Turning 78: Adaptations and accommodations

Jane, July 3, 2018

Another birthday….rather surprising to hear the number 78. I realize I have just outlived my mother who died at age 77. As always, I’m looking forward to the fireworks ahead, my special birthday treat.

I’ve enjoyed today’s phone, FaceTime and online conversations with friends spread around the country….feeling fortunate to share celebration with nearby family….glad to be here and feeling well enough.

I wrote in this blog eight years ago, about then turning 70.

Now some observations on turning 78:

Since downsizing and moving to the Dallas-Ft Worth Area fourteen years ago, to be near our family, I have learned my way around town and have developed new friendships. A city-girl at heart, I continue to enjoy exploring the endless possibilities in the DFW metroplex…now sharing discoveries with our teen-age grandchildren. I have a variety of activities that keep me as busy as I care to be, many of which keep me involved with other people…of all ages.

I greatly enjoy curating 70candles.com, and am inspired by the richness of the topics and conversations both currently and in our archives. I’m amazed at the geographical reach around the world of our blog. Be assured we will keep it going, even into our 80s. The masthead has been updated to say it’s for “women in their 70s…and beyond.”

I work on writing projects with my husband, Norman, and publish our work on Amazon’s CreateSpace…always a technical challenge for me…but oh, the satisfaction when I overcome each computer obstacle.

We both exercise several times a week, stay abreast of news and the distressing political scene, and stay in touch with our nearby children and three grandchildren.

I’ve declared this my summer of art, and will take a watercolor class, along with a friend. I’ve dipped in and out of art classes through the years, and find them engaging and fun.

I’ve enjoyed reading with my two book groups, but also choosing books of my own. Am laughing out loud at David Sedaris’ poignant but funny new book of short stories, right now.

I’ve found two friends who are happy to join me for evening concerts, and dance performances downtown. My husband is less inclined to attend those events, but is delighted that I have others to go with.

My recent endeavors over the last few years have included knitting scarves and hats upon request, learning to play ukulele and getting my granddaughter interested in playing, and, a new addition, visiting friends in rehab and nursing homes, with hope of bringing distraction, comfort and cheer.
I try to participate as a citizen in the political realm and have marched and signed petitions for causes that matter to me.

Adaptations and accommodations that come with aging have recently come into focus:

First, as my hearing declines, I find myself alerting and informing those I encounter of my need for volume, clarity and visibility. I use those wonderful closed caption devices at the movies and auditory amplifiers at the theatre. I spread the word to others I know who need that enhancement, that these devices are readily available. I need to have my hearing aids checked annually, and I return for tweaking if the settings are off target in volume or in specific frequencies. It really makes a difference when the tuning is right. I’m not shy about asking a restaurant to turn down their music while I’m there.

I’ve discovered the pleasure of a short afternoon nap, especially if I’ve awakened very early and have been to a rigorous exercise class.

My Saturday morning hour-long walk with a good friend has become shorter, she tells me as she consults her Fitbit. I seem to have slowed my pace somewhat, probably because of minor hip and Achilles’ tendon issues, although our conversation has maintained its breadth and depth. As we walk, I notice that interesting details on the sidewalk, are now closer than they used to be…as my height has gradually been reduced by 2 3/4 inches!

I sit more than I used to…reading more books, sometimes knitting…watching the news and Netflix with my husband…pleasant sitting.

I noticed when I took our three grandchildren downtown to see the Lion King, and for lunch at the theater, I welcomed their help. “That’s why you have three grandchildren,” one said when I thanked her for picking up something I dropped. I enjoyed having my grandson drive us down there, rather than having to drive myself.

Although I still do a shoulder stand and a plow, I don’t turn upside down anymore…not since my recovery from a most unpleasant bout of Ménière’s disease that left me dizzy for too many months. Thankfully that problem eventually resolved.

Things I no longer do, but remember fondly are skiing, ice skating, rollerblading, tennis and even bike riding. I’m concerned I wouldn’t hear traffic behind me were I on a bike. I noticed at a modern dance performance the other night I was an enthralled observer, but remembered when I used to empathically actually feel each dance movement as I watched such events.

We’ve stopped traveling great distances. Now I watch and listen as others fly in and out of the country and the state, and I enjoy descriptions of their adventures. We’ve had our share of foreign exploration. Enjoyable now to watch the food travelers on TV as they venture far and wide….and Norman has learned some fantastic cooking ideas as a bonus.

We’ve made improvements in our home in the name of safety and fall prevention. A bar to hold onto in the shower, another by the steps from our garage to our back entrance, and at the front steps, two sturdy high gloss black enamel steel handrails. They look great and create a cozy stoop where I sometimes sit and read.

We still drive, and can’t quite imagine that privilege will ever cease, but know that eventually we might need to be transported by others. My husband who is several years older than I, and I, monitor each other whenever we’re on the road to be sure we’re still up to the task.

We live in a multi-generational neighborhood where we are clearly the oldest residents. People know us and we have neighbors we can shout out to in a pinch. When I left both the garage door and car door open the other morning, as I ran back inside to get my water bottle for exercise class, the young woman next door who caught sight of that, called my cell phone to be sure everything was okay. That was comforting. I like my role on the Architectural Control Committee of the HOA, as it keeps me involved in the workings of the community.

Oh…And I’ve decided to let my hair become white after years of coloring it. I kinda like it, though many have warned that I will become invisible and be dismissed by younger people…Not yet so far…

Time has flown since our move from Ohio to Dallas to be near our family. Our oldest grandson who was then five, is about to be a Sophomore in college. Since I can never remember (among other things) exactly what year we moved, I use his age to calculate our length of time here. We’ve always measured his height against my body. He is now nearly six feet tall and we laugh as he has to bend down to hug me.

All in all, I feel grateful and loved, and as I see more illness and death around me, thankful for still being here, to enjoy the good life I have.

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8 Responses to Turning 78: Adaptations and accommodations

  1. Ellen Cole says:

    Thank you, Jane. It’s fascinating for me, 8 months behind you, to read your deep, honest, and meaningful self-reflections. I love it that you wrote this on your 78th birthday. Of course my own experiences are different and similar. The big difference, as you know, is that I continue to work full-time at 77, and when you talk about art classes and extended time with grandkids it feels like we’re in different universes. I’m envious, but satisfied.
    I’m co-editing a book right now called A Study in Grey and Grit: Older Women Who Work, and I’ll report on the contents and findings as we move forward.
    In the meantime, happy birthday to you!
    I want to make a suggestion to myself and our readers: What a GREAT idea, perhaps especially in our elderhood (!), to take some time on our birthday to similarly reflect on our lives. March 10th, here I come.
    Thank you, Jane.

    • Pata says:

      I cannot wait to hear more about women who work in their seventies I work as a Realtor and though it is impossible to keep up with Realtors born with a cel phone I am pretty good with a lot of business but would appreciate an Energy pill. I relate I have 6 grandchildren and 3 great grams. I love them to pieces and try to stay in touch. Unfortunately I don’t use Facebook etc. and don’t want to. So our relationships are different then many grandmothers out there. But please I would love to hear from others.

  2. Barbara says:

    Dear Jane,

    Thanks so much for your brave and candid summing up of your life at 78. You did a good job of laying out the reward and challenges of this stage. Many thanks for holding up a mirror to those of us who are keeping on keeping on.

  3. Sandi says:

    Happy Belated Birthday!
    I enjoyed reading your post because of your honesty with
    changes that you have found over the years. I think often
    there is a positive spin on aging which is good, but we also
    have to realize there may be changes in our lives as we age.
    Thanks for sharing.

  4. Pata says:

    What a great read and a seemingly great lady.
    It was fun reading you…I almost totally relate.
    Keep on trucking…

  5. Evelyn Eskin says:

    What a candid and realistic assessment of life at 78!
    When I met you, you were 18 and anything was possible. There were no limits on your physical, intellectual, emotional, or spiritual adventures. You grabbed all the rings and ran with them.
    In your piece about being 78 I feel that same sense of adventure at an age-appropriate level. Hearing diminished? Try visual adventures like art and dance. Husband less active? Find book clubs and walkers and friends to go downtown with. Grandchildren growing up? Take them to the theater or paint pictures for their rooms. Kids middle-aged? Take them to author events or movies.
    You are the ultimate pivoter, finding ways to bring that wonderful joie de vivre and enthusiasm to whatever you do, wherever you are. Rock on, rosebud, and keep showing us the way to adapt gracefully!!

  6. Susan says:

    Hi Jane – Your blog came to me 2nd hand, from my very active 86 year old aunt. Two things we have in common – first, having just read the latest David Sedaris book. I had never read any of his previous work – though had heard of, just one of the authors I kept meaning to get to – and totally loved this one. So funny and wise. The other thing we have in common, sports that give you that flying feeling, rollerblading and skiing. I last bladed 2 years ago, and for the first time in 30 years skating/blading, fell without a good excuse (the other two times – a nasty runner pushed me in Central Park and a few years later I accidentally let my wheels get razor thin without rotating so they slid out from under me). This fall was crazy – I was on a totally flat piece of concrete, later thought it was a rock I hadn’t seen or crack but went back a few weeks later to check and no crack. Now I wonder, did I just drag a foot — something that sometimes happens walking — and lose balance? The thing was I had been told I had osteoporosis so shouldn’t blade anyway, & of course the other thing in head was did I do this on purpose knowing I could now break bones, was I that self-destructive? (Broke wrist despite wrist guard.) Yet unlike you I still can’t resign myself to giving these things up. My roller blades are still in the basement. I went skiing last spring for the first time in years and and am telling myself I’m going to try to go as much as possible next year. I am a little more than a decade behind you, so I have some years yet. I missed too many years of skiing as it is, so the thought of giving it up permanently is too much right now. I am amazed that you are dealing with it so calmly. Also glad you got over the Meniere’s thing – sometimes have dizziness problems myself and it is just the worst. I probably shouldn’t send this, feel like a total wacko, but thought you would understand.

  7. Blog Mavens says:

    Hello Susan,
    Glad you did send it! I do understand what you’re saying.
    Sometimes giving things up might feel like defeat of some kind, so we keep going until we have no choice. Happily though, as we go forward, we can discover other activities that give us pleasure.
    I have treasured memories of my skiing days, and try to pass my enthusiasm for that pursuit on to my grandkids. I know ski resorts now offer free skiing to those over 70….I admire those who can avail themselves of that bargain. I do remember my last skiing days when I was in my early 60’s. I loved sailing downhill…but realized getting up after a fall had gotten incredibly difficult. Saying “don’t fall, don’t fall” was useless. I knew then that my skiing days were numbered.
    Enjoy your snow days ahead.

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