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Does your body ambush you?

When my son, now in his late 30s, was about five years old, he made a remark that has stayed with me ever since. He had gone through a stage, thankfully brief, when he would pee unexpectedly, leaving a small visible stain on his trousers.

I asked him, I suspect with some exasperation, couldn’t he tell when it was coming? “No, Mum,” he said, “it is kind of like an ambush.”

He hit the nail on the head. Our bodies do ambush us all the time – from childhood right on up. We don’t see it coming.

The Struggle with Our Bodies

It starts as early as any of us can remember – we ran too fast on a pavement, we climbed that tree and, all of a sudden, we found ourselves on the ground and in pain.

From small scrapes to broken limbs, we learned early on that our bodies could be a nuisance and did not behave as we had planned.

Not to mention the many childhood diseases. I got absolutely all of them – measles, German measles, even Scarlet Fever, which was very serious in those days. I have a number of chicken pox scars to remind me of that particular bout.

And, of course, numerous colds and flus that came and went, as I mixed with other children at school.

Our teens and beyond brought an even bigger ambush – the menstrual period. It arrived when we least wanted it and, for some of us, on no particular schedule. We waited for it to come and, at some point, worried when it did not. Or, we wanted children and worried when it did.

We have all spent some hours over the course of our lives thinking about what was or was not happening down there. With no control.

Older Bodies

Of course, as we grew older, we were subject to large numbers of potential illnesses. Many of us have been through one or another life-threatening disease and many of us have lost friends through this route.

I lost a good friend to one of the worse scourges of our time, HIV/AIDS and, with his help, wrote a book about people living with AIDS and HIV.

And things only get worse as we age. “Old age is not for sissies,” they say, and they are right. Our bodies ambush us in one way after another.

The older we become, the more prone we are to serious illnesses that stop us in our tracks. We cannot hear or see as well as we used to, we can no longer run as fast as we would like, if we can run at all. And even the problem my then five-year-old son experienced rears its annoying head.

Some of us, although presumably not those reading here, lose our minds, bit by bit, to one kind of dementia or another. This is an ambush like no other – not part of anyone’s life plan.

Attitudes

How do you feel about all these events taking place within your own body? Do you quietly accept that this is part of being human and we should struggle through with dignity? Do you feel it is part of God’s plan?

Or do you, like me, rail against them? I have been amazingly healthy all my adult life, as was my father. And, like him, I get enormously angry when my body lets me down. How dare it not do what I want it to? Who gave it permission to succumb to a cold or flu or worse?

Yes, I know this makes no sense. I should accept each challenge as it arises. It is part of life’s rich tapestry. You are doubtless made of stronger stuff.

My husband says I will be indignant on my death bed – and it may well be true. I will let you know.

 

This was first published with a different title by sixtyandme.com (http://sixtyandme.com/coping-with-our-60-plus-year-old-bodies-is-it-even-possible/)

Are you old?

 

The Image of Being Old

The question is – what is this ‘old’ that they don’t feel? Rather than age itself, what they’re talking about has to do with an image they cannot – or will not – identify with.

I suspect the image is connected to our view of our grandmothers (or other older women we knew) who fully expected to be called old. They wore sensible shoes and ‘appropriate’ clothes.

They mended socks and cooked everything from scratch. They stayed at home or went out with friends to do something sedentary, like playing bingo or bridge. They would never dream of an exercise class.

Unless they were poor, most had never worked. If they had, they would have retired years before. Indeed, they had no expectation of living very long, as life expectancy was so much lower than now, topping at 70 or 71. They were at the last stage of their lives.

They seemed old to us, but perhaps more importantly, they felt old to themselves.

Age Is Just a Number

Our generation is completely different. We play tennis, have sex and wear the same sort of clothes we have always worn. Of course, we don’t feel old. We say, “you are as old as you feel” or “age is just a number” and pride ourselves on how well we keep ourselves trim.

But is this because we fear being old? As is constantly noted, we live in a youth culture and everyone wants to feel they are still part of it. We can dye our hair, have facelifts and hide our advancing years reasonably well.

We are, to all intents and purposes, not ‘old’ to the outside eye. And so, it is easy for us to declare ourselves to be far from old.

Those Who Feel Old

I rush to note that some of us do feel old. We suffer from ill health, have witnessed many deaths, perhaps nursed an ill husband. We are no longer able to do the things we used to do. We accept the situation and readily say we feel no longer young – or even middle aged.

Society Marks Our Age

And we are, of course, aware that our society marks our age in numerous ways. We are referred to as ‘seniors’ or ‘pensioners’ and receive all sorts of preferential treatment.

In London, I have a permanent ticket called a ‘Freedom Pass’. It gives me completely free transport on the tube, bus and train, within a generous perimeter.

I also have free prescriptions and eye tests that other people pay for, although health care is generally free. Not to mention reduced rates at the gym or the cinema. Other countries often offer similar benefits to those over a certain age.

There are, however, the less desirable marks of age. We may be called ‘geriatric’, ‘antiquated’ or ‘over the hill’. My son used to refer to old people as ‘crumblies’, but there are many more such terms.

What Happened to ‘Wisdom’?

But, in truth, what is wrong with being old? Why do we feel diminished by the very thought of being put into this category? If we have passed retirement age, we are chronologically not exactly young. Why not come out and say so?

There are so many real benefits to being old. We have loads of experience with all sorts of people and situations. We have had to face – and come through – crises of one kind or another.

And, most of all, we have the strengthened confidence that comes with this experience. Some would say we have wisdom.

My father used to work for an international organisation which brought him into contact with many people from the Far East where age is valued greatly.

He often struggled to gain authority in their eyes because he always looked young for his age. He told me that he used to mention, as casually as he could, his children being in college – or beyond – to gain the necessary gravitas.

I have personally never had a problem with revealing my age. I am lucky in my genes and do not really look my age and certainly do not dress for it.

As I write, because it is hot, I am wearing shorts and a t-shirt and am, moreover, barefoot. Both my grandmothers would be appalled. Nonetheless, I get offered seats quite regularly on the bus, which suggests I have reached a certain look.

But I will proclaim my actual age – 76 – to anyone who is interested. I do not feel that it diminishes me. Indeed, for all the reasons noted, I like being old. It may not last long – who knows! – but it is great being here.

Do you admit to being ‘old’? Do you reveal your age when asked? Are you pleased to have reached your later years?  

This was first published by Sixty and Me (http://sixtyandme.com/is-age-just-a-number-do-you-feel-hesitant-to-reveal-your-age/)

Becoming a grumpy old woman

I would guess that most people who know me see me as a cheerful older woman, with a good life and little to complain about. All this is true. Yet, at the same time, I can feel myself turning into a Grumpy Old Woman.

There are several things that I find increasingly annoying. Unfortunately, I can’t write about all of them, so here are just a few.

Mobiles

There you are, quietly walking down the street, when someone walks into you because their head is in their phone.

Or you see them coming and you stop, completely still. They look up and say “Oh, sorry,” as if they couldn’t see that walking along blindly is bound to cause someone trouble at some point.

Backpacks

And, while on the subject of public places, I get very irritated by thoughtless people with backpacks. They are especially annoying in tight spaces, such as a bus or train, when they turn around and the pack crashes into you.

I have long thought that backpackers should be required to pass a driving test on managing body space. It might help them learn that their dimensions are extended hugely by their packs.

Going to a movie

It used to be a joy to go to a movie – you would have the odd advertisement or trailer, and then sit back and enjoy the film. Not any more.

There is the couple across the aisle who insist on unwrapping their sweets (candies) one by one throughout the course of the film. Do they not realise that doing this slowly is no quieter, but just prolongs the agony? Perhaps that has always been a problem, but I am becoming less tolerant.

But what is new at these scene are the people who must check their phone. Even if they don’t talk, the light is incredibly distracting. I do think people should be able to forget their phone for the brief duration of a film.

And everyone seems to need to eat. Some cinemas even offer full course meals to their patrons, which might be nice for the hungry person but pays no thought to the person sitting next to them.

Selfies

The very word ‘selfie’ denotes the modern generation. In our day, we never had to show that we were there, wherever ‘there’ was.

The worst is in picture galleries, where the rooms are full of people with their phones and, where allowed, phone sticks. They don’t seem remotely interested in the paintings themselves, but only in showing the world that they have seen them.

Perhaps there should be fake galleries, intended just for them, so the rest of us could enjoy paintings in peace.

Airports

Everyone seems to love to travel and to talk about the marvellous places they have visited. But they never tell you about the airport. Is it just me or are airports getting worse?

I can manage the discomfort of airplanes themselves, although there is little to recommend the time you spend strapped into a small seat.

But what gets me down is the stress of getting to the airport in time, with the underlying threat that if you aren’t there two hours in advance, they won’t let you on the plane.

The worst is the airport itself. You’re stuck there for ages, surrounded by multitudes of people. Hardly anywhere to sit down, but shops and more shops everywhere. I don’t like shopping at the best of times, and I certainly do not want to do so in an airport when I have enough to carry as it is.

And then there is the ladies room. Toilets still function as normal, but modern sinks are becoming a kind of intelligence test.

How do you obtain simple running water? Some new-fangled taps have parts to push up or down or sideways – but which? Or they have electronic gizmos that don’t seem to recognise my hands. Do the architects of such contraptions think we automatically know how they work?

Grumpy and grouchy

Yes, I am becoming a grumpy old woman. I don’t know whether I am more annoyed by other people or by the increasing presence of modern technology. All I know is that sometimes all my good cheer gets taken away.

 

This post was originally published by SixtyandMe (see http://sixtyandme.com/5-reasons-i-am-becoming-a-grumpy-old-woman-in-my-60s/)

Swimming

Do you like to swim? Do you really like it, or do you just do it because you know it is good for you? I am in the latter category. I find it a kind of work.

Keen Swimmers

I know there are many avid swimmers. They’re in the pool or the sea every morning – and sometimes again in the afternoon.

A friend who is 93 swims every morning without fail. A colleague of my husband, now age 71, who recently had a knee and hip replacement at the same time, says she is to be found in her local pool at 6 a.m. every day.

I have nothing but admiration for these people.

Dutiful Swimmers

I am more of a dutiful swimmer. I know it is good for me, but I find it hard to get enthusiastic about. I manage roughly once a week and tend to think I should do more.

Ever since my nearby pool closed, and I must travel a distance of 15- to 20-minute walk to get there, I find it even harder to get motivated. I know other people make much longer journeys, so I shouldn’t complain.

There are loads of things I don’t like about swimming. I hate all the fuss with clothes off and then on again. I have never been very good at drying myself and therefore tend to end up with slightly damp clothing for the rest of the day.

There is something rather boring about swimming up and down a lane, although it is sometimes made a bit more challenging by someone swimming too fast in the slow lane or too slow in the medium one.

I try to count the laps and sometimes skip ahead by accident and then don’t know where I am. Nothing very serious – just dull.

Playful Swimmers

Of course, there are also playful swimmers, although not many in public pools, aside from some parents with their children.

My father, who thrived on fun, used to take the family swimming, and his main aim was to set up water fights. He had a very good method of squirting water up with his fingers so that it got you on your head. For him, it was what swimming was all about.

Unfortunately, when he moved to a continuing care community in his later years, he found that his fellow swimmers were not very enthusiastic about such antics. He said he couldn’t bear to swim laps and never lasted very long in the water.

Swimming Feels Good

For me, the main point of swimming is that I feel good afterwards. You go to all the trouble of getting there and changing clothes and swimming, but yes, you do feel a whole lot better.

You also meet people. I have had many conversations in changing rooms that might lead to new friendships. You just never know.

One time I even saw a life guard in action. I was swimming along with my thoughts far away, when I realised that there had been a loud splash and felt – almost immediately – something moving very fast underneath me, like a very large fish.

I was very disconcerted until I realised it was a life guard rescuing someone in trouble. The deftness, speed and accuracy of the man was impressive.

Swimming and Thinking

But the best part of swimming for me is that it releases ideas into my brain that I never seem to get elsewhere, aside from a bath or shower. I thought I read once that being in water is good for the brain, but some quick investigation on the net has elicited no such research.

Yet I have had many new ideas for projects or how to phrase a difficult concept or even books I might write, while swimming.

Because I have a terrible memory, I used to carry a little notebook with me, so that I could write such thoughts down as soon as I emerged from the water. Unfortunately, that was not a success as the notebook became too sodden.

I now try to remember my new thoughts until I get home.

This was originally published by Sixtyandme.com (see http://sixtyandme.com/how-swimming-can-be-a-great-activity-for-women-over-60/)

 

 

Worrying

 

Are you a worrier? There are a lot of us about. Perhaps especially as we get older. Personally, I’ve been a worrier all my life. There is so much to worry about!

The State of the World

We can start with the state of the world. There is global warming. Isis. The Middle East. Korea. Politics of all kinds, whatever political persuasion you happen to be.

We worry whether the world we are leaving our grandchildren is as good as the world we inherited. And whether there is something more we should be doing about it.

 Family

Then there is your family. Children are always a source of worry – when they are small, and especially when they are teenagers. Remember that period? At that time, we worried about one thing or another about them from the moment we woke up!

But it doesn’t end even when they’re all grown up. Indeed, if they are married or have a partner, the people to worry about doubles.

Does everyone have the right job? Or, for that matter, the right partner? Is everyone coping all right with day-to-day matters, such as getting that possibly dangerous car fixed? Or are they becoming too obsessed with social media?

People whose adult children have serious problems – such as bringing up a child on their own, a tendency to depression or even moving house – have even more to worry about.

I am told there is an old Chinese proverb that states mothers are as happy as their least happy child. It resonates with me, a lot.

We also worry about our grandchildren. Are they getting enough attention from their parents – or, perhaps, too much? Is their school giving them the education they need? Do they have enough friends? All the worries that you experienced when your children were small emerge all over again.

Yourself

I worry about a lot of things, but I probably worry about my own self the most.

Did I say the right thing to the woman at that party last week? Have I remembered to do that favour for a sick friend that I said I would? Was the person who said they liked my new haircut – or, worse, my latest book – really just being nice?

Not to mention all the silly things we inevitably worry about, such as did we turn off the gas on the stove when we left the house? Or did we leave a window open where a burglar could see it?

Doing Something about it

If you are a worrier, what can you do about it? All my life, people have said to me that I worry too much, that I should relax. I don’t know how other people react to such admonishments, but they mildly annoy me.

First of all, they won’t make any difference. Worrying is part of me. Asking me not to worry is telling me that I should be a different person. At some point, I realised that if worrying is a part of me, I should simply accept it and live with it.

And second, what does worrying too much mean? Yes, if you are making yourself ill with worry or turning to drink, that is one thing. But worrying too much is also a matter of giving due attention to getting things right. It can be a good thing.

Don’t Worry About What You Can’t Control

Fortunately, I have a husband who hardly ever worries. He says there is no point in worrying about something if there is nothing you can do about it. Since this covers most contingencies, he is a very relaxed man.

This was initially published on sixtyandme.com (http://sixtyandme.com/how-to-stop-being-a-worrier-no-matter-what-happens-in-your-life/) and cannot be re-blogged

Chatting

I like to chat. I chat first thing in the morning about any problems I faced in the night. Then I chat at lunch about events of the morning, and I chat in the evening about the rest of the day.

There is so much to chat about – some small disturbance in the local supermarket, family news from my children, problems with the computer, the characters in the book I am reading, a programme seen on TV. The list goes on and on.

Chatting seems so inconsequential, you might well ask how anyone could even think of writing about it. Yet have you ever stopped to think about how important it is?

The Significance of Chatting

I chat a lot with my husband, but also with other family members and friends, not to mention neighbours. Chatting is the glue that holds people together.

We live with someone or a set of other people, we live near neighbours and we keep in touch with a much wider circle of friends and family. What makes us feel a part of one another is chatting, talking about everyday mundane matters. It’s probably one of the more intimate things we do, aside from the obvious.

Spending such apparently inconsequential time with close friends and family allows us to keep abreast of the texture of their lives – what they are thinking about, excited about or, indeed, worrying about. We also get to tell them about ourselves. It is a key way of creating connections.

Even a brief moment talking to a neighbour over the proverbial garden fence can lead to a cup of tea, the discovery of shared interests, and, eventually, the possibility of helping each other in some way.

Chatting can take place over the phone or Skype or even texting, I suppose, although I don’t text except for sorting out plans. It may be at the dinner table, lying on a sofa or even in bed. Those early morning chats, before even getting up, are a lovely way to start the day.

Other Conversations

Of course, we have much more significant discussions with people we are close to. You can call such discussions chat or not. I probably wouldn’t, on their own. But, in the course of such conversations, we move quickly from issues which are important to ones that are less important and back again.

In some circles, the concept of chatting has a rather bad press. It can be seen as synonymous with ‘gossip,’ ‘chatter,’ ‘jabber,’ ‘babble’ or the like. And we all know people who tend to go on and on until we want to scream.

But it is quite wrong, in my view, to conflate these concepts. Chatting is, above all, talking and creating a sense of connectedness to other people.

The Absence of Chat

The opposite of chatting is having no one to talk to, or, in a word, loneliness. I don’t need to tell you how difficult that is. A recently widowed friend told me how the day-to-day chat about matters of no great significance was what she missed most in life on her own.

You can be lonely because you live on your own and never see anyone. But you can also be lonely when you live with one or more people who won’t – or don’t want to – talk to you. Whatever the reasons, it leads to a terrible sense of isolation.

And then there are the couples you see everywhere these days, sitting at a table over a coffee or a drink, each glued to their own telephone.

For years, loneliness was seen as something to be ashamed of, and few people were willing to admit to it. It is now slowly coming out of the closet as an issue to be taken seriously, with growing media attention and efforts to overcome it. Long may they thrive.

There is a need for more chatting in the world.

This post was first published by SixtyandMe.com and cannot be re-posted (http://sixtyandme.com/how-to-use-the-power-of-chatting-to-create-meaningful-connections-after-60/)

Have you always wanted to write a book?

Senior woman using laptop in café

Do you feel you have a book in you? Have you been secretly harbouring the dream of writing it down one day?

The Dream

Many people feel, deep down, that they have ‘a book in them.’ They would love to write it down – pen to paper or, more likely these days, finger to computer key – and see it become a reality.

If you have no impulse in this direction whatsoever, then don’t bother to read further.

However, if you find yourself nodding and thinking, “Yes, how does she know about my secret dream? Yes, I would love to put my ideas down and get a book published,” then read on.

The Book

Perhaps you have always loved to create stories. Or you told stories to your kids and your partner said they were so good, you should write them down. Perhaps you love to read books about crime or romance or even zombies, and you feel you could write one, too.

Why not? This is a very reasonable idea.

It could be you have had a particularly interesting life. Or you experienced some drama in your life – a terrible disease, the unexpected death of a loved one, a hurricane that blew your house away – and you would like to tell others about it.

Or you might have been helped over some hurdle and you would like to share with others what helped you most. Why not? These are also reasonable ideas.

Getting Started

The hard part is sitting down to do it. You may think this is because you have never done it before, but I can assure you that even experienced authors often have the same problem.

Before you even sit down to write, there will be a lot of issues you need to resolve. If you are writing a story, do you know who is to be included and what happens from beginning to end? Do you know the personalities of your characters? It is not necessary to know all of this, but it helps.

If you are writing a memoir, where does it begin? What are the important points you want to emphasize?

Whatever the case with your story, you should know for whom you are writing it. Who is likely to read it and enjoy it? Regardless of the genre you choose, it is very important to know your audience.

Getting Help

There is a lot of helpful information available for aspiring authors. A simple search will reveal many books and websites about writing. There may even be a local writers group you can go to.

If you are one of those people who want to get started first and seek help later, that’s fine. Whatever works for you is the best approach. It’s okay if you prefer to seek help once you have got something down and have a ‘feel’ for whether it is what you were aiming for.

Publishing

I could write a book about publishing. In short, let me say that it is not at all easy to get a traditional publisher. However, it is very easy to self-publish. Publishing independently has become trendy in recent years, and some self-published books are very successful.

Remember, there is loads of help along the way. It might feel a very long way off – and it probably is ­– but it is not an impossible goal.

Why Are You Writing?

I have left the most important question for last – why do you want to do this?

If it is to become famous, then yes, it is possible, but it’s also very unlikely. Many experienced authors write loads of books and do not become famous. That is just the nature of writing.

Do you want to make money? I will give the same answer. It is possible, but not very likely. Few writers do. Most have a ‘day job’ to keep them going. Even ones you think would be living off their writing.

But if it is because you want to challenge yourself and do something that is genuinely exciting, then this is the project for you. It is fun, you learn a lot – especially about yourself – and it is enormously rewarding.

It may even be good for your health! There is increasing attention to the role of such challenges in keeping us young and of good mind.

I would say, go for it – what do you have to lose?

This post was originally published by SixtyandMe.com and cannot be reblogged.

I disliked giving and receiving gifts…until I got this surprise

I think I’m a bit strange. I dislike almost all presents, whatever the time of year. I don’t much like giving them, and I certainly don’t like getting them. It has been ever thus.

Giving Presents

It is wonderful to give presents to children. You generally know from their parents what they are longing for – and there is such delight when they receive the gift. No problem there.

Once in a while, I realise I am looking at something in a market or shop that someone I know would really like to have and there is again great pleasure in buying it for them. They would treasure it; it would be a surprise. There will be happiness all around.

Nowadays, my family – and I suspect many others – all have an Amazon wish list telling me exactly what presents they would like to receive – which book, which pair of slippers, which annual calendar.

Buying these is rather like doing your weekly grocery shopping. Check the list, buy, wait for the post. No artistry in this. No surprise when the package is opened.

The one benefit is, the person will welcome the addition to their wardrobe or library or whatever and won’t feel the need to send it back.

Getting Presents

I never much liked getting presents either. As a child, there might have been a longed-for item – a special doll or a pretty dress – and when I happened to receive it, there was a moment of real pleasure.

But most of the time, I would receive the wrong thing. My grandmother had good intentions, of course, but was not very good at working out which age was appropriate for which toy. My parents, somewhat surprisingly, were not much better either.

Even when I was a fully grown adult, my mother could not resist buying some dress that she thought would ‘look cute’ on me, which was never to my taste.

Aversion to Waste

I have always known – but it grows stronger as I get older – that I have a strong aversion to waste in all its forms. The wrong present is a complete waste – a waste of money, a waste of someone’s time acquiring it and a waste of any effort I make to wear it or read it or use it however it was intended.

It’s a waste and an embarrassment. I say thank-you, of course, but it all makes me very uncomfortable.

The Surprise

So this brings me to the surprise. A few weeks ago, it was a grey afternoon and I was quietly working on my computer when the doorbell rang. We weren’t expecting anyone, so I surmised it was probably one of the charity workers who would come along at Christmas time. I let my husband handle it.

A moment later, he shouted up to me that we had a large parcel. I knew we hadn’t ordered anything, so I rushed down, hoping I could catch the delivery man before he disappeared. Too late for that. My immediate thought was that it was going to be a nuisance to get this thing taken back.

But the parcel had my name on it, so I began to investigate. Inside was a large basket. After removing coloured ribbons and layers of see-through plastic, I realised it was some kind of hamper full of fruit, a variety of chocolates and sparkling wine. What a nice thought on someone’s part, even if it was surely not intended for me.

Oh, and there was a note! I was shocked that it was actually addressed to me, from my lovely neighbours who were temporarily away, thanking me for looking after their house. It was for me, after all. A complete surprise on a grey day. A present I liked. Not a waste at all.

 

This post was originally published on sixtyandme.com (http://sixtyandme.com/i-hated-giving-and-receiving-gifts-until-i-got-this-surprise/) and should not be re-blogged

Singing

Do you sing? No, I don’t mean, are you an opera singer, because there are precious few of those. I just mean do you like to sing, for instance, in the shower or in the bath? Or perhaps to yourself as you potter around the house. It is a joyous activity, which can be done at any age.

Some Say They Can’t Sing

A few people will tell you that they can’t sing. And they may be right. Some say that everyone can sing, but I suspect there are a few people in this world who somehow lack a sense of tune or the ability to hit the right note. Not all that many, but I know some.

Singing as a Child

Most of us were expected to sing in childhood – whether at school or in church or within the family. It wasn’t something we were asked about, any more than anything else we did as children, but just another activity we did.

My mother, who was not a very good pianist at all, used to sit down at the piano and play folk songs for me and my siblings to sing with her. I quite enjoyed that and learned a lot of songs, particularly old folk songs.

I am told that I caused a bit of a stir when I proposed “What shall we do with the drunken sailor?” when asked what we would like to sing in nursery school. I thought it was a rousing good tune!

As an older child, I sang in the school choir and found that very satisfying. I sang alto and loved the challenge of not singing the tune, but thereby making the whole sound better. I still do.

Singing in a Choir

For the past 20 years I have sung in a choir. We generally sing serious music, like Brahms’ Requiem or a Mozart Mass or even Bach, but we do branch out to other things from time to time. We even sang Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen on one occasion.

Singing in a choir is the source of enormous pleasure. I highly recommend it.

The sense of singing with others somehow creates a real bond inside the group, because the whole is so much better than the sum of the parts.

You struggle with the hard parts together and triumph together when you get it right. It can be frustrating when things go wrong, but oh so wonderful when everyone is singing well.

Choirs are also a wonderful place to meet people of all ages. I don’t know the age of everyone in my choir, but I know we span from people in their 20s to at least one woman in her 90s. You develop friendships over break-time which often spill over to meetings on other occasions.

And, of course, there is the pleasure of performance – to sing beautiful music for the benefit of others is a wonderful activity, whether in a church or concert hall.

Singing in the Bath or Shower

I never went in for singing in the bath or shower, but I believe many find it a delightful way to enjoy two pleasing activities at the same time.

Singing and Your Health

The cherry on top of all the above is that singing, no matter the location – choir, bath or wherever – is very good for your health. It is good for your lungs and is also good exercise. Certainly, when you are feeling down, you will feel much better after a good singing session.

What’s not to like?

This was originally published with a different title by Sixty and Me (http://sixtyandme.com/fun-hobbies-for-older-women-the-joy-of-singing-at-any-age/) and should not be re-blogged.

Downsizing dilemma: Why getting rid of books is so tough

Finally, you have reached the age when you are beginning to think about downsizing. Perhaps you have familiarised yourself with all the practical and even emotional difficulties involved and have decided you are not quite ready to take the plunge.

Is there anything you can do in preparation for the eventual day?

Downsizing Dilemma: Culling Books

Few people reach their 60s without accumulating a lot of things they know they could throw or give away without great loss.

There are the clothes that don’t quite fit, but might do so if you lost those extra pounds that you are working on. There are the gifts that you never use, but have sentimental value because of the friends who gave them to you.

And then there are the books.

Books Take Room

If you like to read, you probably have books all over your house or apartment. Perhaps you sorted through them 10 years ago (or longer) because you had moved then or simply had a fit of eagerness to clean up.

In any case, there they are, in piles here and there – in the living room, by your bedside, in odd corners, including some in the bathroom.

Whatever cataloguing system once existed has probably long lost any cogency. When you are looking for a book you know you own, you get annoyed because it is nowhere to be found.

You have long thought that books don’t take any space, but you know you are kidding yourself. Indeed, for years, you proudly collected books to make your home feel properly lived in and loved. Each addition was like another brick to a house.

Perhaps it is time to cull.

Culling Can Be Painful

Deciding to get rid of books is harder than you might think. There are the books you always meant to read and are sure you will get to one day. There are those you started, but then stopped, and you like to think you will indeed finish them.

There are some you may be keeping for the children or for when you are sick and need something not too demanding. There are a lot of reasons to keep books.

And, if you are anything like me, it is a dusty job. You keep the house generally clean, but how often do you pull out the books one by one? So not only is it an emotionally difficult business to decide to give away books, but it is also a physically unpleasant one. Every reason not to do it.

But go for it, nonetheless.

How to Start Downsizing Your Book Collection

It is possible, of course, to simply go to any shelf and pull out books you don’t really want any more. I would urge you to do it more systematically.

If you have a lot of books, mentally divide them into categories – perhaps something simple like fiction versus non-fiction, but you might have more elaborate sub-categories.

Start with just one. Search your house for all novels, say, and put them in one place. Then, to feel productive, put them in alphabetical order (and remove any duplicates of books you bought a second time, because you forgot you had them in the first place!).

Then begins the difficult part. You know how old you are, and you know how many books you tend to read in a year. You can guess that however good your intentions, there are a set of books you will never re-read or read for the first time. Put them in a separate pile. Then look again and find some more.

Continue in the same vein with other categories. Depending on the size of your collection, this may take a few days. You should find yourself with a few cartons of books at the end of the process.

Dust the shelves, and put the books back in some organised system that pleases you. Offer the discarded books to friends, family, charity shops or even to passers-by. There, you have done it.

The Gains

Believe me, there are gains. In the first place, your rooms immediately look cleaner and tidier. With luck, there are no books piled on the floor, and you may even gain space for that knick-knack you were wondering where to put. Also, you know where your books are, next time you are looking.

Best of all, you will have found many books you didn’t have any memory of buying, but would really like to read – or re-read. My high school English teacher used to say, “If a book is worth reading once, it is worth reading twice.”

Put them on your bedside in an inviting pile. Take one out and pour yourself a glass of wine.

Time well spent.

This post was first published by Sixty and Me (http://sixtyandme.com/downsizing-dilemma-why-getting-rid-of-books-is-so-tough/) and should not be re-blogged