The Young Old

When people ask me a definition for old, I tell them if they multiply their age by 2 and it is over 100 years old, they are past middle age. I have noticed that if they are in their 50’s they bristle. The category, ages 60’s and 70’s are more accepting. They are dubbed by some authors as the “young old”.  The “old old”, people in their 80’s and 90’s, would laugh to say they were anywhere close to young. It is almost an insult because they are usually proud they have lasted this long in a difficult world. What challenges they have overcome!

In my last class, I was the oldest at 72. There were two women holding at 69.5 years,  two in their late 50’s and one man at 60. We had a guest speaker, Sharon, who handed out information that three of the people will need to figure out Medicare. She came in as we were beginning the list of organizational issues that are especially important in the preparation for old age. Health care instructions, a will, power of attorney, and the like.

Sharon is not yet close to 60 years old. I know her personally so let me tell you about her life as seen yesterday at a party. Her youngest daughter was graduating from high school with my youngest granddaughter. We had approached child bearing at different ends of the spectrum. My parents are deceased and hers were there along with her husband at the graduation party. Her father suffered a severe stroke several years ago and requires some care. Sharon could be the poster child for the sandwich generation. She is in the middle of parents and children and even with the help of her professional husband, her time is always crunched (and she works) . She cannot be old yet because her parents may require care for a decade…And then there are grandchildren.

One of the major reasons that this class exists is that people need to face facts about aging and death, health and illness and make decisions for themselves without wishful thinking about their future. A part of that planning is difficult when you have no idea how long you will live…..thus the plan A, B, and C. Or, even better, the situational path. If this happens in this time period then I could do this…If that happens instead I could___________. Taking options as long as you can until they run out and your soul slips slowly out with your last breath is not a bad idea.

Another major reason I am adamant about this subject is  to wake the late 50 somethings up to the need of starting the process of simplifying their lives. One of the best gifts you can give those you love is to have a life stripped down to the essentials.

Now, all this seems boring and dull and depressing. But, the good news is you have lots of time left to live a good life and make a difference in the world. That was a big topic in our discussions. All of the students had people who taught them how to be adults and older adults and they had ideas about how to go about their transitions to old—either the young old or the old old. Finding your purpose over and over in your life helps us all.

I will post a list of references in the next few days. Some of you are readers, some need a movie or two to move the synapses and some need to write. The journals provided in the class are now in the hands of people determined to jot down thoughts and feelings about this adventure….hopefully they will tell me so I can facilitate the next group.

This blog and class and even the thinking behind it is dedicated to the old age of our grandchildren and great grandchildren. Remember we are role models for a couple of upcoming generations. It is an awesome responsibility to teach them that aging can be a mixed blessing and a long life is not aways a gift.

Sleep well my friends,

Joanna

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Adventures of Learning and Teaching

The trip and visit to the District of Columbia and Virginia after a few years was as filled with new experiences and old favorites as expected. Coming home to the TO DO list and class to teach gave me pause to think about adventures in general for elders.

How about rethinking what an adventure is and what we need it to be as older folk. It needs to be exciting and new and challenging but manageable. The idea of fewer stops on the list, but deeper connections to what we are experiencing is my new goal.  This idea popped into my consciousness when we went to the Kennedy Center to enjoy the National Symphony Orchestra.

As conductor Andrew Litton was pulling us in with excellent teaching about the composer Dmitri Shostakovich, my brain recorded that we were all students of this piece of music, how it fit into history, why it evoked such emotion, the details of the composer’s thinking and how the full orchestra needed to be engaged. It was a deep and thoughtful evening.

While my experiences with classical music has been varied, this particular piece I had only heard played once before. There had been no preamble or teaching before it, no connection for me other than the stirring tone of the piece and certainly not the overwhelming appreciation felt by the entire audience of the Kennedy Center at the conclusion. It was my first deep connection to an adventure in a long while, but hopefully not my last now that my experiences will be curated in a different way.

Unexpectedly, which seems to be how interesting things happen, the hours before we left to fly home, we went to old town Alexandria. There we toured the Carlyle House, ate clam chowder and popped in quickly to see some of the art studios at the Torpedo Factory. This was the scene of another deep connection. Glancing the art of Kathy Beynette (www.beynette.com), I scooted in, met the artist, promised to call her the next night and pre bought a piece of art. Having had several great conversations with numerous people during our stay; the Ethiopian cab driver, the young woman at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the vendors at the Eastern Market, the escalator angels, and the new friends who hosted us, it was overwhelming to suddenly connect to a soul who seemed so close to mine in that last frantic hours of the adventure. Simply put, it confirmed my new plan for adventures.

And, then we were home. The to do list included a class yesterday at Colorado Free University that is named How to Become an Extraordinary Elder. Another day for me and hopefully the class members of learning different ways to manuever in old age. One of the goals of this particular class session was to get a feel for what elders wanted or needed to talk about in real time and in anticipation of what is to come. They did not disappoint me because they were all different, but all the same in the need to manage the lives they have left in  the best way possible. In a few days this blog will be full of their thinking and the movement toward EXTRAORDINARY LIVING. They also asked for a list of books and that will be forthcoming.

May you all rethink how you spend your time and energy on both daily living and adventures,

Joanna

 

 

 

Off to see the Wizard

For all of you downsizing or downsizing your relatives, my sympathies. Tomorrow, early, my long time friend and I, Renee are headed to Washington DC for a few days to catch up with the exhibits and shopping and investigate the rumors of strange people who want to move into a large white house there.

The reason I mention downsizing is that when I helped Renee with her personal downsizing, we saved the money and now it is time to spend it.We used speciality consignment stores and people we knew and garage sales and Etsy to move her possessions. She now has a beautiful two bedroom, one level condo that fits the next elder years. After weeks of making decisions, most people are ready to haul it all to the dump. But, in the case of worthwhile collections, you may want to get someone in to do an estate sale and pocket some money since downsizing can be pricey. There are companies you can hire, but again—get some referrals.The thrifting and selling and downsizing business is a way that people make their living. Old metal, old coins, used electronics and clean (really clean) items of furniture are worth a few bucks to you.

Ask people in all the groups of friends and former work people you know and get some ideas. Don’t let these important decisions slide. In case you haven’t noticed, it gets more difficult every day even to pack a sack of gently used items to a charity shop. Your nostalgia can cripple taking charge of yourself.

Living more simply has been a big deal for years, especially when this 21st century American hubris escalated for more and more and more. Remember it is your older years and living with out clutter can leave room for last adventures.

Do you think the new people who want to make 1600 Pennsylvania their address will bring a favorite stuffed chair or 22 cartoon glasses from the Bradford company? Are there gold faucets in the bathroom?

Joy,

Joanna