Saturday, August 6, 2011

Cheers and Challenges: 70-90

It's the LAST week of "The Decades" series and I hope you've enjoyed it!   This week, I've combined the decades from 70 and on into one week. This is not because all of these decades are the same but because I've met so many older adults in all three decades (the 70's, 80's, and 90's) that share many of the same qualities. It'd be tough for me to differentiate the benefits of each, although I admit that being 100 can be far different from being 70.  Many people often fear the later decades and perceive them as mostly negative, but the main point for today's post is that though it really is difficult and challenging to experience 70+, it is not all downhill. There are benefits.


70's-90's



Cheers:

  • When you're truly "old" people often give you a break. You're allowed more than others to be brutally honest and you can often get away with doing things the way you like to.  My grandma - she picks out all the bitter melon when we make bitter melon and ground beef for dinner. She leaves only a few bitter melon claiming she only like the veggies and leaves the rest of us with all the beef. We let her do it.
  • You can wear the same clothes each day and people don't care.  The only other time I got away with this was when I was in elementary school or you could also if you're poor, but old people can get away with wearing the same exact ensemble every day. A number of the residents I used to train in a fitness center a few years back who were all 70+ always came in with the exact same sweat suit every work out. My grandma wears pretty much the same outfit every day (she's got two pairs of the same ones) and I still think she looks fabulous.  
  • The stories you tell are great.  Storytelling skills should be the most touted benefit of old age. In working directly with older adults, I've gotten to hear some of the best stories.  At this age, you can pass down history, but also wow the crowd with real experience.  My grandma has told me stories of how at her wedding she was so poor her guests chipped in to buy my grandpa and her their wedding night dinner.  Another resident I used to work with told me how things were when they used to deliver ice to each house because fridges or freezers were not yet invented. 
  • You've stored up the wisdom and you have it to share.  Why do we value the ideas of youngins and middle aged folks more than the ideas of the elderly?  I'm not sure why but after 70 + years of life experience, I'd say that you've got a better looking resume than someone with only 40 or 50 years of life experience.  While we often look down on old people thinking they don't know what they're talking about, wisdom is something that I think ALL old people have. You might not share it when you're 70+, but I truly believe that you have it in you somewhere and it's part of what happens when you have many years of experience and the time to reflect on all of it.  One of the downfalls of society today I believe is that we make rash decisions and don't reflect enough. We go by our feeling, our gut instinct and what we want at the immediate moment, but we rarely reflect to see how a decision will affect all areas of our life in the long term. At this age, your circumstances often force you to reflect on life. 
  • Wrinkles don't bother you anymore. By this time, you've accepted that you're old. You don't try to hide your wrinkles with makeup and most likely, you won't or can't try to pretend you're 20 years younger than you are. You've accepted who you are and your age and there's something peaceful about that. 
Challenges:
  • You start to feel like a burden to others and people may often treat you like you are. The truth is that it is difficult being old.  You can't perform to prove your worth and so at times you and others feel like you're in the way.  Maybe you can't mow the lawn like you used to and have to ask your daughter or son to come over and help.  It's a burden to them, at least that's how you feel.  People treat and think you're a child again because you ask for help more than you can help others.  I mentioned briefly in my previous post on being a burden that as grandchildren, adult children, or just friends, we should make a greater effort of involving our older family members and friends.  When they call to talk, we should take the time to listen and not brush them away even if this is the third time they've called to say the same thing.  We need to make them feel and know they're important.   
  • Physical decline and challenges. Depression I feel often stems from physical challenges later in life.  A chronic condition like fibromyalgia causes a person to be in pain and this can keep him or her from going out, getting to them gym, and can often be a royal pain when trying to stay active.  There are many other physical conditions that seniors experience and as one gets older, it's likely they have a number of health conditions.  When you really think about it, it makes sense why older people may not be as chipper as the younger folks or as fun to hang out with. When I get even a bugbite, my mood changes drastically and no one wants to hear my whining. Yet I'm itchy and the physical stuff really does affect ya.   When my grandpa was alive and had a wound on his leg, I always tried to remember to give him grace when he yelled or was cranky.  Most people thought he was mean (which he could have been), but one factor of his anger or tantrums was often the fact that he was in pain.  Are you smiling and at your best when you've got the flu? Something to think about.
  • You may feel alone. My grandpa never was part of most conversation around the dinner table in the last few years of his life.  He couldn't hear and so everywhere he went, even when around people, he still must have been in a lot of solitude.  Another older woman only has family to take care of her. The ones who knew her vibrant personality and her achievements have all passed.  Her friends, her sisters and brothers, her husband. Her son now buys food for her, takes her to the doctors, calls her to say Merry Christmas and that's love isn't it?  But who asks her how she feels about certain situations or has a meaningful conversation with her about what's on her mind?  
  • You are in the last stretch of your life. There's uncertainty and fear.  You lived your life carefree, but now in at 70+, you realize that death is near.  It's not just because you're old, but your thinking is also influenced by the fact that many of your closed family and friends have died.  It's scary to think about death because unlike other ages, you can't see what it'll be like. You may an idea or a belief, but there's uncertainty of what's next. 

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