The Great Adventure

November 17, 2010

They say growing old is not for sissies. We need to change the way society looks at and deals with growing old. The prevailing view of ageing is that it’s something to be feared. The ageing process is a natural part of the life cycle. Instead of dreading old age, we should be celebrating the fact that we are living longer, that ageing is not a burden but an opportunity. Growing older really can be the ‘great adventure’.

A survey carried out in the UK asked older people what their main priorities were. The first issue was health. You would expect the second to be money or pensions but it was actually the maintenance of social contacts. Keeping in touch with people is an essential part of healthy living when you get older. Many over 65’s are mortgage-free and fitter and healthier than previous generations. It’s a time when we can let ourselves dare to be more real, honest and open. We can drop the niceties and strictures of who we have been brought up to be, and start to be ourselves, without being so bothered about how others may ‘see’ us.

Old age is an opportunity to do all those things you never had time for before. Instead of spending billions on walling off the ageing, we should be spending more to improve the quality of life among the aged.

Age Action Ireland is a charity which promotes positive ageing and better policies and services for older people. Yesterday, saw the announcement of the winners of the 2010 Silver Surfer Awards with Age Action. The awards aim to acknowledge elderly people who have used IT and the internet for fun and to improve the quality of their lives. Internet access is a great way to combat isolation and allow older people to communicate with relatives abroad. You can read the stories of the winners from each category here.

The top accolade of the 3 Silver Surfer Award 2010 went to a 95 year old grandfather from Dublin who was nominated by his granddaughter. This goes to show… you’re never too old to embrace technology!

A Gift

May 20, 2010

I had a birthday earlier this week and since I’ve now reached an age where the candles cost more than the cake, I started to think about growing old and how we age.

Most people don’t want to think about their coming decrepitude and frankly, you can’t blame them. Bette Davis once famously said, “The young don’t know it yet, but old age ain’t for sissies”.

Did you know that the risk of a driver over 80 having a fatal car crash is 3 times higher than that of a teenager? Old folks have poor night vision as the amount of light reaching the retina, decreases with age.

The elderly tire easily, their sense of smell diminishes, their teeth fall out and their skin dries out. Their sweat glands can’t function which is why the elderly are so susceptible to heat stroke and exhaustion. Hair grows grey as you run out of the pigment that gives hair it’s colour. You will lose 3 inches of your height.

Does all this talk of growing old, sound too depressing for you?

Well then, have a read of this…

“The other day a young person asked me how I felt about being old. I was taken aback, for I do not think of myself as old. Upon seeing my reaction, she was immediately embarrassed but I explained that it was an interesting question and I would ponder it, and let her know.

Old age, I’ve decided, is a gift.

I am now, probably for the first time in my life, the person I have always wanted to be. Oh, not my body! I sometime despair over my body… the wrinkles, the baggy eyes and the sagging butt. And often I am taken back by that old person that lives in my mirror but I don’t agonize over those things for long.

I would never trade my amazing friends, my wonderful life, my loving family for less grey hair or a flatter belly. As I’ve aged, I’ve become more kind to myself and less critical of myself. I’ve become my own friend. I don’t chide myself for eating that extra cookie or for not making my bed, or for buying that silly cement gecko that I didn’t need but looks so avante garde on my patio. I am entitled to overeat, to be messy, to be extravagant. I have seen too many dear friends leave this world too soon; before they understood the great freedom that comes with ageing.

Whose business is it if I choose to read or play on the computer until 4 am, and sleep until noon?

I will dance with myself to those wonderful tunes of the 60’s and 70’s and if, at the same time, I wish to weep over a lost love… I will.

I will walk the beach in a swim suit that is stretched over a bulging body and will dive into the waves with abandon if I choose to, despite the pitying glances from the bikini set.

They, too, will grow old.

I know I am sometimes forgetful. But there again, some of life is just as well forgotten … and I eventually remember the important things.

Sure, over the years my heart has been broken. How can your heart not break when you lose a loved one, or when a child suffers, or even when a beloved pet gets hit by a car? But broken hearts are what give us strength and understanding and compassion. A heart never broken is pristine and sterile and will never know the joy of being imperfect.

I am so blessed to have lived long enough to have my hair turn grey and to have my youthful laughs be forever etched into deep grooves on my face. So many have never laughed and so many have died before their hair could turn silver. I can say “no” and mean it. I can say “yes” and mean it.

As you get older, it is easier to be positive. You care less about what other people think. I don’t question myself anymore. I’ve even earned the right to be wrong.

So, to answer your question, I like being old. It has set me free. I like the person I have become. I am not going to live forever but while I am still here, I will not waste time lamenting what could have been or worrying about what will be.

And I shall eat dessert every single day.”

Author unknown.

So to whoever wrote this, I say “thank you”. It’s the nicest gift I’ve received in a very long while.

Always remember… growing old is inevitable, growing up is optional.

Problems of Ageing

February 24, 2009

This one’s for Paddy.

old-fellasThree old guys are talking about the problems of growing old.

I have to stand there forever to get my pee going.”

Yeah,” says another. “And I’m always constipated, it’s pitiful.

Third guy says, “Well, with me it’s just like clockwork: every morning at 6 am, I urinate; at 7, I have a nice bowel movement, and around 8, I wake up.”

Roll-on retirement, Paddy!