“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.

Margaret Williams

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!

Annette Bennett

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.

Pauline Omoboye

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

Tony Goulding

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.

An old-fashioned upright piano with inlaid walnut and ornately carved legs.  There are two brass candlesticks with partially used white candles on either side.
Manuel Strehl, CC BY-SA 2.5 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

Also my Gran who flew to Canada to visit a brother sent there as one of the “home children” 50 years before.

Tony's grandmother is wearing a mortar board and wearing a white dress with a white cardigan.  She is standing outside a university building.
My gran

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.

Annette Bennett

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.

Jean Thompson

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.

Annette Bennett

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.

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