You Know You’re Really Old but ‘Not Dead Yet’ When….
Aging is a challenge as we all know. However, it no longer means having to sit home alone, in a rocking chair on the porch, in front of the TV or waiting for the phone to ring.
As aging boomers, whether healthy or not, let’s try to spend our time doing what we can and deal head on with whatever is thrown our way—illnesses, wrinkles and sagging skin, death of friends and family, grown children, aging parents, intimacy and sex, relationships, work and our passions, downsizing, estate planning and where to live in our final years and more.
At least we’re still here as survivors of the pandemic. Many of us have been vaccinated. People are traveling and seeing relatives they haven’t seen for months and maybe years. We are pretty lucky, if you think about it. So, we ask, do we have a right to complain about old age when we know we’re each blessed with roofs over our head, good healthcare, food in our fridges and freezers, warm clothing and work or hobbies that keep us sharp and engaged in life?
With this in mind, why are so many of us feeling down and out...and old? Typically, we try to be optimists, we’re also good at trying to remedy what’s bad and beyond our control the best way we can. After all, we have the wisdom and gray hairs to know we can’t turn back the clock, so we might as well make the best of this stage.
To soothe our aging selves, we compiled a list of what makes us feel old and ways to remedy this undeniable fact of life.
We feel old when we dread more than ever colder temperatures and snow and ice. We shiver, we layer up, we complain but try to go outside to get some fresh air. Snow can mean ice, which can mean a hazard for falling. Hating the cold more has made Barbara feel older, as she realized she had no desire to walk and play gleefully in the snow as her two young grandsons did on a video post. Margaret is almost always cold. Apparently as we age, there is a decrease in blood circulation, our skin thins out like tissue paper and the layer of fat under the skin decreases.
Fix. What does it take to remove the sting out of the cold? One fix is to layer up. Barbara pulls on her fleece-lined tights, gets into an afternoon ritual of a cup of hot tea and starts thinking about what new plants she might add to her garden come spring. Margaret wears several layers when she ventures outside, and when inside stays hydrated with warm drinks, turns up the heat and then goes into shock when the utility bill arrives.
We feel old when we have less of the wanderlust to travel far from home. No long plane trips of 12 or so hours. For Barbara that means she is unlikely to see Australia, New Zealand, South Africa. Oh, well. Margaret says she hasn’t even seen much of this country and plans to stay in North America when she travels. That includes Alaska, Canada and Mexico perhaps in the winter.
Fix: Make a list of all the wonderful places you haven’t visited that are within a 4 to 6 hours plane ride. If traveling by car or van, break up the trip by driving a certain number of hours a day, make stops and stay overnight either in a motel, hotel or your van when it gets too dark to see well to drive.
We feel old when we can’t see the small print on ingredients in the grocery store or instructions how to put something together. With magnifying glass in one hand to help us see the words, how are we supposed to do anything with the other hand when figuring out how to put a camera together or a new chair that needs assembling.
Fix: Pull the instructions off the internet, blow up the type size and then go to work. It would be great if instructions came in an auditory version like books on tape.
We feel old when you agree that intimacy, sex and being part of a couple is overrated (at your age). You begin to nod your head in agreement to Jane Fonda’s decision to be closed down there (you know where) after her last marriage ended. And then when actress Rita Moreno bares her soul in an interview in the New York Times (June 29, 2021) that she’s happy to be single. She's realized she’s too independent and ambitious. You think perhaps she’s also onto something. Having total freedom of who you are with, what you do, who you must please—or not—sounds awfully liberating. If you’ve still got a guy or gal in your life, you’re not going to heave ho and throw them overboard. But you realize, if you become unattached, you’re no longer a candidate for those romantic dating sites that might be better renamed “Slippery Slope,” “Are you kidding?” or “What was I thinking?” than those euphemistic titles like Match.com, SilverSingles, EliteSingles, MatureDating.
Fix: Save your money for chocolate, wine and paying a singles supplement on group travel.
We feel old when…”my lower back and hip are routinely really stiff first thing in the morning.” So says Barbara’s most athletic childhood friend, “Emma,” who easily climbed to the top of the ropes fast, vaulted over the horse effortlessly, did cartwheels and anything else gracefully.
Fix. While Emma lies in bed still, she does her routine of stretching exercises, which helps her to limber up. It’s also a pleasant transition from sleeping to being up and about.
We feel old when you don’t understand restaurant menu descriptions. When there’s an item that has sourdough whole wheat bread with cultured butter and bee pollen for $8, you think to yourself, huh? Am I paying for the bees to be raised? Or another item lists clams, dandelion greens and saffron for $24, and you don’t understand the combination of tastes, so you wonder who wants to eat this stuff. But you look around at the crowd and see everyone your kids’ ages, so you know you stopped at the wrong place. You ask two young hip women if the food is good, and they look at you like who cares about the food,
Fix: it’s all about the vibe. You decide to go elsewhere rather than wait an hour. Yes, you are old and should be at a place where you can have a nice roast chicken like your grandma or mom used to make.
We feel old when we look at old photos or look in the mirror. We love seeing photos of family and friends from years back (assuming we can remember who the people are). Those were the days when we were hugging, kissing and sharing food at scrumptious buffets. And yikes, we look at old photos of ourselves and cringe. Pat in St. Louis sums it up: She feels old when she walks past a mirror and thinks: Who is that person?
Fix. What’s the difference? We’re not going on TV or making celebrity appearances. That’s only our exterior. Inside we feel much younger, maybe 45. To prove to ourselves that we still have some mojo, we can still be creative with our writing, tutoring and painting, and active by running up and down stairs, walking fast along streets, doing calisthenics and having hearts of gold that took years to hone.
We feel old when visits to the dentist become more often and there are emergencies. As we age, our gums may recede and bleed. We might need replacement of bridges and caps, root canal work or have to have a tooth pulled and implant put in. Teeth need to be nurtured and tended to so we can continue to chew our food and smile.
Fix: Cut out the crap, mostly the sugar. Buy an electric toothbrush, floss and do what Barbara does. She goes the extra step by using a waterpik flosser which she swears by, after receiving it as a gift. Not the sexiest present, but surprisingly at an older age, these gifts mean more than flowers that die and candy that puts on pounds and causes cavities.
We feel old when someone lies to you and you don’t flinch. You’re sad that they couldn’t share the truth. But you’re no longer surprised. Was it because they’re embarrassed they didn’t do their “homework” in advance of a meeting or because they know they’ve behaved badly and don’t want to be challenged and explained.
Fix. Whatever their reason, you shrug to yourself or shake your head and know that it really won’t affect how you operate. You’re not better, you know, but you do know that lying only gets you in trouble and catches up with you in the end. Long years have taught you some valuable lessons.
We feel old when we realize we miss the way things used to be. We pine for the days when people sat down to dinner and had conversations rather than rushing through meals with the TV on or spending time on iPhones texting and emailing. Remember the old days when people would dress to get on a plane, go to the office, a restaurant or even a concert. Barbara can hear her mom saying, “It was so nice when men wore a jacket and tie.” And now Barbara and Margaret have become old enough to agree with her.
Fix. Try walking, literally, in others’ shoes. Barbara found it fun to start wearing casual but nice shoes wherever she went, including in her colorful Rothy’s. She even got oohs and aahs. As for eating in front of the TV, we’ve both tried to nix the idea—we didn’t do so growing up and didn’t allow it with our kids during family dinners. However, now for anyone who lives alone, TV is white noise and company. And if cell phones interfere with dinner conversation, set down some rules. No phones at the table. As for dressing to go out, we try to be presentable and if invited to someone’s home for dinner or an event like a shower, we always ask if it’s okay to wear jeans. If not, it can be fun to dress up occasionally.
We feel old when we don’t recognize celebs in magazines and other news sources. We both used to gobble up the headlines in magazines at the checkout line. We knew who everybody was--actors, actresses, musicians, artists, chefs and politicians. Now we don’t know who the heck the writers are talking about.
Fix. Go home and Google who everyone is. Thank goodness we are still young enough to know and remember how to Google. Barbara and Margaret have simply given up on pop culture and most of their friends feel the same way. Both feel happy that they’re old enough to be familiar with someone elderly whom they care about when something happens. We both were incredibly sad when we heard Tony Bennett was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
We feel old when challenged with technology. So says our brilliant lawyer friend Lynn, who adds, “I felt even older asking my son or grandson for help.”
Fix. Her solution is to realize that it gives them the opportunity to feel knowledgeable and be helpful. We’ve tried that sometimes, with good and mixed results. Be prepared for the “Oh, Mom, I can’t believe you can’t figure it out.” And we’re young enough not to give up but try again.
We feel old when we cannot tolerate loud noises, certain current popular music and violent video games. We used to be tolerant of noise, but when we walk down the streets of New York City and the sirens blare, it hurts our ears. We also thought when we were younger that we’d always be fans of pop music. Well, our tastes have aged us as now we listen to more jazz and classical music. As for popular music, most of the time we don’t even know the names of the artists or recognize their work. And let’s throw in the whole video game craze. We don’t think it’s healthy and certainly do not understand the concepts or the mechanics.
Fix: Baby steps. If you want to be savvy about today’s music which is important, especially if you’re around young people, try listening, talk to them about their music or go online and read about new artists which is great fodder for conversation. And if you have grandchildren who are video game fans, ask them to show you how to play and then try it yourself. Learning something new is good for your brain.
We feel old when we start “borrowing” a few things from a supermarket or restaurant or reusing a paper napkin or towel. Barbara remembers when her mother, a Depression-era child, couldn’t resist taking a few extra sugar or ketchup packets, plastic bags or paper napkins home from a grocery store or restaurant. Margaret’s late husband had an aunt who did the same thing. Now that we’ve reached older age, this same urge has taken hold. “This restaurant has so many, they won’t mind sharing a few,” they think. Same goes for the grocery plastic bags at every bin of vegetables and fruits. “They won’t mind if we take one or two extra bags.”
Fix. Their conscience gets the best of them. It’s not a hanging offense but close. They’re here to use for what you pay for—an iced tea or latte or a big bunch of grapes. Otherwise, keep hands off… and they do. It feels good being so honest, and even more important, it makes us feel more like our younger selves.
We feel old when someone tells us to add and use an app. At first, we had no idea what this meant. We fought it for we felt we’d like to experience life before apps. However, once we bit the bullet, we’ve learned the advantages of loading an app.
Fix: Practice here makes perfect. There are apps for just about everything you can imagine including ways to check your blood pressure or your insulin levels. Need an Uber? Click on the app. Lost? Barbara uses the Waze navigation app when she’s driving.
We feel old when we hear or blurt out things we should not say as our filters wane. We know that older people lose their ability to watch what they say. Barbara experienced this first-hand with her aging mother who would say, “Have you talked to your doctor about your weight?” or told a therapist, “You’re lucky you’re married since you’re not attractive.” Barbara heard years ago one older woman, not a friend but acquaintance say to her, “You’ve gained some weight, haven’t you?” She smiled rather than blurt out, “How can you say such a thing? You should be ashamed.” She was still young enough to edit her thoughts.
Fix. Maybe, you didn’t even hear the comment. In this case, thank goodness that you’re older and your hearing probably has worsened. Don’t say, “Oh, I didn’t catch that; could you please repeat it?” Ignore it and walk away. In this case, old age has its rewards. And if your filter is becoming more porous and you find yourself saying inappropriate things to others, slow down and think, if you can, before you speak.
We feel old when the celebrities we grew up with have died. Tragic losses include Mary Tyler Moore, Don Rickles, Chuck Yeager, Sean Connery, Mac Davis, Kirk Douglas. And Barbara’s mother’s benchmark for good looks: Cary Grant. Who are these people our kids might ask?
Fix: We gloat. We can still remember who they are, we say smiling.
We feel old when we decide we don’t want to drive at night in the dark. We worry about our eyesight, getting lost, getting into an accident.
Fix. This is an easy one. We explain we have to make it an early evening, so we can get home in the light or have little time driving in the dark. Or we invite people into our homes or to a restaurant in the town. Fortunately, many of our friends are beginning to say the same, so we’re all in the same boat.
Our bottom line is to enjoy our time left since we know it’s later than we think. And we keep in mind each day that we’re feeling old, but at least we’re Not Dead Yet.