Turning 70-A retrospective view from 91

Maggy Simony, Age 91

I’m 91 as of March 14th and remember Turning 70 as the ONLY decade birthday that bothered me.

I remember early 30s as the best time of my life. 40th? Like Nora Ephron, much of my past seems dreamlike now. By 50 I was heading into troubled waters but unaware–my husband became ill and died at age 54.

60th I celebrated by retiring as early as possible (one can retire as a widow at 60 with same social security terms as 62 if not a widow). And I wanted out. I was MADE to be retired “with interests” and time, time, time to pursue them.

If I sound mindlessly optimistic–not true. Those years I was 50, widowed, children all off to marriage and college were really terrible for me.

By age 60 I had figured a way to deal with life left–(see below).

70th was my Waterloo–went into a malaise feeling as if life were over, and very down. Good friends taking a trip to Yugoslavia asked me to join them–added plus, no extra charge for singles. I did, and spent my 70th actual birthday on board a boat out of Dubrovnik with entire dining room singing Happy Birthday to me in Yugoslavian. Friends arranged it. When I got home–I was over my malaise and have enjoyed old age ever since.

What has made my old age good for me is learning to self-publish books. Today self-publishing is so common and the technology so enabling for the self-publisher that anyone can do it. In the 70s and 80s when the idea of writing and publishing a book first intrigued me–not so easy!

I bought an IBM Electronic Selectric machine. Learned book-page typesetting and set out to not only write and publish my first book, but typeset books for other small publishers and a magazine.

My set of 3 self-published paperbacks–Traveler’s Reading Guide: Ready-made Reading Lists for the Armchair Traveler–was picked up by a major reference book publisher in the late 80s (Facts on File) and I edited two updated single-volume editions for them published in 1987 and 1993. Meanwhile I’d gotten hooked on the topic of playing bridge, and its role in women’s lives over decades. Began collecting “stuff” at libraries during those years I spent long days there editing books for Facts on File. For whatever reason (mostly procrastination and I think I’ll live forever!) I never did get around to publishing my current book, Bridge Table or What’s Trump Anyway? until the end of 2009.

Publishing a book these days (whether the traditional route or self-publishing) makes it mandatory that you have a website and market your book on the internet. And that’s what I’m doing now–launched my website on January 1, 2011 at 91.

It’s not easy! And I don’t have a natural affinity for the whole thing–love the internet for research (an extension of my love for hanging out at libraries). But all the technical stuff you have to do drives me crazy!

But brings me to this conclusion about aging. Based only on my experience–if you don’t have demands on you as you get older, nothing forcing you to get out of a rut, stay active, keep challenging yourself–you need to create them.

In my case it was almost absentmindedly. Got into self-publishing because it intrigued me, ditto history and pop culture of bridge, and then one thing just leads to another. I would never do a website if it were up to me–it isn’t; have to do it to market my book!

If people ask how come I do so well at 91 (don’t even have aches and pains) I emphasize the mental aspect. I do walk a bit, but I loathe sports–always have–and I don’t even take my vitamins as I should. I believe mental activity is at least as important as physical activity. And I usually add–just for a laugh–have a martini every night and go barefooted as much as possible. [I kind of believe in that Asian stuff about all those nerve endings in the soles of one’s feet needing to be massaged (by going barefooted or at least thin soled shoes) for one’s health.] And even science is saying these days that a couple of drinks every day is good for you. I just have done that for decades without their approval.

And, of course, I think EVERYBODY should learn to play bridge early in their life–one of few things you can do literally unto death. Doesn’t cost much either. Science is saying so as well–bridge is good for you.

My motto is, “For a long and happy old age, it’s better to have played bridge badly than never to have played at all.”


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5 Responses to Turning 70-A retrospective view from 91

  1. Pat James says:

    Just loved reading this and wish you continuing health. I’m just now seventy and find it the first time in my life I feel I walked through a doorway and many things, sobering things, changed in my life and body. However, I am upbeat by nature. My husband of 51 years and I are good companions, and that is such a lucky break for both of us, being still together. We go to an Elder Lifetime Learning program at a local university two semester a year, I belong to the Fl Federation of Garden Clubs and we have three children living in the general area. I think we will weather the storm. I wish I could settle on a topic to start self-publishing on Kindle, perhaps, or the web. English major, etc. You certainly are a good role model.

  2. Gaynor says:

    Hi there,

    Your story is so warming and made me smile! 🙂 Having read your article I never would have guessed that you are 91, it seems as though age really is just a number, as we grow older our mind doesn’t age… only the body. I am 34 and hope for a healthy life, I am inspired by people like you and wish you many more happy years doing what you gives you pleasure.

  3. Lynne says:

    Loved your story! Thanks.

  4. Sandra Soloff says:

    Maggy I love you, I just turned 70 and was starting to think that my life was skidding to an end. Your story is giving me the jolt I need, but I’m not sure that the part of the brain necessary to play bridge (or chess) is turned on in my particular brain. I enjoy arts and crafts so that will have to be thing I can do until my air supply runs out! All the best in life to you and your loved ones

  5. Jean says:

    Oh Maggy, what an inspirationn you are! So often I get discouraged and begin to wonder-what’s it all about?. I turned 75 this Feb. and my daughter gave me a birthday party that I can only describe as “magical”. All four of my children were there-six out of seven grandchildren were there-and all eight of my great grandchildren were also in attendance. AND-I was informed that great grandchild #9 will be here in October! I consider myself most fortunate to have a large and loving family-but as for my own life-I feel I am just drifting. I love my garden and I enjoy reading, but the painful scoliosis I suffer from limits gardening. I walk and exercise for my health-but still feel something is missing. Before I die I would like to feel fulfilled-but have not as yet found a way…
    I read your letter and am in awe of you-What a fantastiic lady you are-


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