably similar to some. Born the first of 3 children in 1947. I was the pretty child. Not the sharpest in the box but attractiveness was important to my Mom and her family. Became a registered nurse, married the love of my life and had 2 sons. Stayed home for 6 years when my boys were babies and then went back to nursing. Started taking Intensive Care and Cardiac care courses so that I could work in ICU/CCU. Eventually became a permanent charge nurse in ICU. Enjoyed my job. Loved being a Mom and wife. Very involved with my boys, their hockey, their school, cubs etc. Also took extra courses for work. Constantly upgrading my skills and knowledge.
Long story short, my husband died at 55 from cancer, boys grew up, married, have children. Two years later, severely damaged my spine downhill skiing and could no longer work. Remarried 3 years later. And then went through a horrid breakdown. Thought that my life was over as my career was over, my boys were raised and really did not need me, and my first husband was gone. My reasons for living were gone. And, I had completed my goals of getting married, having children, being a nurse. I was done and why was I still here?
I turned 71 this year. Some days are difficult but I have had a lot of help mentally and physically. Feeling lost, drifting, the invisible senior does get to me some days. I attempt to golf, yoga, walking, beading, sewing, reading. Active with my grandchildren. Love them unconditionally. But no longer queen bee as their parents are, especially Moms. It should be that way. Maybe a daughter would have made it easier.
Always looking for a purpose, something meaningful. My current husband has been ill off and on since marriage. He has cancer and heart issues.
Sorry if this sounds like a downer but looking for answers, opinions and ideas.
On Becoming An Icon
Sherrill Pool Elizondo
I finally googled “older invisible woman” to see if this phenomenon is actually real or not. Sometimes I get down about no longer being 40 or 50 (30 anyone?) Time speeds by after a certain age. The invisible feeling started when my oldest son turned 40 and, when he recently turned 45, I was sure that as
I approached 70 I would either have to fight this feeling or accept it. I’m not a good candidate for accepting what society thinks one way or the other on many subjects and aging (gracefully or not) is one of them. I never imagined that one day someone might consider me an icon at this stage of my life.
For years I kicked myself for not fulfilling my potential. I did not feel successful and I certainly was not iconic in any sense of the word. I looked more at negatives than positives of what I had accomplished. My generation opened up so much for women in the workplace and won freedoms that had been
denied previous generations but I was one of the women who chose to be a stay at home Mom. Again, nothing notable and nothing iconic. The choice came with certain sacrifices though there were many well educated women who made the same decision. We were the ones who put off fancy vacations, ski trips, the latest fashions, expensive cars, and would have rather swallowed nails than to take our children to day care. There, I said it. Remember THAT woman? We cooked every night, didn’t have maids, and ran our children and other people’s children to every imaginable school extracurricular activity. I DO take my hat off to the women who managed BOTH a career and did all of this! Extraordinary women indeed. There were those in the 1970’s and 80’s who pursued careers and others who ended up like me…home makers who stayed busy with family, friends, hobbies, and volunteered. We took our family responsibilities seriously above all else. Some eventually went back to work or school. Others did not. Some took on part time jobs like I did for several years as a substitute teacher.
When I volunteered for many years at a hospital and at an assisted living center is when I felt like I contributed to society. A skilled nursing floor of a hospital is not for everyone but I enjoyed the work immensely. The patients were terminal but I never saw much sadness or regret on that floor. For years I had worked in genealogy alone and with other researchers and made contributions to a book but decided that, since so many people fail to write the biographies and memories of the elderly, I would do this at an assistant living center. Every week for 5 years I interviewed residents. Sometimes this would last 2 hours and often I would return for another session. What beautiful people with incredible memories and unbelievable stories to tell. I took copious notes and another volunteer would type up the memories for the residents and their families as a gift book. Eventually I saw the narrowing gap in my age and the person who I was interviewing and realized that the 90-100 year old people I had talked with years earlier were eager to discuss their lives but, before I stopped interviewing, I found the younger ones were not as forthcoming with information plus I was getting depressed being around older people! It was time to move on.
I am a late bloomer or, at the least, spent many years putting my family first and allowed some of my interests to become stagnant. I started writing years ago and attended writers’ meetings hoping to some day be published but nothing came of that endeavor. A few years ago I opened a closet and found bags of stories with many beautifully written rejection slips. Some of the stories dated back to the 1970’s. I decided that some could be rewritten and needed a regional publication so I went online and found what I was looking for in a website/newsletter from a place where I had vacationed since childhood. I discovered other publications that accepted essays and, although I am still not a professional writer by any means, I am happy that certain editors finally did take notice. Still, there are days I wake up thinking I could have been so much more in life. I wondered if others were like me and were seeking the same recognition or sense of achievement that I craved. I have three good, well educated, and successful sons and several beautiful grandchildren who are remarkable in all they do…but me? Every day I throw off the covers in the morning so I don’t stay in bed and think too much about my faults or recent physical limitations or aging or what comes next on life’s journey! Becoming an icon in any form was not anywhere on the radar.
I have been physically active starting with my first dance class at the age of 5. I did not become a professional dancer or performer on stage in New York like I could have done but what I do is to continue to dance. Every morning I remember what a cousin said: “I hope you dance until you drop!” In my young adult years I attended ballet classes between and after the births of my children and later other danced based aerobics. For some, swimming, running, or other physical activities are a passion but for me it was always dance. I am elated that, after recent back problems when I was in physical therapy and receiving cortisone shots for several months, I finally returned to a jazzercise center where I exercise and socialize with many caring, accepting, and remarkable women from all walks of life and professions who see me as a contemporary and not as an older woman. I am NOT invisible there. This is a place where no judgements are made and where women receive hugs and encouragement. There are a few women my age and older and I heard there are those at another center who are over 80. The younger ones, though, have made me feel special and have told me that I am an inspiration. Maybe I don’t go into second classes as often as I used to or always do high impact or have managed to trim an expanding waistline…do I care? Yes, I certainly do but I try to remain positive. Doing a routine onstage to “Uptown Funk” on my 68th birthday helped my morale tremendously! The day that a manager looked me in the eye and told me that I was an icon at our jazzercise center was truly a blessed moment in my life. Was this some form of recognition or accomplishment? It is difficult getting there certain mornings but I have something to live up to now and, if the day comes that I have to enter the doors to the center with a cane or a walker, well so be it! I didn’t realize being an “icon” was such hard work but so much fun too.
On a couple of occasions I still hear someone call me “Mama” with affection. I try not to cringe but rather take it as a compliment and try to smile through some of the heartbreak of what might have been. At least I have finally realized that I am so much more than a mother of three and grandmother of six. If the truth were known, sometimes when I am on the floor dancing my heart out I visualize my own stage Mom mother and my childhood dance teacher in my imaginary audience beyond the instructor and raised stage looking down on me with smiles. They would both be proud.
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An update just in from ChangingAging.org about Dr. Bill Thomas’ Minka project, launched on the campus of the University of Southern Indiana, in Evansville.
To see pictures and to view the video of Dr. Bill Thomas’ inspiring speech at the ribbon cutting ceremony at USI go to ChangingAging.org
Let us know what you think about multigenerational aging in communities. Is the MAGIC future possible? Would you like to live in a Minka home 🏡 in such a community? Are any of the currently planned sites near you? Is this an idea worth advocating for in your area? Is yours an age-friendly City?
Jane and Ellen
Minka MAGIC Homes and Communities
Nationally renowned aging expert Dr. Bill Thomas unveiled today the first-of-its-kind robotic prefabricated Minka house built on the University of Southern Indiana (USI) campus in less than a week featuring universal design accessibility and advanced manufacturing technology. The Minka will serve as a model house, simulation lab for USI students and a building block for creating age-friendly communities.
The USI Minka model house is the culmination of a year-long “MAGIC” (Multi-Ability, multi-Generational, Inclusive Community) pilot project supported by the USI Foundation and AARP that is kickstarting a cultural transformation related to aging and community design. It builds off Dr. Thomas’ near 30 years of innovation as founder of The Eden Alternative global non-profit, The Green House Project, Senior Emergency Room and ChangingAging.org.
“This Minka house represents history in the making,” said Dr. Ann White, dean of USI’s College of Nursing and Health Professions. “This exciting pilot project is bringing together a variety of academic disciplines on our campus to work with Dr. Thomas and our community in innovative ways. USI is proud to be a leader in exploring new approaches and solutions to the broader societal issues of aging and independent living for all people.”
Minka MAGIC Homes and Communities
Dr. Bill Thomas speaks at the USI MAGIC Minka ribbon cutting.
Minka, launched in 2017 by Dr. Thomas, is now working to design and build MAGIC communities with partners in Evansville, as well as in Clearfield, Penn., Loveland, Colo., Victoria, Texas and other communities. Minka’s prefabricated housing system was created in collaboration with Denmark-based AGJ Architects to develop a globally-affordable housing platform that can be adapted to meet the needs of people of different ages and abilities.
In Pennsylvania, a vacant elementary school and 23 acres of woodland purchased by the Clearfield County Area Agency on Aging (AAA) this month will be transformed into an intergenerational dementia-friendly community featuring Thomas’ Minka and the MAGIC model inviting people of all ages to live together.
The Clearfield AAA partnered with Dr. Thomas’ New York-based Minka and AJGA to develop the 60-home “Minka Village of Hope.” The development will include a mix of single family and multi-family Minka homes featuring smart home technology, universal design accessibility and will repurpose the schoolhouse into a mixed-use commercial and arts engagement center.
Minka MAGIC Homes and Communities
Draft site plan for the Village of Hope Minka village.
To create places where people living with dementia can thrive, Dr. Thomas says “we must build communities that embrace people of different ages and abilities, rather than putting them in institutions just because they are frail or forgetful.
“I spent decades fighting to make the long-term care system better and created innovative alternatives such as The Green House,” Thomas said. “But I’ve also learned that people want real communities, not facilities.”
The Girard Goshen Elementary School, closed since 2013, will be converted into a community center featuring a mix of retail, health services and local creative arts engagement programs designed with community participation to help reconnect people living with dementia to their community, said Clearfield County AAA director Katherine Gillespie.
“Our families are devastated by skyrocketing rates of Alzheimer’s disease because our communities quite frankly are not designed to include them and help them thrive,” said Clearfield County AAA director Kathleen Gillespie. “We’re partnering with Dr. Thomas to build the Village of Hope to give families hope that people living with dementia can participate and enjoy life when they live in a community that welcomes and includes them.”
Clearfield community stakeholders embraced an emphasis on arts engagement in the first of a series of MAGIC participatory design workshops led by Dr. Thomas’ team in August 2018.
“Each person lives with a unique set of physical and cognitive abilities, and every one of us needs to use those abilities to their fullest extent. The creative arts offer some amazing pathways for building relationships and communities,” said Thomas, who launched Minka after spending four years touring North America with a theatrical production called the ChangingAging Tour that has performed in 128 cities. Sponsored by AARP, the tour uses theatrical arts and participatory design to support age-friendly and dementia-friendly community development in the U.S. and Canada.
Both the USI MAGIC project and the Village of Hope draw on the Tour to support people of all ages and abilities to overcome the social stigma associated with aging or memory loss, said Minka director Kavan Peterson, who co-founded ChangingAging and leads its age- and dementia-friendly programs.
“For decades the only story we’ve heard about aging is one of loss, decline and despair,” Peterson said. “But there is a new story. It is a story of connection, expression, joy and growth. It is a story told by people living with dementia, by those who love them, and by people of all ages who want to live in diverse and welcoming communities.”
Here’s a useful message from the Parents of Grown Offspring (POGO) blog.
So many of us are dealing with downsizing and reducing the clutter of life’s possessions; and the task actually continues even after a major downsizing move has been accomplished.
How are you dealing with the downsizing challenge?
The Downsizing Dilemma, Part 2
In “The Downsizing Dilemma, Part 1,” we established the fact that our kids don’t want our stuff. That’s the why of getting rid of things. But even after we POGOs have accepted this painful truth, we’re still left with the how of it. All those decisions! All those fond memories! All those irrational attachments! I’m assuming you’re not a hoarder. . .are you? If you are, the American Psychiatric Association has cognitive-behavioral therapy and meds for you. But if you’re just a run-of-the-mill procrastinator like the rest of us, here’s what the experts advise:
Don’t even think about renting a storage unit
You’re just postponing the inevitable. Americans can rationalize keeping anything and apparently we do. In 1995 just one in 17 households rented a unit; now it’s one in 10. No wonder there are almost 50,000 self-storage facilities in this country, double the number of McDonald’s and Starbucks locations combined. Moreover, we shell out big bucks for these units; on average the popular 10’ X 10’ storage pod costs nearly $2,000 a year. According to Ann Gambrell, a professional organizer, “People end up spending money because they can’t make a decision.” If that sounds familiar, ask yourself:
Do I have to go it alone? A disinterested party (obviously not your spouse) can act as the voice of reason. Bribe a friend, bring in someone who arranges yard sales, or engage a certified appraiser. Also, think about hiring a teen to put all your loose photos into albums and/or do the heavy lifting.
Could I get another one easily? We all keep so many things because “We might need it someday.” But even if you ever do need it, which is doubtful, could you get it easily? Downsizer Smallin Kuper applies a 20/20 rule. “If you have a used possession that you could repurchase for $20 or less or borrow from a neighbor in 20 minutes or less, toss it,” she says.
How many do I really need? If you were living on a boat, would you use more than one cutting board, one sauté pan, and one comfy reading chair? Keep that nautical image in mind. The same applies to collections, where one fine cup could represent the whole of your mother’s old tea set, for example. If you photograph the rest, parting with it will be much easier.
Have I got room for it? Most of us vastly overestimate the capacity of our new, downsized space. One woman told me she was getting nowhere discarding furniture because every time she and her husband considered one of their pieces, he said breezily, “Oh, that will go into my new study.” “Right,” she thought to herself, “if it were the size of Versailles.” She finally had to bring in a space planner to bring him down to earth.
Could I resell or get a tax deduction for the castoffs? If the answer is yes, you might get a lot more excited about selling and donating. Many people do well on Craigslist, eBay, and other online resale sites, especially if they do their homework on how comparable items are priced. Other people use Close5 and letgo, apps that connect buyers and sellers who live near one another. And still others are comfortable with no-tech solutions, such as yard and estate sales. Giving away has its advantages, too. Tax deductions can become meaningful if you donate a substantial amount of goods to charitable organizations. The psychic rewards can be even more meaningful, because you’re helping the less fortunate today while saving your kids from the pain of sorting through your things tomorrow.
Nostalgia is not your friend
Many of us could part with a ratty old sofa without too much angst, and books and clothing aren’t too emotionally loaded, either, says organizing guru Marie Kondo. (Clearly, she’s never seen my electric blue Stuart Weitzman’s with the 4” stiletto heels.) But if you start reading just one old love letter, you’ll be lost on Memory Lane for hours. The same goes for photo albums. The solution to the latter is digitizing—which guarantees you’ll never look at those photos again.
Not so susceptible to digitizing are old scrapbooks. If you can’t part with the swizzle sticks from your senior prom or the cocktail napkins that say “Dawn’s Sweet 16,” don’t. Set aside these personal treasures in a half-way space. When you come back to them after getting rid of the easy stuff and they still, in Kondo’s phrase, “spark joy,” I say keep ‘em, even if the only place they can go is the sock drawer.
Downsizers will tell you that when you divest yourself of possessions, you feel liberated and free to focus on what’s really important, like your grown kids. But, hey, wasn’t your son supposed to retrieve that 15-year-old rusty bike he’s so sentimental about? And wasn’t your daughter going to take back the moldy cheerleader outfit she swears represents the apex of her life? They better hurry up; curbside pickup is only three days away. . . .
The Secret to Aging Well? Contentment
Despite having many friends in their 70s, 80s and 90s, I’ve been far too slow to realize that how we respond to aging is a choice made in the mind, not in the gym.
By Robert W. Goldfarb
From the online New York Times
Oct. 2, 2018
At 88, I remain a competitive runner, always sprinting the last hundred yards of a race to cross the finish line with nothing left to give. The finish line of my life is drawing close, and I hope to reach it having given the best of myself along the way. I’ve been training my body to meet the demands of this final stretch. But, I wonder, should I have asked more of my mind?
I have no trouble taking my body to a gym or starting line. I’ve done a good job convincing myself that if I didn’t exercise, I would unleash the many predators that seek their elderly prey on couches, but not on treadmills. The more I sweated, the more likely it was my internist would continue to exclaim, “Keep doing what you’re doing, and I’ll see you next year.” It was my way of keeping at bay the dreaded: “Mr. Goldfarb, I’m afraid I have some bad news.”
My mind, on the other hand, seems less willing to yield to discipline, behaving as though it has a mind of its own. I have dabbled in internet “brain games,” solving algebraic problems flashing past and rerouting virtual trains to avoid crashes. I’ve audited classes at a university, and participated in a neurofeedback assessment of my brain’s electrical impulses. But these are only occasional diversions, never approaching my determination to remain physically fit as I move deeper into old age.
Despite having many friends in their 70s, 80s and 90s, I’ve been far too slow to realize that how we respond to aging is a choice made in the mind, not in the gym.
Some of my healthiest friends carry themselves as victims abused by time. They see life as a parade of disappointments: aches and ailments, confusing technology, children who don’t visit, hurried doctors.
Other friends, many whose aching knees and hips are the least of their physical problems, find comfort in their ability to accept old age as just another stage of life to deal with. I would use the word “heroic” to describe the way they cope with aging as it drains strength from their minds and bodies, though they would quickly dismiss such a term as overstatement.
One such friend recently called from a hospital to tell me a sudden brain seizure had rendered him legally blind. He interrupted me as I began telling him how terribly sorry I was: “Bob, it could have been worse. I could have become deaf instead of blind.”
Despite all the time I spend lifting weights and exercising, I realized I lack the strength to have said those words. It suddenly struck me I’ve paid a price for being a “gym rat.”
If there is one characteristic common to friends who are aging with a graceful acceptance of life’s assaults, it is contentment. Some with life-altering disabilities — my blind friend, another with two prosthetic legs — are more serene and complain less than those with minor ailments. They accept the uncertainties of old age without surrendering to them. A few have told me that the wisdom they’ve acquired over the years has made aging easier to navigate than the chaos of adolescence.
It was clear I lacked, and had to find, the contentment those friends had attained. The hours I spent exercising had given me confidence, but not contentment.
The 30-pound weight I no longer attempt to lift reminds me that not far off is the day when lifting anything, or running anywhere, will be asking too much of my body. My brain would have to become the muscle I counted on to carry me through these final years with the peace and purpose others had found. Aging had to be more than what I saw in a mirror.
But rather than overhauling my life completely in the hopes of undertaking a fundamental change in the way I confronted aging, I felt the place to begin would be to start small, adopting a new approach to situations I encountered every day. A recent lunch provided a perfect example.
I’ve always found it extremely difficult to concentrate when I’m in a noisy setting. At this lunch with a friend in an outdoor restaurant, a landscaper began blowing leaves from underneath the bushes surrounding our table.
Typically, after such a noisy interruption, I would have snapped, “Let’s wait until he’s finished!” then fallen silent. When the roar eventually subsided, my irritation would have drained the conversation of any warmth. The lunch would be remembered for my angry reaction to the clamor, and not for any pleasure it gave the two of us.
It troubled me that even a passing distraction could so easily take me from enjoying lunch with a good friend to a place that gave me no pleasure at all. I wanted this meal to be different and decided to follow the example of friends my age who know they are running out of joyous moments and will let nothing interfere with them. They simply speak louder, accepting the noise for what it is, a temporary irritant.
My years in gyms had taught me to shake off twinges and other distractions, never permitting them to stop my workout or run. I decided to treat the noise as though it were a cramp experienced while doing crunches. I would shake it off instead of allowing it to end our conversation.
I continued talking with my friend, challenging myself to hear the noise, but to hold it at a distance. The discipline so familiar to me in the gym — this time applied to my mind — proved equally effective in the restaurant. It was as though I had taken my brain to a mental fitness center.
Learning to ignore a leaf blower’s roar hardly equips me to find contentment during my passage into ever-deeper old age. But I left the lunch feeling I had at least taken a small first step in changing behavior that stood in the way of that contentment.
Could I employ that same discipline to accept with dignity the inevitable decline awaiting me: frailty, memory lapses, dimming sound and sight, the passing of friends and the looming finish line? Churning legs and a pounding heart had taken me part of the way. But now the challenge was to find that contentment within me. Hoping that contentment will guide me as I make my way along the path yet to be traveled.
This article was printed in the New York Times, p.D4 on October 8, 2018 and titled “To Age Well, Train for Comtentmemt.”
Any uesful lessons to learn from this male perspective?
Let us know what you think.
Jane and Ellen
Postings from some of our contributors describe isolation and loneliness. Some see no way out of this predicament. AARP has been focusing on this issue and has published the informational brochure we’ve attached here.
See what you think of their recommendations. Would this be helpful to you or someone you know? Are they missing anything?
Let us know what you think.
Jane and Ellen