Thursday, March 1, 2012

Elder Wisdom

A conversation in our car yesterday after a long day of visiting our son and storytelling:

It was almost midnight and we were near the end of a 300+ mile trip when Larry said, "You know, I don't think of myself as old."

"I know," I replied. "I don't think of myself that way either. But other people seem to think we are."

"Yeah," Larry replied thoughtfully. "So I guess it must be true."

How odd this aging is. I feel no older and in my mind I feel as capable as I ever have, ready to try new adventures and tackle new ideas. Physically I still go at a pretty good pace through the day, often working into the wee hours even though I'm up at 7 am.

So what is "old"? Is it a chronological age only that allows the world to assume you have lost your ability to do certain things? Or is it how we view ourselves and the limitations we put on ourselves because we've reached a certain milestone?

I readily admit I have more aches and pains than I used to; I move stiffly sometimes and my hands ache and show the onset of arthritis. My hair is gray or mostly so. I have a few lines on my face. But mentally I feel as sharp as ever, perhaps even more so than when I was younger because I know so much more now and have a stronger base for decision-making and choices.

I have seen and heard the horror stories of elderly people who don't realize that they actually can't do the things they still think they can, like drive, manage money or live alone. Their minds tell them they most certainly can, and no one is going to stop them! Is there a point when the ability to be rational about our capabilities becomes impaired, just like our bodies?

Aging comes with lots of questions and surprises. I wonder about the phrase "growing old gracefully." Does that mean giving in, letting go and letting the rest of the world take care of you? That isn't my style, I'm afraid. I have no problem admitting that I'm 60 years old but to me that isn't old, it's just a reckoning of the time I've been on earth. I don't mind gray hair or wrinkles; I get aggravated at my stiff fingers and need for glasses.

So when will I actually be old? I suppose I'll know it when it comes. I hope so anyway. And I hope I'll still have the wisdom at that time to step back from the front line of my life and recognize that I can no longer do important life functions like drive or manage my house. And if I don't see it myself, I sure hope my sons have the strength to tell me that it's time to give it up.

In the meantime, life continues its rollicking course and this old lady is having one hell of a good time.


Steve Ferendo said...

I like your attitude.


Really enjoyed this post as I've been thinking the same thing. When do you know you are old old? Or do you?
I can assure you your sons or daughter in laws will let you know.
With health issues in the last year I've had to let go of a lot of things. Mostly they're the things I needed to let go of anyway, like worry. Like housework, like doing everything for everyone. Had to give them up.
Now I'm coasting, getting better and trying to figure out things.
I suspect you have a lot of mountain woman in you and that's will keep you going when all else fails.
We do need to let the younger ones help when we can. Best of luck down your path.
Blessings, Barb
We are only as old as we feel. Sometimes I feel 16, tonight maybe a tad older!

Joy@aVintageGreen said...

Stiff fingers, cranky joints, seeing the screen with trifocals and tilting so I can read on the bottom tri. In my head I am who I was/am but when I look in the mirror I am not the same looking person that my mind sees. I do notice my multi-tasking has become a couple of tasks instead of several at a time, yet I continue to learn/do/create/enjoy/laugh/...

Nance said...

ditto Steve. I like your attitude too, Sue. I am about your age, Sue. I am physically active and agile (compared to some others my age) I work 40+ hours a week and keep up with my family . . . but I have one worry and that is my Memory. My mother had Alzheimers. I am forgetful. My husband and I have all sorts of jokes about our forgetfulness. I have to go back to the original room to remember something I was going to do three rooms away. I can't remember the name of an entertainer. I forget the name of a flower or plant. I don't want to end up like my mother . . . so I practice new things and learn something every chance I get and my job keeps changing -- so that's good. But in the end, in the long run, is it all a roll of the dice? I hope not! I hope I have some control over this old age thing! You and Larry go! I'll try to keep up! : )

Rob Hunt said...

I think age is just a number my dad is 91 and a going concern you have the right attitude! Keep on keeping on

Rowan said...

I know exactly what you mean! I'm 65 now and don't think of myself as old at all, I'm probably about 40 in my head:) Fortunately I've inherited genes from my mum that mean my face is still unlined and I have very little grey in my hair so other people don't think of me as old either. I'm also lucky that I don't have any signs of arthritis. again the right genes as it doesn't seem to run in my family. I'm sure that keeping active both mentally and physically makes a lot of difference too. A lot depends on your mental attitude I think. Of course I'm aware that I don't have the same stamina that I used to have and I don't drive at night because I can't see in the glare of headlights - but that's been the case for the last 15 years at least, I've never had good night vision. I'm not sure that all people our age feel this way - several of my friends (younger than me in some cases)think of themselves as being old. Equally I know several people, women especially who are still going great guns at 80. A lot depends on your mental attitude I think.

Granny Sue said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Granny Sue said...

Rowan, you certainly are the lucky one! I have a friend who is 93 and he has no arthritis. I dream of that. My parents both had it so the genetics got me there. My hair is mostly gray now, but my face has remarkably few lines; I can thank my Dad for that, I think.

Joy, you certainly stay busy!

And Steve, I do believe your attitude is much like mine :) I think most of us who blog do so because we have strong, varied interests that we want to write about. And that isn't age-related; it's true for all bloggers.

warren said...

I don't think of you two as old either...I think it is mostly a state of mind. Sure, bodies age and all that but deciding to be young is so important. My grandpa (who turns 98 at the end of the month) never got old until he turned 90. He just didn't think about it. My grandma passed and that is when he decided to become old and it worked. Emily's grandparents are both 86 and neither is old. Their bodies are slowing down for sure but they absolutely will not act their age and I am so glad. I am determined with role models like that, to just be young, in mind if nothing else.

So young folks, wanna cut some firewood?

Pat MacKenzie said...

I have moments of feeling old - like today - my first child's 40th birthday! I don't feel much older than 40 myself. As long as you can enjoy life fully, you won't grow old.

Unknown said...

Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways - Chardonnay in one hand - chocolate in the other - body thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and screaming "WOO HOO, What a Ride!

Not sure if this exactly fits with the "getting older" theme, but wanted to share it. This is the way I hope I go out.

Jai Joshi said...

I think of old as an attitude. When people don't want to learn anything else and justify it by saying that they've seen and done it all, that's old.

You're nowhere near that, Sue.


Granny Kate said...

I was so old when I was 40. I remember that. I don't know if thinking so helped that terrible arthritis I had at the time, but it was very bad. I was old, over the hill and gone.

Now, I'm 58 and quite young. I spin Poi, do Tai Chi, am about to sign up for belly-dancing class. I ride my bike and hula-hoop and all these other pastimes we new age old-timers do. It'll all come in handy when we go back to raising goats like we did when we were old folks in our 20's and 30's

"I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now..."

Brighid said...

I was thinking the same thing on the way home from a grand's ball game today. I know by years I'm 65 but it's just a number. There is white hair, wrinkles, but no real physical problems,an active mind and body. Still enjoying life!!!

Country Whispers said...

Love your post!
Age is merely a number.
That number doesn't make you old or young. Attitude and the way you look at life is what makes you old.
You're never to old...
for anything!

Granny Sue said...

True words, Jessica!

Marie said...

Not having any energy has been the hardest thing for me to deal with, plus being so stiff all the time. I became sick back in 2001 and have had this problem ever since. I too am 60 but somehow it feels ancient to me because of my problems. Yet, I know it could be a lot worse! So I am grateful for what I still CAN do! Glad you are still doing as well as you are! That's a blessing!

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