Old women have compassion for those suffering. Is that a secret? Probably not. I don’t want to say that feelings are more intense as we get older, but they come with a history. When I see the children suffering at our border or in Mississippi I think of my teaching days when a little girl cried missing her mom on the first day of kindergarten, or when a six year old screamed and hid under a table when he heard thunder. The good news is compassion doesn’t leave us as we get older. At least while we are ‘in our right mind.’ Maybe compassion is a good indicator of that.
Judy Kugel, friend of mine, writes a blog entitled “The Something-80 Blog.” For ten years it was called “The Something-70 Blog” but then she had that next decade birthday. Every other day she posts something that creates a record of what is happening and how she is feeling during these later years of her life.
When I read today’s post I knew I wanted to share it as one of those old woman secrets that we all know. Thank you Judy.
How Healthy Do You Feel?
Posted: 11 Jul 2019 02:47 AM PDT
Next Avenue is a digital platform produced by PBS. Simply put, it is a website that produces excellent articles aimed at baby boomers.
A story last week, The Surprising Way Older Adults Describe Their Health reported that most older people feel healthy more often than we think they do, even though about 60% of them have two or more chronic illnesses.
In the 2017 National Health Interview Survey, 82% of adults ages 65 to 74 described their health as excellent. So did 73% of adults 75 or older.
Younger people have different assumptions about their health. They believe that their health should be perfect so anything less is bad.
For baby boomers and those even older, resilience, gratitude and realistic expectations all play roles in how we feel about how we feel.
Like so many things in life, it’s all about expectations.
You can get on the Next Avenue mailing list here. https://www.nextavenue.org/newsletter/
Elder Chicks, http://www.elderchicks.com, “a blog for women age 70 or better,” has posed its July topic: July: Beach Time Means Beach Books. Readers are asked to share what summer reading is like for them. Is it the same/different as the rest of the year? What are you reading?
Here’s my response.
Reading is the same for me not matter what the season, except that in the summer I can sit outside. The term “Beach reading” doesn’t resonate with me; by any definition, I am not a beach reader. I’ve never gone to the beach to read, not do I long for ‘beach’ type books. I read whatever I want—serious, frivolous and everything in between. During the school year when I was teaching I had less/NO time to read for pleasure. Retirement, however, changes that, and with it came a wider array of books. .
Currently I have four books going. For easy pleasure I’m reading the fifth Maggie Hope Mystery, The Queens Accomplice, by Susan Elia Macneal. Then there is The Overstory, by Richard Powers, a combination of fiction and non-fiction that I’m enjoying as I read each section and then sitting with it—not a fast read. Next is Puccini, A Biography, by Howard Greenfelt; my plan is to listen to each opera as I read about it. Finally, I’m going paragraph by paragraph through The Muller Report, albeit, one or two pages a day.
I’m in Edinburgh for seven days, by myself of course--my favorite way of traveling. My secret, as I sit writing in the Princes Street Gardens, is that this trip will never end.
I know it is not just an old woman’s secret that something good will go on and on and on. Throughout my life there have been times when I’ve wished that whatever was happening at the moment would continue and continue and continue. It’s a wish for all times and all ages that we know can never be fulfilled. Let’s call it a secret to share that expresses deep contentment.
I’m fully aware that one old woman’s secret may not be shared with all her contemporaries. But I also know that there must be a few out there who are in agreement with some of my secrets.
How about this one? I do not want to make new friends!
I have a lot of friends, in fact, I have enough friends; I don’t need any more. But this is more of an age thing. I don’t want to share my life story with a new acquaintance, nor do I want to hear theirs. I don’t want the responsibility of a new friend. I don’t want is to listen or be listened to, regardless of who’s droning on.
I know I sound negative, but that’s the way we old women sort out what we want and don’t want during our waning years. At least I am aware that I would be as boring as the one listening to me. Lucky for me, I love silence, solitude and simplicity.
I visit several people who are in their 90s. Old people, I call them. Sometimes I refer to them as my older friends. Both are true, but I have to laugh at myself for not putting myself in the category of old. When I’m with young people, I am old. When I am with older people, I am young. One could say that it’s all relative, and sometimes it is. But the truth is that anyone reaching toward her 80th birthday is old, even people like me who feel and look young!
I took a three mile walk today. Because I have the stamina, my thoughts, as a soon to be octogenarian, drifted from my body to my emotional status.
Here’s what popped into my head: I want fewer calendar obligations. For example, I promised to help greet and bring brownies to the church concert on Saturday. No big deal; my choice. And yet, this little ‘have-to’ feels bulky. Definitely an age thing.
As an old woman I’m thinking that I’ll be careful next time I say yes. Hmm, will I play the age card? Can I? Dare I? Need I?
Maybe just say, “No.” Maybe just don’t volunteer. Clear the calendar!
I figure I ought to write some old woman secrets about traveling, since at the moment I am sitting at my favorite café in Florence enjoying a cappuccino and brioche. I guess the secret is that I don’t feel old when I travel; I board the plane and I’m energized. It’s not that I feel young, nor do I feel old; I feel ME.
When necessary I need to acknowledge I am old, but no need to let myself be completely defined by that. I have so many definitions; family member, church member, walker, reader, writer, solitary traveler…, and yes, old person.
Ah, but there is an old woman secret in this. I live more in the present moment now that I am an old woman, and that is a gift of age.
We old women have secrets and younger folks have secrets about us. The issues of technology are especially fraught with secrets and misconceptions among the generations.
I grew up dialing a rotary phone, driving a stick shift, listening to the Brooklyn Dodgers on a transistor radio, receiving wedding congratulations via telegram, using a tape recorder, reading an analog clock, and watching my doctor listen to me and write down what I was saying. These aren’t secrets, but if you didn’t grow up with them, they might be holding some secrets from you in the same way that computer technology is holding secrets from me. At the very least, it is a challenge for the generations to communicate about it.
Case in point: let’s consider the medical world. On Wednesday I arrived on time for an 10:45 annual check up with my doctor and was immediately handed an Ipad and told (asked?) to update my medical history for their files. Twenty-five minutes later I handed in the Ipad and was immediately taken to the examination room.
Yes, twenty-five minutes. No, the doctor wasn’t behind schedule. That’s what it took me to scroll down to respond to hundreds (I didn’t count) of intensely personal questions that I’d never asked before by a doctor, questions, that in my humble opinion, were certainly not necessary to ask an old woman. Thankfully, somewhere along the way I noticed each section was marked as *Required or *Not Required. Eureka! I could speed up and mark something along the lines of ‘choose not to answer’--that is, until all those required, legal, non-disclosure forms at the end.
My comments to the nurse about the Ipad experience went on deaf ears. Instead of being an active listener and offering something along the lines of, “Yes, it is tedious,” she defended the process and need for all that information. My lovely doctor wasn’t tuned into my frustration or opinion either. She suggested that this summer she might have her teenaged daughter be in the office to help seniors “fill out” the form. “No,” I told her, “I can handle the technology, I just find the entire form is over the top.”
There are many secrets floating around among the old and young with this story. Maybe not secrets as much as generational misunderstandings and divides. We don’t get each other; that’s the way it is. I do, however, have some secrets about life and death that I’d like to share if anyone wants to listen. I don’t want the medical world to keep me alive for as long as is medically possible.
I’m not afraid of dying, nor am I afraid to face the death issue. As I watch all those TV ads from the pharmaceutical industry, and as I record my medical history on an Ipad, I have to wonder if the medical world can simultaneously embrace death and do all they can to save a life. Don’t get me wrong. I know that doctors participate in palliative care and hospice and that hospitals have medical ethics committees. I believe that those who work in the in health care are compassionate people. I am aware that the intricacies of medical insurance and the fear of lawsuits add to the complexity. But still, why as all those questions to an old lady? Maybe you have to be an old lady to even think about it.
Which brings me to a final secret on the topic. We old people know ageism when we see, or rather when we feel it. We don’t like it, and when we can work around it, we do. So, next time, I am going to refuse to fill in the Ipad form; instead I’ll pick up the book I’ve brought and start reading
One of the secrets of my old women secrets has two parts: I forget things and I don’t care.
Case in point: I forget what I write on this blog and so I write about it again; but I don’t care that I do this. I have little interest in reading through pass posts. I am not publishing, I’m posting.
As far as I’m concerned I love that I don’t care. I don’t care what others think about repeating an idea. Not that it matters, but I bet many of you forget what I’ve said, and if you remembered, you are just like me: you don’t care.
I am a 78 year old white, educated, privileged woman, in excellent health, with a wonderful family. I go to church and travel by myself to Italy and Scotland. That’s my public vita, my public persona. But that’s not all who I am. I have secrets, secrets of an old woman. So let me say some more.