“The great secret that all old people share is that you really haven’t changed in seventy or eighty years. Your body changes, but you don’t change at all. And that, of course, causes great confusion.” Doris Lessing.
I led two sessions this month on the topic of ageing, and this blog captures the participants’ thoughts and memories on this fascinating theme.
At first, I approached this topic with some trepidation. Maybe because as one of the group vocalised, “we are taught that talking about ageing can be overly personal or prying”. This didn’t make sense in this context though, as the group themselves had voted for the topic! So, reflecting more, I realised the deeper reason for my reluctance was my own fear of the ageing process. The link between ageing and the potential for declining health has been freaking me out somewhat since my recent dance with cancer. But you know, I am so glad I got over myself and went with my curiosity to hear what people had to say! This is now one of my favourite topics so far and I have benefitted so much from the wisdom, honesty, humour and clarity contained in the participant’s varying ideas and experiences.
Listen to these voice clips of the group’s thoughts then read some of their writing to see if you get a glimpse of the sense, acceptance and hope that I did.
My group of three were, on this occasion, all retired. And it was interesting that all of us had found it so essential to have interests which could be continued after retirement. As Philip said “Some men retire and within six months they are dead – nothing to live for!”
We felt it was important to have interests which brought you into contact with other people, whether because of a common interest, or perhaps to give help when necessary, and when possible, involving physical exercise. This brought in the accepting of help when it becomes necessary, as age brings some difficulties. It is always so easy to offer help when one can do so, but much harder to ask someone to help when it becomes necessary. Very few people can continue into old age without some assistance, but most of us will need help at some time. We must try to keep cheerful about it!
A wry smile Growing older we cannot stop, It will bring its joys and woes So let’s think a little lighter how it goes, False teeth maybe or a walking stick, Laughter and tears But we can get help to face our fears, Still smile and say if we are caught on the hop Sorry but I can’t remember, You know how it is After all I am in my golden years. This made me smile.
It's no laughing matter I thought when I reached my 50th year The rest would be a breeze But came along the menopause That brought me to my knees I only had to laugh or cough And a dribble would escape My hair so thin came bald patches It almost sealed my fate The laughter lines diminished And wrinkles were my plight The sweats like a tsunami In the middle of the night I often thought I’d wet myself As I changed the second set of sheets My nightie clung like cling film To my curves no longer neat Then came the dryness of my skin That used to be quite moist In its place it felt like crocodiles skin And resembled charcoaled toast This menopause lark is relentless I walk around with a mini fan Wet wipes and tissues fill my handbag I mop up the best I can Even my voice has deepened A strange voice in its place I sound like Doctor Who’s Daleks There’s even hairs upon my face Now! The thing that has the deepest effect Is really quite uncanny It’s the dryness of my front bottom Quite often called a fanny I know they’ve invented H.R.T Black Gosh and so much more We would have benefited greatly If God had evened the score We are women and quite phenomenal Every curve, lump and bump we own An example of true perfection Even when wilted petals are shown So the next time you look in the mirror Take a long hard look have no regrets Because the image you see before you Proves you’re better than perfect. ©Pauline Omoboye
This month’s topic was perhaps the most challenging. On the whole, however, the sessions proved to be uplifting.
I remembered the older people who had made an impression on me over my lifetime and what they all appeared to have in common was a continuing zest for life. Not accepting the stereotype of an old person but not only carrying on doing things they enjoy (for which they may then have more time) but also being open to trying new things outside their “comfort zone”.
I have featured some of these people in previous writing for this Blog. “Old Jack” who continued, into his 9th decade, to bang out a tune on a piano, nearly as old as he was, at my church’s bingo session.
Also my Gran who flew to Canada to visit a brother sent there as one of the “home children” 50 years before.
It comes as a bit of a shock then, to realise that I am now in the category of “older person” but at least I have known a few good role models.
As a lover of history, I have always loved the memories that comes with ageing and these should be more valued. This project is doing that for which I am very grateful.
The mirror - ageing, a reflection The mirror, Who is this person I now see? I question Can it really be me in this reflection? I am no longer in my youth, But mirrors don’t lie They tell the truth, I have changed Am changing still, Then I remember I am unique Special And yes, the mirror is an honest friend I am amazing And will remain so till my very end.
In my 40s and even 50s I used to joke that I was getting old. In my 60s it became less funny and now in my mid 70s it is reality, so deal with it!
There is a quotation by Dr. Christiane Northrup which I have seen on greetings cards: Getting older is inevitable, aging is optional. There is also the very well-known and slightly more pessimistic one from Bette Davis: Getting old is not for sissies.
Maybe both of those are true to a degree. It can be hard work sometimes dealing with the restrictions that the aging process can bring, especially as health issues become more prevalent, but it is also important to have a positive mental attitude and stay interested in life, to develop lots of interests which may change as life moves on but which are important in maintaining that positive attitude. As with other stages in life, physical, emotional and mental health can go together and support each other. Inevitable sadness at the loss of close family and friends is a price we pay for having had those close ones in our lives, and we should be thankful that we have been granted more years ahead and should make the most of those years as best we can.
When you retire from a busy working life, and perhaps have not so many demands on you in your family life, it is important to regard that stage as an opportunity to take up new hobbies or interests or develop further those you have already got. The worst thing would be to stay at home regretting what has gone and not taking advantage of what might now be.
As with other things in life, a sense of balance is important. Stay as independent as you can, do not let other people, however well meaning, define you as an “oldie” but at the same time increasingly know when you need to ask for help. That can be very hard if you have always been independent and have been the one to help others, but accept that wobbling about on the top of shaky step ladders, or heaving about heavy bags of compost is no longer sensible behaviour, and a careless injury could restrict you more!
So, we have to accept getting older, but we do not have to accept that it is the end of a meaningful life, and above all do not allow others to regard us like that.
Stories Of Our Lives Where do we begin To tell Such an epic tale With a myriad of possibilities, Right from the beginning As they say When we were born That very special day, Through our childhood Growing years Exploring Learning, Troublesome teens What is life all about Why am I here, Maybe love Joys And tears, Opportunities taking Memories making, Into our mid years We seem to drift The blink of an eye We are no longer Thirty But just shy Of forty, Then forty nine And holding Certainly not fifty, Time is now speeding up But we know will not stop, Sixty plus On the horizon Our State pension thus We can draw, What new adventures Await now Last of the Summer Wine And more, Grasping each day Living life to the full Whatever is in store, Our Golden years approach But we don’t feel old Just wiser Longer in the tooth Not in the stereotypical mould, Still each day Full of zest Wanting to be our very best Till one day We’ll be at rest Having created The amazing Unique Stories of Our Lives, What a ride.