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Would you like to be young again?

As we move into our ‘senior years’, a whole lot of new questions begin to emerge in our day-to-day thinking. Some of us may look into the future and begin to worry about coping with long term illness or, indeed, dying.

Others, in contrast, may begin to think about the past. Were we happier then? Was it easier then? Would we, in short, prefer to be young again? And, if so, how young?

Start with Childhood

Some people say that childhood represents the happiest years, when we were completely carefree and responsible for nothing much at all.

Circumstances differ, of course, but for most people, it was a time when we simply had to get up in the morning, get ourselves to school, play with our friends and, perhaps, do the odd chore.

Personally, I think childhood is greatly over-rated. Certainly, for some it was an easy and enjoyable time, but others will remember it as a time of great stress. You don’t understand the world, you don’t know where you are going in life, your ‘friends’ can be difficult and sometimes even bullies.

Worst of all, you don’t understand yourself – neither your strengths nor your weaknesses.

Some people look back and see only the positive. But I had problems in my own childhood and then watched both my children experience problems and now my grandchildren as well.

I would not go back to childhood for the world.

Teenage Years

Becoming a teenager is undoubtedly exciting, as you begin to explore the wider world and its possibilities. But it is a time of such angst that it is hard to think anyone would ever want to repeat it.

Is there anyone who would want to be a teenager again? In my view, this is a question that answers itself.

20s and 30s

Once you are past the worst of adolescence, it does seem to me that life becomes a little easier. You have begun to settle into a profession or job of some kind. You are exploring personal relationships, perhaps choosing a partner and having children.

Yes, it is exciting. A lot of new joys. A new partner or husband! A new baby or two! Learning new responsibilities at work. Beginning to get a sense of yourself.

But as I look back, I also see a lot of problems.

The period of one’s twenties is particularly problematic. You are officially an adult, but frequently don’t feel or act like one. It’s not easy to find a permanent place to live and, indeed, many young people these days continue to live with their parents.

More difficult still, a lot of people feel the pressures of not really knowing where they are heading in terms of a career. If they have chosen something, they wonder whether they will be good enough. Some may also question whether their chosen partner is, in fact, the right one.

Perhaps it all becomes easier in your thirties. Some issues have clarified themselves for good or ill. But you see yourself approaching the big 40 and wonder whether you have done well enough.

Everyone is busy and pulled in many directions – the search for promotion, the needs of the partner and kids.

Often, you find that even your friends are too busy to talk.

Is that so great?

Midlife and Beyond

At least by the time you are in your ‘middle years’ you know yourself reasonably well. You have learned how to pursue your strengths and how to live with your own limitations.

You have finished having all the kids you will ever have, which may be seen as a joy or a relief or the source of considerable unhappiness. But you know where you are in this respect.

You may also be coping with menopausal symptoms, which may be no difficulty at all or be the cause of major problems.

And you may be coping with the famous twin pressures of adolescent children and ageing parents, both of whom need your attention. For some, this can be the most stressful period of their lives.

Looking Back

These are all very personal thoughts, which undoubtedly depend on the trajectory of your life and that of those around you.

In my own view, the older you get, the better it gets. Not everyone will agree. A lot of it will depend on the simple issue of health.

A friend of mine, for instance, who found himself quite ill and tired at the age of 70, asked me whether I would prefer the normal spread of ages or to be age 65 all my life. He said he preferred the latter. I was not so sure.

Perhaps, like me, you are glad you went through all those stages but are happy to be where you are. Or not.

Of course, if you could be all those earlier ages with the confidence and wisdom you have now, perhaps the answers would be different. But that would be cheating!

 

This was first published on sixtyandme.com (see https://sixtyandme.com/would-you-like-to-be-young-again/)

Feeling happy in your own skin

 

An old friend and I were chatting recently via email. She had sent me a photograph she had taken of me earlier that day. I replied that it made me notice how very white my hair is and that I needed a haircut. It also reminded me that I am not as slender as I used to be.

She replied immediately to say I was “beautiful.” Which I am definitely not. I suddenly realised that she thought I was one of those women who don’t much like their own body and was seeking to reassure me.

I wrote back to say I have never felt ugly nor beautiful, but “pretty enough,” and it was not an issue for me. And she replied, “A rare and precious quality – being happy in your own skin.”

This stopped me in my tracks. Am I truly “comfortable in my own skin”? Do I feel happy about myself? Is it, indeed, a rare quality?

Of course, this has many meanings, but let us start with the physical one.

Physical Appearance

For as long as I can remember, it never occurred to me to feel that my face or body were not good enough. Yes, I was very short, but that couldn’t be altered (aside from wearing high heels).

Yet I didn’t feel the need to “fix” my body in some way. I never even liked wearing makeup and, after a few inelegant efforts, gave that up. I was – and have remained – a walking WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get).

It was only when I got into my 20s or so that I discovered this was not the case for all women. Many seem to feel their breasts are too large or too small, their backsides are too big, their noses are not the right shape, and so forth and so on.

And so, of course, the business of makeup was born (going back to Egyptian times, if not earlier) and, more recently, plastic surgery.

Much is the advice given about how to alter your physical appearance – dying your hair the right colour, doing the odd nip or tuck, and certainly applying loads of stuff to your face. Even the right colours to wear for you.

But does it make you happier, or indeed, more “comfortable in your own skin”? I honestly don’t know. That is certainly the intention.

Deeper Issues

But feeling happy, or simply comfortable, with yourself is grounded in much more than your physical appearance. Do you like yourself? Do you think people like you? Do you feel you have done enough to meet your early expectations of yourself?

Our initial view of ourselves must come from somewhere. This may be what our parents told us or how we compared to our siblings. Much labelling goes on within families “he’s the sporty one” or “she’s good with people” and this must rub off.

On the other hand, it may not be fully accurate. I was the middle child of three, with the other two being outstandingly clever. Despite reasonable grades in school, it took me years to realise I was really quite bright as well. It hadn’t seemed so, by comparison, in my formative years.

Our view also comes from our classmates, not only in those many years of school, but also if we go to university and beyond. We may get a reputation for studying or partying or being good at politics. We may have loads of friends or very few.

We try somehow to work out who we are and what we are good at. And how much do certain qualities and skills matter – to us or anyone else?

And many a novel has been written about the rest of life! It has a way of throwing you a hand-up or pushing you down. An abusive partner is very likely to flatten self-confidence, just as a quiet but admiring one will do the opposite. Success in work is much the same.

I cannot do justice to the issue here, but it is all part of the process of learning.

 

This post was first published by sixtyandme.com (see https://sixtyandme.com/how-happy-do-you-feel-in-your-own-skin-growing-old-may-have-something-to-do-with-it/)

SEX IN OLD AGE

 

Shot of an elderly couple hugging and kissing

People everywhere are fascinated by sex. I am not the first to say so. We wonder what other people do and when and what it means to them. And some wonder how long it continues.

When I was in my 20s, I naively thought that sex was only for the young. It simply did not occur to me that people over 40 continued with such activities.

This was nothing to do with any connection to child-bearing, but simply to the assumption that only the young had an appetite for – or interest in – sexual relationships.

As we age, we learn more – about this as well as everything else. There is, of course, much more research now.

Surveys will tell you about the extent of sexual activity at different ages. But few of these involve people over 70. And we are often reluctant to raise the issue with people we know.

The Story of My Parents

Of all the stories I tell about my family, the one which always gains immediate attention is one about my father.

My parents lived in an independent apartment in a retirement community in central Pennsylvania. They moved in when they were both roughly 80 and died within three months of each other, 10 years later. That was nearly 20 years ago.

After about five years, my mother developed vascular dementia. This is, of course, every married person’s worst fear. The husband or wife is no longer what they once were, but you are still married. And it is harder and harder to cope with the sheer physical demands.

My mother remained in the family apartment for well over a year, with a caretaker having been hired to help with her daily needs.

But eventually, it was too much for my father to manage and it was agreed that she would move to the Assisted Living section of the community. She was looked after, but he could pop in several times a day to see her.

He rarely complained, at least to me. It was just something that had happened.

An Affair Begins at 90

In the meantime, his eyesight had worsened, and he was losing one of his great pleasures – reading. He listened to a lot of audiobooks (and complained that there was no easy way to find the place where you fell asleep).

He had a friend, a somewhat younger woman, who came in to read to him. He was terribly pleased about this and talked about it – and her – quite frequently in our regular phone calls.

I should have seen it coming. When a man starts mentioning a woman (or vice versa) quite often, it tends to mean that something more than friendship is involved. But it just didn’t occur to me.

My daughter suggested that it was a possibility and I thought, no, that is unlikely. Not because the thought upset me, but they just seemed too old.

I went to visit around the time of his 90th birthday, when we were holding a party for him. Soon after I arrived, he sat down and clearly wanted to communicate something to me.

He had never sought very intimate discussions, but this time was different. He mentioned the name of the woman, who I had not yet met, and said he wanted me to know that they had become ‘an item’. I remember thinking the word was odd.

He was very clear. This was not ‘simply kissing and cuddling’, it was the real thing. Indeed, he said his doctor thought it was terrific for his health. There was no mention of love, but that did not seem important. The key thing was that he was happy. And he was. He was then 90 and she was 83.

I was surprised, but also delighted. Whatever my views about fidelity in marriage, they do not extend to the time when one partner is effectively no longer there. I made this very clear and could see him visibly relax.

He had wanted me to know but had been frightened of my reaction. He said his worst fear was that some other resident would tell my mother, but it did not look like that had happened. He still continued to visit her as before.

My father and his lady friend never moved in together, although perhaps they stayed in each other’s apartments when I was not there. I did not press for such details.

She continued to be a regular presence in his life until he died. Indeed, the night he died, she went to the hospital and sat with his body for a long time.

When Do People Stop Having Sex?

I don’t know when – and if – people stop having sex. I suspect there is a lot of it about. Certainly, in the retirement community, it was common for couples to spring up quite quickly after the death of a partner.

But I do know about my father. And when I tell this story, I have never heard a reaction other than “what a wonderful story” or “so, there’s hope then”. I’m sure he would be delighted for you to know.

 

This post was originally published with a different title on sixtyandme.com (see https://sixtyandme.com/the-taboo-topic-of-older-people-having-sex-lets-not-hide-from-the-facts)

ONCE A MOTHER, ALWAYS A MOTHER

 

It is said that once a mother, you are always a mother. However old your son or daughter may be, they are always your children. This may be right, but it is a blessing and a curse. Most of us cannot escape it.

The Nature of Motherhood

This realisation came home to me a week or so ago when I passed a restless night, even waking at one point in a clear state of panic.

I don’t know what I was dreaming, but it was probably one of those dreams where you can’t get to where you want to go. All I know is that I was visibly shaken, and it took awhile to settle back down.

I knew immediately that I was worried for my son. But why? Was he a new-born, and was I a new mother who knows absolutely nothing and worries about every little thing? Nope.

Had he just started nursery school, when you worry about whether they will manage without you for the first time? No, not that either.

Was he at the end of secondary school, when you worry about whether they will get into the college or apprenticeship of their choice? Wrong, again.

No, I was worried about an interview he was having the following day for a job that would make his life very much easier (due to its location) and set him on a good ladder for his professional career. He is not new-born, nor age three or even age 18.

He is, indeed, in his late 30s, married, a father himself, and completely independent. He doesn’t need my worry at all.

Worrying

Are you more easy-going than this – or do you worry, like me, in such circumstances? Do you feel it deeply when your no-longer-young children pass through important life stages?

Perhaps you worry whether your daughter will juggle a new baby with her developing career. Perhaps you worry whether your son’s new girlfriend is entirely suitable. Perhaps you see signs of mental instability or too much alcohol and wonder what you should do.

There are a myriad of circumstances and important decisions they will make, over which you have no control.

And I don’t mean worry in the sense that we worry slightly over loads of day-to-day irritations. I mean worry in the sense that it is immediate and palpable to you. You begin to be easily distracted when you should be thinking about other things. Or lose sleep. Perhaps you even lose your appetite.

This is a deep-down, umbilical-cord-still-attached kind of worry.

And it doesn’t help that we mothers of middle aged children are the subject of ridicule all over the world. I am sure we have all seen some movie where the young hero has to stop an important business meeting to deal with his over-protective and very annoying mother on the telephone.

It is always shown from the child’s point of view, too. The mother should have let go a long time ago.

Developing Coping Strategies

For those of us who do worry, it must be said that we probably have little control over the matter. The important issue is not what we feel, but what we do about it.

We all need to develop coping strategies for such moments. Go to the gym or for a long walk. Talk to your spouse or partner. Or a friend. More than once. Read a distracting book. Meditate.

The main thing is not to put our problems onto the very sons and daughters we are worried about. Avoid making a nuisance of yourself, however hard that might be. And, most certainly, don’t make that phone call.

When interviewing women for my book on being a grandmother, one woman made a very wise a comment about giving advice on parenting:

“Every grandmother has to be issued with a zip [finger across lips]. There’s a fine line between help and interference and you have to learn it. Nobody can teach it to you, because everybody’s experience is different.”

The same is true for other aspects of our children’s lives, however old they are. It’s not easy and I don’t always succeed myself, but it’s good advice.

Afterthought

In case you’re wondering, he got the job.

I wonder what I will worry about next?

This post was initially published by SixtyandMe.com.  See http://sixtyandme.com/of-mothers-and-adult-children-how-do-you-cope-with-thoughts-that-make-you-worry/

The importance of neighbours

My very friendly next-door neighbours moved back to the US last month. In many ways, it was not a surprise, as they were always going to be visitors in London – here because of the husband’s job. Yet it came as both a shock and a loss.

Perhaps I am not alone in this position.

The Role of Neighbours

The role of neighbours in our lives is an interesting one. They may become good friends, of course, but often – however friendly you are with them – there is a certain amicable distance.

You meet on the doorstep when putting out the trash or even stop in the street for a chat when out shopping.

I have neighbours with whom I can have lengthy discussions about the schooling of our grandchildren or the state of the world. Such talks can be so engrossing that my husband begins to worry what happened to me when I had only popped out for some milk.

You also do all sorts of small things for one another, like taking in packages or offering the proverbial cup of sugar. Perhaps you occasionally water a garden or keep an eye on the cat.

The Importance of Neighbours

It might be said that neighbours now substitute for what the larger family traditionally did as a matter of course.

When extended families used to live near each other (or, indeed, with each other), it would often be the older generation who would come to the rescue when there was a problem.

As I have written in my book about grandmothers, this can still happen, but often people simply live too far away.

We, for instance, often step in for a 15-minute babysit when a neighbour with three kids has one child suddenly down with the flu and needs to get the others to school.

Although these little niceties are small, they make life so much richer. Not to mention easier. You may not see the neighbours all that much or you may see them often, but you feel more comfortable knowing they are around.

Getting to Know Your Neighbours

Big cities are famous for not being very friendly places, with people feeling lonely in the midst of a large population.

This may be true for many, but you may be surprised that a lot of people do get to know their neighbours. In some countries, this is easy, with very little required for people to break the ice.

In the UK, with its tradition of people keeping to themselves, it can be more difficult. Children are a great enabler of friendliness. I certainly met some of our neighbours through our children and, now, through our grandchildren. I believe dogs serve much the same purpose.

Some places seem to have a tradition of neighbourhood friendliness. I know of one family who, on the day of moving in to their new house, were greeted by a bottle of wine and a friendly note from those living nearby.

Unfriendly Neighbours

Not everyone has friendly neighbours, of course. This is often a nightmare scenario. You hear shouting, or worse, and don’t know what to do. They have loud parties or don’t clean up their rubbish and it all affects your quality of life.

Sometimes, they are doing nothing more than enjoying their garden, talking to friends well into the night or, as we used to experience, barbecuing fish. You can’t really complain, but you wish they wouldn’t do it.

Years ago, we had some very unfriendly neighbours who threw rubbish over our common fence and once threw a brick through our window. We called in the police, who claimed that there was little they could do. We moved soon after.

Moving Away

There are many things we may take for granted until they are gone. One of these, in my view, is friendly neighbours. If you have lived in the same place for a long time, you know them quite well. And you know you can ask them for help (and are happy to reciprocate).

If they move, you will miss them.

And if you want to move, it does make you stop and think. As we are at the age of down-sizing, we have begun to consider the road ahead. There are numerous pros and cons, and it is an easy decision to put off.

But I realised that I felt strongly that one of the ‘pulls’ to staying put was the existence of so many people in my road who would help us if we needed it. This can be hard to establish in a new place. It certainly gave us pause.

We Like to Know They Are There

Years ago, I was designing a questionnaire on levels of involvement among members of patient support groups. It was easy to specify committee membership or frequency of meeting attendance, but I felt there was something more passive but subtle.

I came up with “I don’t attend my local group often, but I like to know it is there.”

Bingo; that was ticked more than anything else.

Afterwards, I thought this is a category that comes up in life quite often – the things we don’t use actively, but we are very pleased to know that they are there.

Good neighbours come under this heading.

 

This was first posted on Sixtyandme.com (see http://sixtyandme.com/how-important-are-your-neighbours-as-you-reach-the-mark-of-60/)

Driving in old age – how do you cope with a parent’s reluctance to stop?

A certain royal person, in his late 90s, was in the news recently in the UK. He had had a car accident – the car he was driving had ended up on its side – and it was reported that he was a bit “shaken up.” As one would be, even if you were much younger.

It started some conversations about old people and driving.

Old People and Cars

This is a serious issue – and one which affects a lot of us these days.

In my case, it was my father. I lived an ocean away from my parents and kept in touch by telephone but went to visit a couple of times a year or more. My dad would always meet me at the airport – driving, of course.

At some point, when he was in his mid-80s and his eyesight was failing, I began to worry for his safety. And that of other people, including myself.

Not surprisingly, he loved the sense of freedom that owning and driving a car brought.

So, understandably, it was a hard subject to broach.

“Don’t bother to meet me at the airport,” I said breezily a few days before I was due to travel. But he wasn’t fooled.

“You’re worried about my driving,” he replied, “but really, I’m just fine.” I asked him to get his friend, who was a lot younger, to drive him to the airport. Which he did.

Later, I raised the subject again. I stressed that I was worried because of his eyes: there might be a small child in front of the car. Without missing a beat but with a slight smile, he answered that there probably won’t be.

He knew he was beaten and knew that he shouldn’t be driving. But he had loved his car for as long as I could remember – indeed, from before I was born. And now, in his old age, it gave him independence, and he liked the fact that it allowed him to be helpful to others.

My father did decide to stop. Perhaps he was relieved, but he never indicated any such emotion. And at dinner, a number of his friends, who had already been told of my audacity, thanked me. They had tried hints, they had tried reason, but he wouldn’t listen. But they were pleased he listened to me.

A Global Problem

Soon after this happened, I spoke to a friend in Germany who’d had the same problem with her father. Another friend in the UK had it with her mother.

I realised that this was a problem all over the world – how to tell an otherwise independent parent that they should stop driving. You are embarrassed, they are defensive – and it is altogether difficult for everyone.

I wonder how many people as they grow into their 60s and beyond face this issue – with their very elderly parents or with a spouse or, indeed, with themselves.

We love our cars, we love the freedom driving brings, and it can be a real question whether our minor frailties have grown too large for us to cope.

Flowers for Forgiveness

But let me tell you the end of my story. Immediately after that trip from the airport when my dad was not driving for the first time, I found a bowl of flowers on the table in my room.

This was not at all usual and I was taken aback. With them, he had left a note: “With love and forgiveness.” I asked him, of course, what he was forgiving me for. “For telling me not to drive,” he said.

We all do things in our own way. He was a constant surprise.

 

This was initially published with a different title by SixtyandMe (see http://sixtyandme.com/driving-a-right-or-a-privilege-in-old-age/)

How does it feel when your children become middle aged?

My daughter turned 50 this week. Yes, 50. How did that happen? I was 50 myself only a few months ago – or so it seems.

Children and Time

When it comes to our children, time seems to work at a different pace. We do what we do, go about our business and, in the background, we vaguely know we are growing older. We tend not to notice – or, in some cases, try our best not to notice – that we are ageing, too.

But how do our children age so fast? It was only a few years ago, surely, when we were chasing them around the park or helping them tiptoe through the minefield of adolescence.

And not that long ago at all that we were watching them seek to find themselves in their 20s and 30s. They tried out jobs, quit, and tried again. Often the same with boyfriends or girlfriends. And that was OK. We worried, of course, but it was what they were supposed to do at that age.

But you suddenly notice they are getting even older. Settling down, setting up house with a partner or even spouse ­­– and gosh, even having kids themselves. I have written a lot about grandmothers, including a book about how it feels to be a grandmother, so I know well about that.

But how in the world did that happen?

Feelings Towards Middle Aged Children

My father used to say that he didn’t mind getting old, but he couldn’t bear having middle aged children. I now know what he meant. In many ways, it is the biggest indicator of your own age. He always said I was 31.

And there is no terminology for it. The word ‘children’ implies people who are young, although your children remain your children whatever age they are. We can talk about our sons and daughters, but there is no ready collective term for these very adult adults.

Their Choices

But once you accept the fact, there is something pleasing about your children getting older. Especially if they have settled into a good life and have a strong sense of themselves.

There is a fair chance that they are not doing what you imagined when you were chasing them around the playground. But is it good for them? Are they happy in themselves?

And they probably didn’t marry exactly the person you imagined all those years ago. But are their marriages (or partnerships) strong? Are they successful as parents? These are the important issues – not the actual age that has suddenly come to your attention.

The Problem Crops Up at All Ages

Perhaps you are a bit younger than me. Your youngest son has just turned 25 or your daughter has turned 40. The numbers are different, but the feelings are the same. You still ask yourself, where has the time gone?

And it continues right on up. I have a friend in her mid-90s whose children are all retired or in the process of retiring. We certainly agreed that was strange. But it will happen more and more as we live longer and longer.

So, enjoy what you have, each and every day. Your children are, indeed, growing older. So are you. So, for that matter, are your grandchildren if you have them.

There are, undoubtedly, bumps along the way. I am told that there is a Chinese proverb to the effect that mothers are as happy as their least happy child. So true.

I hope that means you are happy enough.

 

To purchase my book on grandmothers, go to https://amzn.to/2OulTEI

This was originally published on Sixtyandme.com (http://sixtyandme.com/what-is-the-best-thing-about-seeing-your-adult-children-grow-older/)

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.

 

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/)