Growing old gracefully - or not
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  1. #1
    Registered User KathyB's Avatar
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    Default Growing old gracefully - or not

    My random thoughts on growing old - feel free to comment - or ignore. I may add more rambles to this later.

    I have been thinking a lot recently about growing old and aging. I will be 49 soon. I feel like almost 50 should be the time I start thinking about this. So I should have one more year before my thoughts turn to this. But both of my parents will be entering an assisted care home soon. The doctors say my mom needs a 24 hour care place. So I think that is what brought this on. They were in their 30s when I was born, so they are both over 80.

    I have found some things that talk about growing old gracefully.

    But much of the stuff I have found seems to focus on “not growing old.” So dying before your get old? That does not sound like a good alternative. Actually it is about people rejecting the term old. Many people in their 50s or older do not want to label themselves as old. Some of them will pass up senior discounts because it makes them “feel old.”

    I think this has to do with how we define old. Many people are defining old as having deteriorating health. The chance of having health issues increases when people get older. But old does not mean the same things as deteriorating health. There are many older people who are still in good health. And there are many younger people who are having health issues. I have a coworker 10 years younger than me that is in poor health. But I would not say he is older than me. I might say I am aging better than him.

    You could choose to define old as having wisdom and maturity. By that standard I know lots of people in their 60s and 70s who are not old.

    Or you could define old as being over a certain age. It has nothing to do with health, attitude or maturity level.

    Really when people say they do not want to age, they really mean that they want to age well. Or that they want to avoid or minimize the physical decline that often happens has we get older. And I think even the people who fall into the aging gracefully camp agree with that.

    The other part of it is looking old. This includes things like gray hair, hair loss and wrinkles. There does not seem to be a direct connection to these and general health. My coworker with health issues has thick, dark hair. I also have a gray haired coworker who is in very good health.

    Some older people like to describe themselves as “young at heart.” What does this even mean? Does it mean you have the emotional maturity of a teenager? Does it mean you party all night? Does it mean you like teddy bears and rainbow unicorn stickers? It seems silly to define activities and interests as being young or old. I like what I like.
    KathyB

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    Registered User Contrary Housewife's Avatar
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    I saw one of those cute quotation signs once that said something like "You don't grow old until you stop accepting change". I had a long think about that and decided it was true. You can define old people by their actions and attitudes, and the way they cling to the past and reject change, everything from fashion, to music, to politics. I think folks who continue to accept the exciting and new in the world are what I'd call young at heart.
    Stop trying to organize all of your family’s crap. If organization worked for you, you’d have rocked it by now. It’s time to ditch stuff and de-crapify your world.

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    Registered User MsMarieH's Avatar
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    I watched my parents age poorly before my eyes. My father had alzheimers for ten years before he died and my mother had parkinsons for 5 years. They declined to the point of needing nursing homes (though we kept mom at home with round the clock care at her request).

    I have turned 50 and I can already see that I am not aging well (on many levels), so this has been much on my mind for a while, especially since I don't have kids to take care of us in our old age. It gives me some concern. I don't drive myself crazy because I'm clearly nowhere near the point of needing that level of assistance, but it does make a girl think.

    I need to start taking some steps to improve my physical health. I don't have any actual problems (no disease or medications or anything), but I am overweight and I can feel my strength and flexibility already decreasing. I can also feel my mental sharpness decreasing (a reduction in language skills). It's not at the alzheimer's level, but it's something that I am conscious of as I find myself stumbling over words, trying to remember things, etc.

    I think it can be fairly scary, but I also think we humans have a tendency to project worse case scenarios. I am instead looking ahead to what I can reasonably do to prevent or reverse some of the decline before it becomes irreversible.

    As for attitude/young at heart, I do believe there are people who become too set in their ways and hardened in their compassion/patience/fear. There is absolutely a quality of life that makes one young at heart. To me it is embracing the positive side of life, being open to adventure and being willing to try new things.
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  5. #4
    Registered User KathyB's Avatar
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    I feel I am a bit of an old soul. I like music and art styles that are old. Not like stuff when I was teen. I mean styles from before I was born. The latest music I downloaded was ragtime. I like vintage and retro stuff too.


    I still like discovering music styles and performers I have not heard before, but I am not sure how much of it could be called new.

    I am not an adventurous person. I like calm quiet activities. I like cozy homey things.

    I feel sometimes like I am "old at heart". But old in a positive way. Wise, mature, calm and comfortable. Content.

    I like learning new things, reading and watching documentaries. I especially like history. As far as mental decline, I think a lot of it can be countered by exercising your mind. Reading, learning, games that make you think.

    I am working on the physical stuff as well. I exercise regularly, but I am also looking at improving my circulation. That includes things like self massage. It is a sacrifice I am willing to make for my health. ;-)

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    Super Moderator josantoro's Avatar
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    I am 60 and for years I have been "collecting" old people, if you will - not in any real sense, but as examples. So when I meet a cool 70 year old, I think, I would like to be like her at 70, or 80, or even 90. I try to keep them in my mind and not the others who deteriorate so rapidly and sadly.

    I am with you, KathyB. I like old things. I drink my coffee out of a cup and saucer, and use silver flatware instead of stainless. Sometimes I feel like I am living in the 1940's.
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    Registered User MsMarieH's Avatar
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    I have often thought that my father might not have gone into Alzheimers so quickly or deep if he had kept more mentally active. He was a blue collar type guy - mechanic, liked playing poker and watching the horse races, etc. Very hard worker, but not particularly into reading or other mental activities except the daily newspaper.

    I do a ton of reading, and I do various games as well. A big part of that is because I do think of long term neural connections. Helps that I teach classes as well.

    I too watch for people that I want to be like when I grow up.
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    Registered User KathyB's Avatar
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    I have been reading about increasing your brain power. Part of the motivation is try and hold off the effects mental decline that sometimes come with old age. An interesting idea I came across is the idea of cognitive reserve. The idea is that doing mental exercises and other things that keep us mental active (challenging reading, learning new things, games that make you think, etc.) we build up a mental reserve. There have been autopsies of people that showed brains that were damaged by Alzheimers yet showed no symptoms. The theory is that they had enough brain power built up that in was able to compensate for the loss.

    It has been compared to having money in the bank. If you have a good amount of money in the bank you will be okay even if you lose some. But if you barely have enough money to get by and you lose some you start having big problems.

    You brain is like a muscle. It can be improved through exercise. It can also get weaker if we do not exercise it. It works the same way as physical muscles. If I am week, but I start doing strength training I will get stronger. If I stop working out and do not exercise those muscles for a few years, my muscles will get week again. School builds our mental muscles. But if we do not have a job or hobbies that exercise our mental muscles, they grow week. I think that is why many people go downhill after retiring. Their job gave them mental exercise, but they did not get mental exercise after they retired.

    I keep my eye out for positive examples too. I have a co-worker in her 60's that is doing great. She is probably in better health than me. I tell myself "this is what 60 looks like." I have people my age or older in my office that have health issues. But I do not think of them as having health issues because they are old. I just think of them as having health issues. There are younger people in my office with health issue too. One of my healthy co-workers joked with me that we have a pretty unhealthy office.
    KathyB

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    I read a good quote to the effect of: "If you want to be healthy at age 60, you can't start working on it at age 59". So true. I "started" at age 56. At age 61 I am seeing results. Still a work in progress and always will be. Don't know what will happen with my husband. He is 66 and has not started.

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    Registered User Winkie's Avatar
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    Neat thread. My DH is 66 & I am 61. We have so much fun together. We have each taken reduced work loads, but not truly retired. I currently have no health issues, but am a bit overweight & have been working at losing. We may be "old" in years, but we do not let that hold us back. We walk every week with our church group, we are the oldest. We try to go walking everyday, but admit we got out of the habit during winter & are getting back in the groove. My DH runs & has won several 5k races in his age group in the last couple of years. We camp out in our back yard. We dance at weddings. We go on fun trips. Last year we flew to California for a wedding & had our car shipped out then took almost a month driving home. No strict itinerary. We play cards. I do puzzles on the computer. DH plays chess on the computer. We play out side with our grand kids. Just went on a hike, on Easter we flew kites. All three generations can hula hoop, including the guys! In winter we sled down our hills ( except this winter we never got enough snow). We float around in our pool & take late night soaks in our hot tub. Just enjoy each other's company.
    So, to me I think aging gracefully is not having to give up things I like just because of age. (I have given up doing hand springs, but really I think I still can)

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