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,