Are Today’s Old, Old Amazing–or What?
A Lesson for Us, No Doubt
My husband and I still have one more aging parent, his mother (click Sr. Advisors tab above, hover over “R.”) who continues to age well at 98 1/2. You’ve read her thoughts (she reiterates it gets harder every day) and suggestions for helping older people age well (most recently about eating and purchasing food). The latest: R just told us she has one more trip (plane flight) to NY in her and will be coming the end of May if it’s OK with us. We’re delighted. How do we age well and even become amazing?
I realize how much I’ve learned from R and my other Sr. Advisors (and some of you) about discipline, instincts, knowledge, energy–combinations of those plus health and initiative. Let me share four givens–lessons if you will from them–applicable to us and to our aging parents age.
1. How we spend time on this earth–ends up being 24/7 for everyone. That doesn’t change. What changes is how we decide to fill those hours. We can make a life for ourselves or not.
Specifically: R, widowed at 51, decided she couldn’t lie around feeling sorry for herself. Not that it was easy to get out of bed every morning, she admits. Nevertheless she says she gave herself a little pep talk that went something like “I can control what I do– succumb to being miserable or try to make something of each day–just put one foot on the floor and then the other. Then get up and keep putting one foot ahead of the other. Get cleaned up. Get going
2. Connections with others–so important to aging well. We hear it, we know it. Easier said than done, especially when old or recently widowed.
Specifically: When R was widowed, she realized for the most part couples no longer included her. If she was to “get back into circulation” she knew she would need to take the initiative…hard to contemplate, harder to do, she says. But it was her only option. We live thousands of miles away so weren’t there to fill in her empty hours. Perhaps, looking back, it was good. R got herself together and made a life for herself.
3. Taking the initiative—“Joining” clearly brings connections and interest into one’s life.
Specifically: While it takes initiative to make that first call and appear at the first meeting knowing no one, joining has been a life saver for many. Sr. Advisor M, says it saved her life after she was widowed. But joining isn’t for everyone. It wasn’t for R, who looked for new ways to reconnect with people she had known and liked. She learned that if she invited someone to lunch, she was never turned down (“a free meal,” she says laughingly). And slowly but surely she gained a group of friends, some younger than she. And she was introduced to their unmarried friends. As the decades passed she found the younger friends energetic, interesting and interested. Now most of her contemporaries have died. Her young friends value her wisdom and enrich her life.
4. Family–“Friends are family you get to choose.” Understand this, especially in problematic families or in families where children live far away. It enriches quality of life.
Specifically: Very few family members live near R; and R has chosen friends wisely. Many are like family and that feeling goes both ways. As readers know, R has been like a grandmother to some of her neighbors’ children. She has gone to countless Grandparents’ Days, been interviewed about WW’s I and II etc. And like a very good grandmother, she sent a turkey dinner to her neighbor’s son at college back east–for him and his friends who couldn’t make it home for Thanksgiving. Genuine caring and generosity–priceless–and seemingly repaid again and again in R’s case.
These are the best examples of the warm, touchy-feely aspects we want incorporate for aging parents–and for ourselves when our day comes. Next–part 2: the objective, practical, important foundations for aging well.
Note: We just sold our home. Need to empty out what’s left beginning today. It’s more of a challenge than moving (which you read about last fall). No longer any internet access so I must go to the library. Life gets in the way when we make plans (and have a regular post-writing schedule). Will publish part 2 when I can–hopefully by week’s end–so keep checking.