A commercial came out recently showing people in their 70s and 80s still in the workplace. There’s the fireman who weighs about 80 pounds, trying to handle a gigantic fire hose. We see an elder woman as a DJ while another entertains as a lounge singer. A fairly fit man runs alongside Baywatch types as a lifeguard on the beach. The thought of oldsters still working at this time is astonishing to the younger generation. Soon they’ll be walking in our shoes.
Since turning 70, we’ve attended more funerals than I care to think about. Our friends are all beginning to look so old. The mail we get now has to do with cemetery plots, will preparation and opting for cremation. Death is the final chapter of life on this earth and most of us resist it with all our hearts. Those of us who still have our memories, want to share our story with others. We feel we have something important yet to say or do. Somehow, the elderly have been pigeon holed into their own category – “over the hill,” close to “pushing up daisies” and not useful anymore.
We require more sleep. We may need help getting around. Some lose their ability to live alone and require constant attention. When the aged are moved to nursing homes it’s like the end of living for many. They’re now confined to one room. They can’t cook their own meals or tie their own shoes. They’re encouraged to participate in games and other activities, but they don’t find real joy in any of those things. They give up, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
I believe exercising our minds, just like we exercise our bodies is essential during this decade. Any kind of activity that challenges brain work, requires memory focus, makes one think spontaneously is really important. As a senior approaching the next decade in a few years, I hope to start a drama program for folks 60 and up. In my opinion this activity covers all those things. You have to be prepared, memorize, be ready to improvise, learn about your character and many other things which is like doing push ups with your brain. It also gets you on your feet and moving.
Blending the older generation with the young can also beneficial to both. The wisdom of the elderly can help the youngsters understand things going on in their lives. The youngsters can help their elders understand the new technology and share some of the things they love to do. It’s a different kind of heart condition that many in this age group concern themselves with. It allows you to give the best of yourself. If we’re going through serious illness or disability, we can’t be involved as we’d like to be, but we can still keep other in our prayers.
I sort of dread turning 80, because it used to seem like the age of endings. I wonder how much longer I have on this planet. I wonder how much worse the state of the world can get. I don’t understand how things have turned upside down in just my lifetime. Then I realize how eager I am to finish this journey and start a new one. It’s just the prologue to a new beginning – one that will last to eternity.
HOW TO STAY ACTIVE DURING THE SEVENTH DECADE IN LIFE
- Get out of bed each morning with a prayer of thanksgiving that you made it through another night.
- Exercise – If you’re my age, exercise consists of the act of getting out of bed – but you can take it a step further. The real challenge is reaching for things that are too high, or thinking of more than one thing to do while you’re down on the floor. These can be your stretches. As you go through the day, keep track of your steps with one of those fancy new contraptions. You’d be surprised how quickly those three or four steps add up. Lay on your back for half an hour. This is called planking. The truth is, your body is going to resist any kind of physical activity at this age. You have to push through that resistance and give it a shot at least.
- Eat right – My philosophy on dieting at this age is not to bother. I’ve spent most of my life on diets and none of them seem to work. I firmly believe that if you don’t have diabetes or heart problems, you should eat what you like. You don’t have many years left to enjoy life so you might as well make the most of it. I love food, therefore I eat.
- Stay positive – It’s easy for us to sit around and feel sorry for ourselves. If we let this happen we are dooming ourselves to a non-existent existence. Most folks our age feel they have the right to be grumpy. After all the world owes them, right? Actually the world owes us nothing. We owe those we come into contact with a pleasant experience. If we want to be treated with respect and honor, we need to treat others in the same way.
- Find a hobby or get a job – Quitting your job isn’t easy. Especially if you enjoyed the work you did while in the work force. When you retire you don’t have to give up completely. If you do, you are cutting a piece of your life out of the picture and you work is what defined you as you passed through your middle years. You can consider being a free lance consultant, assist as a volunteer in your field, continue working as long as you’re physically able, or share your wisdom with the younger generation. If you don’t want to work anymore, think of places to travel. It can be a one hour drive in the country and a picnic with your spouse or a trip to Europe, depending on your budget.
- Stop thinking so much about death – During this time of life our friends are dropping like flies. It’s hard to avoid the subject, but if you’re constantly thinking about dying, you don’t have time to enjoy the rest of your living. God still has a purpose for us even as we approach the age of 80.
- Stay involved in the community. People are always looking for volunteers. Being with others is critical to your well being. Isolation is not an option.
- Slow down and smell the roses – You’ve worked hard all your life You’ve seen success and you’ve endured failure. Our bodies naturally slow down at this age, so let the aging process happen and embrace the fact that you’ve made it this far.
A lot of what I’ve listed above is a bit tongue in cheek, but I feel humor plays an important role in the aging process. My maternal grandmother lived through the death of five of her children as well as her husband. She died at age 76, because she felt her purpose in life was over. She died of heart failure. Until her death, she still maintained her sense of humor. We never lose our purpose. God has wonderful things in store for us beyond the grave, but we also have the rest of our lives to make the most of.
“My comfort is that old age, that ill layer of beauty can do no more spoil upon my face.” William Shakespeare – HENRY V