Aging Gracefully and Authentically

Lots of candles are great!

Aging is inevitable. I loved turning fifty, I didn’t even mind sixty but seventy has to be the best of all.  I even check my driver’s license to make sure that I am 70.  This has nothing to do with any external process I’ve had done to keep me looking fewer years than I am. Unless you count cataract surgery… and that really only helped me see clearly how old I am.

What are the keys to aging gracefully and authentically?

One key is attitude.  One key is fitness and perspective.  One key is continuing to learn and to be interested in the world outside your abode, your small universe.

I don’t have these issues nailed but I do aspire to have them core to my existence.  That’s what we are talking about here.

It’s odd now to read a book and come across the phrase, “an elderly lady of sixty.”  That doesn’t seem elderly to me anymore!  Everyone I know and hang with considers elderly to be about 15 years older than their current age.  Whatever that age happens to be.

Again, attitude is everything . . .

The information above also applies to men.  Fortunately, I get to relate and share in lives of many retired women and men in similar age groups.  That is one of the benefits of living in an active retirement community.  My husband plays tennis and is on a men’s team here.  While I didn’t begin tennis in earnest until my sixties he has played for a long time.

He recently returned to the tennis court with other guys at his level both older and younger than he is.  He was out for a couple of months following shoulder surgery.  One of the octogenarians he plays with asked him how he was doing.  My husband responded that his serving shoulder was a little stiff. The response:  “Is that all you got?”   “I got one lung and had a quadruple bypass last year!”

There is no room for complaining or kvetching about “stuff” when surrounded by others who are living positively with similar experiences.  We are all busy playing and learning or helping and visiting or bicycling and travelling.  Certainly, if someone experiences an illness or injury, a dozen friends will be there to give assistance but overall the outlook is positive and the expectation is to be positive.  Those that are the most positive are the ones who affirm life for everyone else and in turn they reap the benefit themselves.

We’re living longer . . .

Lydia Bronte, author of The Longevity Factor, points out how our lives are growing longer.  Longevity increased during the 1900s more dramatically than at any other time in recorded human history.  In less than 100 years, the length of adult life has doubled. We’ve gone from an average life expectancy of 47 to one of 76, and still climbing.  From 1900 to 1994, we added 29 years – almost three decades to life expectancy.

The extra time starts to click in around the age of 50.  And to make it even better, even though we live to an older chronological age, for reasons scientists don’t yet understand, that extra time for most is not spent in old age.

“If you ask, ‘what is the single most important key to longevity?’ I would have to say it is avoiding worry, stress and tension. And if you didn’t ask me, I’d still have to say it.”

American actor and humorist George Burns, who lived to age 100. 

And we’re living better . . .

It is actually a second “middle age.”  The first middle age is from 35 to 50; the second follows that before reaching old age somewhere above 70.  In other words, it is not unusual to have more than one peak with multiple opportunities to peak throughout our longer lives.  I found this very exciting and encouraging. At 73, I may still make the senior tennis pro-tour.

According to Bronte, here are some well know examples of those later in life achievements.

  • Dr. Linus Pauling made a discovery in his early 30’s for which he subsequently won a Nobel Prize.  Pauling went on to make other scientific discoveries and then in his late 40’s took ten years to go around the world speaking on behalf of world peace for which he won a second Nobel Prize.
  • Science fiction writer Isaac Asimov started shaping his career in his early 30’s then continued at his craft producing until he died at 72
  • Julia Child is an example of peaking again after 50.  She discovered French cooking and trained as a chef, founded her own cooking school and worked on a cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking published when she was 50.  She then began her TV series.  Her career lasted into her 80’s.
  • John W. Gardner was president of Carnegie Corporation of New York.  In his late 40’s he wrote Excellence:  Can We be Excellent and Equal Too?  He went on to become the Secretary of HEW in Washington.  At 79 he accepted a professorship at Stanford University Business School.

There are countless stories about the joys of reinvention after “retirement age.”  So I’m hoping to keep on reinventing myself forever.  How about you?

Dixie and Pam

Writers@richlyaged.com

 

 

 

Create great relationships with friends and neighbors

 

It’s a healthy choice. Choose friendship for positive aging.

Creating great relationships is simple but not easy.  It requires taking the focus off of ourselves and putting it on the person opposite us.

Our last several posts have dealt with various types of relationships that include significant others;  in-laws, siblings, children and grandchildren.  Now its time for a few words about friends and neighbors.

Why all this attention to relationships?

More than just getting along with people, enjoying extraordinary relationships enriches life and retirement in the most wonderful way. Research shows that a positive social life with lots of friends make aging a happier phase.

Listed below are a few basic reminders that I know you are familiar with but bear repeating:

Listen.

Really listen.  Pay attention to what the other person is saying without formulating your own response.  Don’t start talking about yourself until you have responded to the speaker’s interests.  This is much easier to say than do.

Think before you speak.

Is what you say going to hurt someone?  It’s better to return the soft word rather than the sharp jab.  I can remember shopping with a friend when a clerk was downright rude.  I started to make a sharp retort to her when my friend said, “It’s really busy in here.  I’ll bet it’s hard to work today.”  The clerk made an immediate about face, apologizing for her rudeness and what could have been an unpleasant, negative situation was completely turned around by the soft word.

Be respectful.

Good manners are not out of style.  Simple phrases like “please” and “thank-you” show people that we care enough about them to show respect.  Treat everyone as if they are equally important – because they are!

When you remember that happiness is a choice, you are in the driver’s seat.
Be life-affirming to those around you.

Pam’s mother used to come and visit in the summer when her children were young.  She stayed a month, and by the time she left, Pam felt better about everything and saw her whole life in a more positive light – marriage, children,  home – everything.  Her mother was a person who made all those around her feel better about themselves. Decide to be that kind of person.

Build people up.

Offer encouragement and support, kindness and praise. You don’t need to be insincere or phony but there’s something about most everyone that is worth complimenting.  It’s just as easy as criticism and much more effective.

Accept yourself & those around you as they are.

Be who you are and take responsibility for the choices that you make.  I can reach out, or I can be selfish.  I can be kind, or I can be mean.  I can be accepting, or I can be critical.  Those are choices I make, and I will have to live with the consequences of those choices.  The only person I can really change is me.

Agree to disagree with those who have different opinions.

Our closest friends hold completely different political opinions than we do, and we’re both pretty passionate about them. That hasn’t been a problem for us because we know that disliking an opinion is not the same thing as disliking a person.  I know that our friends love America and want only what is best for this country, just as we do.  We just see different ways of getting there.  Respect and compromise are essential to extraordinary relationships.

 Stop comparing yourself to others.

We’re all different. Those differences contribute to our uniqueness.  Jealousy and envy are corrosive elements that bring only damage. Would you really want to be one in a batch of clones?

Reach out to others.

Almost everyone has felt shy, nervous, and insecure at some point or another.  Be alert to your surroundings, and if you see someone looking that way, rescue him or her with an open-ended question.  You never know; you might develop a wonderful new relationship.

Disengage from toxic and negative relationships.

If you have done everything you can to create an extraordinary relationship, and it is still sucking the life out of you, give it up and reclaim your life. Interactions with people who bring only negative energy are harmful and should be avoided as much as possible.  If you must see that person, do it as infrequently as possible.

 Be positive.

Welcome others with a smile.  It makes you more approachable.  Focus on happy things that make you feel good.  After all, that’s what retirement is all about!

 

Retirement is wonderful. It’s doing nothing without worrying about getting caught at it—Gene Perret

Dixie

writers @richlyaged.com

 

Health: an unexpected reason for retirement.

My Unplanned Retirement Story: Health

Dixie's Floating Home on the Columbia River
Our Floating Home on the Columbia River

I retired at age 57. As I said, I’m 72.  I didn’t plan to retire then.  Unplanned retirement reason? Health. Continue reading Health: an unexpected reason for retirement.