Do I want to live to be 100 years old?

Over the past couple of months, I’ve heard a couple of friends emphatically say in passing – “I have no desire to live to be a hundred!”.  Since I’ve become curious and fascinated about aging, I was taken aback by this common thought process.  Maybe, if I hadn’t started my venture into researching midlife, which I started a little over a year ago, I may have said the same thing.  I find this shift in my thought process rather surprising!

I started “@wellagedliving” on Instagram in July 2017 and via this incredible community, I’ve found a world of like minded 50+ women as well as research that embrace and promote the aging process.  Its been so much fun to see women who are proud of their age and are eager to share information.  (P.S. its a struggle to find men who are doing the same). I’ve found publications such as “Blue Zones” that conducted studies of centurions around the world to find what was key to these communities where the elders are healthy both in body and mind.

From these observations, I find that I want to live as long as I can but in order to do so, I must take charge of my well being.  Mother nature and fate may have other ideas for my walk on this planet however, I must do my part.  Yes we have so many elders in senior living facilities, memory care facilities and in America, it seems we have an entire nation preparing to give up.  Isn’t this a mindset?  Lets be sure we build, lets be sure we show the baby boomers they need to prepare, lets get ready to need others to live out our final years…

Why aren’t we saying, hey, lets prepare to live a vibrant life? Why aren’t we hearing the world tell us to take charge – at any age!  Take charge and prepare to live a long independent fulfilling life?  Why instead, are we preparing for a life of caregivers? Why are we preparing to let them take charge of our lives?  This is 2018, we are smarter, we have information but instead, we succumb to the lifestyles as we know it because that’s the way we’ve always done it.  We continue to eat processed foods, take medications, SIT in front of screens.  Why? Because this is what has been modeled for us.  This is what is predicted for us.  All these senior living care facilities being constructed – all more messaging that we need to be ready for our fate of living as a dependent of others versus living independently.

We baby boomers need to wake up! I want to live to be a hundred if I can be independent, be active and be mentally aware.  I realize the body’s limitations and the need to also prepare however, I also know there is more for us if we take charge and question our daily choices sooner, rather than later. So, can I do this? Or do I just live my life and see what happens.  Its our responsibility to also have the foresight to believe its quite possible I can do it on my own, I can be strong, I can be engaged cognitively with my family, my friends and my community.  BUT, I need to take charge.  I may not be as spry, or as agile or as quick but I can be alive and vibrant.  It starts with starting…  get moving.  If you already exercise, push yourself just a little harder, try something new.  I know we’ve lived long lives and we want to rest or are exhausted but remember, working on us also invigorates us. Let’s change our mindsets and our friends mindsets so we can live a well aged life.

 

 

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In a split second…

Last week, as I was carrying a couple of oversized bags from my home to my car, my little pup tried to exit with me.  I commanded my pup to get back in the house, turned to take my three steps down from my back door to the garage, as I have done several times a day, day after day, year after year; AND, unexpectedly, in that moment, I miscalculated my step.  BAM!, in a split second, there I was flat on the ground crying in excruciating pain.

AARGH, here I am a week later recovering from a sprained ankle, a scabbed knee that can’t seem to heal as the wound keeps reopening as I bend my knee AND I am left with  a very  significant thought…  “In a split second, life changes!”  I know I wasn’t in a car accident, I know I didn’t break a bone, suffer a life altering injury, nor have I been diagnosed with a disease…  but my life as I know it has changed for the time being!  Crap, I don’t have time for this!!!  It wasn’t part of my plan!!  I was forced to remember, I’m not in control.

How am realizing this?  Because, I thought I was getting into my car, I thought I was going to go about my day as I had planned, checking things off my “to do” list.  Because, as I am on vacation this week, I thought I would go for walks everyday, go to yoga classes, hang out at the beach.  Because I didn’t realize I had to think about if I sit down, will I re-open my wound, nor did I realize sleeping would be difficult –  laying awake stressing about if moving the blanket would hurt my ankle or my knee.  Because I can’t move as quickly as I like to or am able to.  Because I’m just not myself for now.  Everything is a little off and although I can smile, I’m suffering a little bit.  Its not that big of a deal – I’ll be okay.  I’ll get back to me.

But here’s the thing –  we all go about our days, taking our routines and daily lives for granted.  The sun will come up, my family is thriving, I have tasks to get done, I have friends I will call and the world keeps turning.  And without any notice, BAM! –  I need to make changes I hadn’t planned for.  Wow, that’s a slap, a warning, a reminder and a blessing!!!

HEY – I need to slow down and remember to appreciate this moment, this day, this life.  It sounds so cliché but it really isn’t…  We have NO IDEA what is up ahead.  This little setback shook me up!  I think I’m in control but guess what??  I’m NOT.  I think I’m strong but guess what, I can be a baby.  I had a tough time recovering and then I realized – get your shit together and pick yourself up!!!  It’s a sprain!!  I started to think about others with REAL struggles – physically and emotionally.  So many others in so much pain, unbearable pain.  They must get through it – and for many, it’s not just a week or two, it’s a month, a year, a lifetime…  There are so many others I must be sensitive to who really are fighting battles so much bigger than this.  It made me think about their courage, their strength, how easy it can be to be hopeless and how they choose not to be.  I have to admire them and respect them.  Their every day, involves more strength, courage, more determination and digging deeper for energy to just “be”.

I send out to the world today, wishes for a little less pain, for a sliver of hope, a piece of sunshine, moments of respite from the aches, sorrows, hurt.  For us who are well, let’s be kinder to those we encounter, share a smile, be gentler. As the saying goes, we don’t know what struggles our other humans are experiencing.  Let’s remember how fortunate we are, lets remember we aren’t in control and embrace what we have right now because in a split second, it could all change!  I’m grateful for this minor accident for it woke me up!

Sabbatical

I took a chance…  I decided to take a sabbatical from work for six months – maybe one year.  This is my gift to myself.  It started with wanting to help in the care of my parents.  Mom had leukemia, Dad’s physical abilities were fading.  They live abroad.  I wanted to be with them.  I wanted to help my brother and sisters.  I couldn’t leave work for weeks at a time every other month so I decided to take the chance.  I had fantasized about taking time off so many times before but this was a strong enough reason to research the process.

Do you think of doing this?  Would you do it?  Have you asked yourself?  What would you do?  Here was my thought process:

  • I had worked hard, had an established career, worked with my company for 11 years, in the industry 30+ years.  It was established – I was of value.  I was a good employee, loyal and appreciated by other employees, management and my clients.  As well-aged employees, this is a benefit we bring to our employers.  I approached my management knowing in my mind that “I’m important to you, can you grant me time to re-group and when I return, I’ll be revitalized and better than ever!”  I had the confidence in my worth and was prepared to ask.
  • Can I live with less for three or six months?  My kids are grown, I’m not funding ALL of them any longer.  Some are out of the house, some are still in school but I don’t have as much outflow, I was saving more.  I splurged more on myself  – bought the shoes, dined out more, had the $5 lattes, took more weekend getaways.  I can live with less.  I can use my savings to fund my time off rather than take that spring break trip, wait to buy that car.  I re-worked the budget.  Its surprising to know what you truly can live with and live without at this stage of life.
  • Ask yourself:  What will the benefits be? What will I regret if I don’t do it? Will my spouse support my decision?  Journal about it, make a list of pros and cons.  Weigh the choice of doing something while you are able versus when you are not as physically agile.  Think about doing something while you’re very alive and healthy versus waiting – the possiblity of becoming ill, an unexpected tragedy, a family setback can all take this possibility away, they can occur in a moment.  And yes, this can happen while you’re on sabbatical too.  Make sure you have your insurance in place!

Its worth the journey to explore this possibility of a sabbatical.  We’ve worked all our lives – whether in a career or raising a family, maybe we take a break and breathe for ourselves.  And realizing now is not the right time is also a good answer.  The exercise allows you to perhaps rethink how you are living now and perhaps build a sabbatical into your future goals.  Its all part of living a well-aged life!

 

Caring for our Parents – A Peek into our Future (another gift from them)

Note:  this was written in 2015, published 2017

I am fortunate that I still have my parents. With it comes great joy and great struggles.  As a daughter beyond midlife, they continue to impart their wisdom of life and prepare me for what is to come.

My Dad is the quintessential success story – a man who worked so hard, built a successful business, traveled the world, practiced his Faith in God, adored his family and believed in enjoying life to the fullest. My Mom was his rock and supported him all along the way.  She was his partner, his wife and a phenomenal mother.  Standing side by side, as their children, we knew they were united in principles, faith and love.

They both are struggling with health issues and it pains me to see this. They both continue to take care of each other everyday and how they care for one another comes in different ways.  Its beautiful to see how love sustains them.  These are the lessons I am learning:

1. Independence is difficult to give up. Dad is fiercely independent and determined to stay that way. He will do things his way. His mind and energy want to push through but his body won’t cooperate. With six children, we try all to advise him with ways to make life more comfortable and safe. By being so independent and head strong, he wants to defy us and do things his way and on his own but in reality he has become increasing reliant on his children.  Its a difficult struggle to watch.  I am learning that as we, my siblings and I, help one another, we are blessed that we have each other.  Thank you Dad for my brother and sisters – we know how to come together, we all have love in our hearts, we all love you and Mom fiercely.  Thank you for letting me see how difficult this is for you.  You are helping me to understand that as I age, I need to learn to let others help me and that I need to stay connected to my family, my friends and my community. It is my hope that despite my desire to be independent that I learn to be okay with others gently helping me as it isn’t only easier for me but it also a benefit for those who care for me.

2. Pride – it can get in the way of your quality of life. We may not want to trust that others know better for us.  We may not want to change the type of shoes we wear, our clothing, our undergarments.  We want to walk proudly on our own, we want to get from one place to another on our own.  Yet, age, health, illness can be ever present and they  affect our self-esteem which I see is still ever present in the later stages of life. My parents have showed me there are ways we can cling to our pride and the expense of others and they have showed me we can gracefully accept our aging changes because of others.  Thank you for this lesson and I pray that as I age, I learn to accept with peace and grace the challenges that will face me.

3. Simplicity – life becomes more simple towards the latter part of life.  I have seen how as they’ve entered their later part of life, they want what is familiar and what makes life easier.  Dad loves his routines and he treasures Mom more and more.  They went from world travelers, dining adventurers and retail trailblazers to a simpler version of themselves.  Less became more.  Don’t get me wrong, they still enjoyed it all but their preferences, their lists, their parameters all became less.  What they’ve taught me is to enjoy all that I can while I can but also keep in mind, after a while, its not as important and maybe now I go for it with gusto OR I realize I just keep it simple….

It has been an honor to share this stage of life with my parents.  It hasn’t been easy.  It has been sweet, joyful, sad, heartbreaking, precious, frustrating and incredible.  I am thankful for this time and for the lessons.

 

 

Goodbye to My Friend for a Season

Gary and I were regulars at the down-town gym that was frequented by other professionals squeezing in their workouts before the day began. That friendly face who always had a smart-ass remark and was good at networking. That’s who Gary was to me.

Several years had passed and I had not seen Gary. He reached out to me one day to get together for lunch to network. We chatted about ways to share contacts and then caught up on favorite topics – kids, cars, wine and travel. It was a difficult time in my life – the early stages of my separation to my husband of 22 years.  I shared with him my sadness on my loss and as we walked back to the office, he stopped and bought me a dozen roses – just like that! No, it wasn’t a pass, he didn’t want to date me. He was just kind. I NEVER forgot that gesture – one that I really needed at that time in my life.

Gary & I stayed in touch in the years to follow. His business continued to grow, he traveled more, he went back to school and life was good. And then, the pivotal lunch date in our friendship – the day he said he had news for me that he wanted to share in person… this was the lunch date he told me he had cancer. We shared hugs and I vowed I’d be there for him.

I didn’t visit him in the hospital or at home. I offered so many times to bring him food, sit by his side, run errands for him but he didn’t need any of that from me. He had a strong support group of family and close friends. So I did what I could – I sent him emails every couple of weeks to check on him and share thoughts of cheer and positive energy. He always appreciated the notes and words of encouragement. It was such a battle of pain, suffering, ups and downs, improvements and setbacks and after about a year, he was ready and able to recover and enjoy a “normal” life. We met for lunch a couple of times thereafter, talking again about families, cars, and travel.

We didn’t have a deep friendship – we had a friendship I would consider now as “seasonal” friendship. That person that’s in your life for a period of time to share a season or a stage of your life. When he seemed “fine”, we let the friendship go. It’s like we were done for some reason, not in a sad or mad way, but in a peaceful conclusive way.  I know we were both okay with that. It was if our friendship had served its purpose.

As I read the newspaper yesterday, I found Gary’s obituary. I am saddened that he has left this world and I am sad for his family and dear friends. I have no regrets we didn’t touch base before his passing. I’m sure he was sharing his life with those who meant the most to him. He fought a bitter battle but Gary also loved life and he lived it and for that he is blessed. I thought about what we did for each other. It wasn’t much but I think we both made a difference to one another in times of our lives when we needed it. For that, I will never forget Gary, that great smile, that kind heart, the one who loved life and went for it.

… do you ever think about these “seasonal” friends? How blessed our we to have them in our lives.

Welcome to Well-Aged… exploring and redefining the second half of life.

Well, here is my first attempt at creating a blog site.  I’m not sure what I’m doing or how they exactly work but I want to give it a try…

… At 55, I’m past midlife but like many my age, I still feel like I’ve still got so much of life yet to live.  Sounds cliche but there are so many of us who do feel this way and aren’t sure what to do with the dichotomy between our spirit and what our bodies, upbringing, society and our values tell us we should be.

Well-aged welcomes your thoughts, ideas and comments to share as we go through this process of finding and pursuing our passions, family life, assessing/refreshing our careers and thought formations with the knowledge and power we’ve developed over the past several decades.  Many of us at this stage of life were still brought up to believe we need to be at a certain place by now but we are getting so many messages that  we don’t have to.  So, I want to figure that out. I am now more aware than ever that this is really it, this is life and hey, its running fast – better catch up to it and be in it…