Back in my 30's and 40's, I used to look at women of my present age and wonder how they could stand it-the slowing down, the wrinkles, the memory lapses. “Is there life after 60 or 70, let alone 80?” I'd think. Well, now that I'm past any of those projected ages, I'd like to share my new perspective on aging.
I love being old! I do not like being referred to as a senior citizen, a golden-ager, or chronologically gifted. Just plain old suits me fine. I think it's beautiful to be able to live a long life and live every day fully. It's a gift to appreciate and enjoy.
At 85, I've gained celebrity status in my family by just being the oldest living member. My children, grandchildren and I experience nothing resembling what is often touted as a “generation gap.” I have more time to enjoy all of them than when I was working full-time. There's also time for activities with friends, trips to interesting places, long lunches, volunteer opportunities and a chance to do as much or as little as one chooses.
There's ample opportunity for the older person to make a valuable contribution to his or her community. One's house of worship is a good place to become actively involved and develop a sense of community connectedness. There are volunteer opportunities in hospitals, daycare centers, senior centers, meals-on-wheels organizations, schools, and libraries.
Local colleges and Adult Education Programs in high schools offer a variety of stimulating courses that older people have time to enjoy. Local libraries and colleges are a great resource for lectures, plays and musical productions. Crossword puzzles, word games, writing, reading, bridge are great activities for any age, but the old have the luxury of more available time.
For the past 11 years, I've taught a creative writing class at LIRIC (Learning in Retirement at Iona College) and at one session I asked members to write some great things about getting older. Some reactions were serious; others quite humorous:
…Saying you forgot is a valid excuse.
…Having no deadlines except doctors' appointments.
…You don't need to have any more embarrassing birds-and-bees discussions with your children.
…You may forget all the nice details of a favorite book. Therefore, you'll have the
wonderful experience of reading it all over again.
…Elastic waistbands: the perfect transition from middle-aged spread to senior-style and comfort.
…You don't need excuses for drinking when you get together with family. They'll understand those “medicinal cocktails” and red wine to improve your blood.
…Lying about your age is forgivable since you've forgotten what it is anyway.
…No one asks how you did on the SAT's.
…You can play golf on weekdays.
g about our life experiences and memories is a great way to clean out the drawers and closets of the mind and is a very freeing experience as well as a treasure to give to our families.
Oh yes, I did mention “wrinkles” that caused me concern when I didn't have any. Now that I'm old I have an ample supply and have found that smiling is a great antidote for some of them and looking into mirrors too frequently is unnecessary.
Don't believe the oft-quoted adage: “You can't teach an old dog new tricks.” Not true. Witness the large number of old people who are computer literate and enjoy many of the new technologies.
My idea of a healthy approach to aging is to say, “Heh, I may be getting older, but I'm not about to raise a white flag and surrender anytime soon to anyone's idea of how I should live my life. Taking care of personal business, health, and planning for one's future is a given. Beyond that, make the most of every day, use your time and talent to help others, keep smiling and look for the humor in everyday life.