Woman Around Town’s Editor Charlene Giannetti and writers for the website talk with the women and men making news in New York, Washington, D.C., and other cities around the world. Thanks to Ian Herman for his wonderful piano introduction.
As active seniors, many of us feel invincible. We try to eat right, exercise regularly, think positively, reach out to others and spread the joy of being alive. We tell ourselves that “age is merely a number, and if we don’t mind it doesn’t matter.” All this is positive thinking: a healthy approach to later life. We skip blithely from one day to another UNTIL something happens like a sudden clap of thunder. Wowzer, how quickly life can change in a nano second.
As from an unexpected fall: tripping over our own two feet or an unseen object. Seniors don’t bounce. Our bones are softer, more brittle. Bones break or even shatter. Three weeks ago, while finishing up a bi-weekly exercise session, I announced to our visiting 21 year-old granddaughter, “lookie at what grammy can do!” Slide, skip, slide, skip KERPLOP! It didn’t take a rocket scientist to deduce the break(s). The ER, hospitalization, hand surgeon, IV pain drugs every three hours, two-hour surgery to fix two broken bones in left arm plus “shattered” wrist. Humbling, debilitating lesson not ever forgotten. No time for self-pity…
It is important to know some sobering statistics from the Phillips Lifeline website about how often falls occur as people age. Here is a brief synopsis of information:
“About one-third of people over age 65 fall (accidentally) each year. By age 80, over half of seniors fall annually. Yet many falls are unreported, as they do not result in injuries requiring medical treatment. Falls are the leading cause of death due to injury among the elderly. Eighty-seven percent of all fractures in the elderly are due to falls. Forty-seven percent of seniors who fall (and are uninjured) do not know how to get themselves up unassisted. Those who fall are two to three times more likely to fall again.”
However, seeking help from a trained exercise professional can make a huge difference for all seniors. Increase your core strength and by all means, every senior needs to be taught to get up from the floor unassisted. You can do it!!
As I wrote Joy of Retirement: Live, Love, and Learn we retirees are responsible for being proactive in all areas of our lives. As I look at my vibrant amethyst colored cast, I am inspired to share some thoughts for you to ponder. If just one cautionary tidbit resonates with you, that will be a step forward!
How do we avoid taking chances and avoid breaking bones in later life?
Hold onto railings beside stairways.
Keep all clutter off floors.
Pick up your feet as you walk.
Beware of scatter rugs!
Put them in a closet!
Mop up all spills on wet floors.
Avoid icy patches in winter.
Tie shoelaces securely.
Keep closets and garages tidy.
Refrain from standing on step stools, ladders and chairs.
Look at the ground, not the stars when walking.
Walk your dog cautiously…careful of tangled leash.
AND NEVER EVER SHOW OFF FOR GRANDCHILDREN!!!!
If you are way too young to relate to this article, perhaps it can help you as you love and care better for older friends and family members. It is never too soon to plan ahead and never too late to learn.
One of the most beautiful aspects of growing older is the opportunity to review our lives to date, with the wisdom of age. We can look back at our many years on earth and think how gradually life evolves. From the naivety of youth, to the reality of older age, we travel a long and winding path. Some of it is bumpy and some of it is smooth, but it is never even. Contemplate “What I Would Tell My Younger Self.” You may be surprised how much you have learned.
Write down your ideas. You may have an opportunity to share them. Perhaps these thoughts will inspire a new reality check. Because we live in an ever-changing world, it is inevitable that youth views life from a very different vantage point than we seniors do. There may be differences, but many similarities as well. Talk to yourself, and see what you would do differently or better or smarter.
Of utmost importance is: Understand that if you are young, you have not lived long enough to accumulate profound wisdom, which comes from living, learning and suffering, whether it be on a small or large scale. You are a “work in progress,” and that is how life is meant to be. You go from being a dependent child, nurtured and cared for by (hopefully) loving parents to being a student preparing to make your own way in the world. You may be filling your head with knowledge acquired from books, lectures, professors, teachers and grandparents. Your experiential life is still just beginning.
After graduating from college, trade school or serving in the military, learn to live independently. Learn to handle your own finances, pay your own rent and taxes, shop for your own groceries, and start a savings plan. Learn to live on a budget and balance your checkbook each month. These basic skills will reap life-long benefits. Save love and marriage for later: in your middle to late twenties at least, if a family is what you want to complete your life. Be cautious in your selection of a mate. Passion is great, but it doesn’t pay the bills or make wise decisions.
Keep your mind open. Youth typically feels they have “all the answers” thus slamming shut the door on experiences of others. Listen respectfully to the suggestions from elders, even if they sound archaic. Ask questions as to how they coped with difficulties encountered during their youth. Listen, absorb, and embrace the sage advice of your elders. Sift through what makes sense to you, engage in a dialogue about what bothers you. You just may gain another perspective.
Welcome a mentor…a person on the job or in another area of life whose values you admire, and whose expertise may help you grow. Always seek people who will enrich your thinking and your attitude toward life in general. Always observe the successes of others, both as people and as leaders. Learn from them.
When job loss or heartbreak make you feel as if a tsunami has slammed you against the shore, give yourself little time to wallow. Instead, pick yourself up, go forward and remember Admiral Farragut’s famous words as he embarked upon the Battle of Mobile Bay: “Damm the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” Teach yourself to be resilient. Do not wallow in self -pity. Look for the opportunity to grow even among unwanted difficulties that are inevitable as we take the journey of life.
Always remember to say “thank you.” Always remember to reach out and away from yourself. Always remember to imagine how someone else might feel, and be compassionate. Always give of yourself, and always find time to do something for someone less fortunate than yourself. Always “give” without expectation of receiving anything in return.
And if you are a parent or a spouse, love selflessly. Remember that babies grow up all too quickly, and that your children are yours only for a brief time. Kindergarten is the first step to letting go; realize that your baby is exposed to many other people who will influence her or him. Love your children with understanding, a sense of humor and always, always try to be consistent with your affection as you strive to set meaningful limits.
Imagine how your words can impact another person before you say them. Never be mean. Give sincere and heartfelt compliments when deserved. Don’t be stingy with them. Remember that superficiality is readily discernible. Be genuine in all your interactions with family, friends and co-workers, and if someone annoys you, try to ignore the reason why.
When someone is hurtful or unkind to you, recognize that angst may be generated by a deep seeded hurt in that person. Forgive. Follow the Golden Rule even when your feelings are hurt. Practice good manners and never be rude, in thought, word, or deed. Open the door for a person in front of or behind you. Never let it slam in their faces.
Enjoy your youth. Exercise regularly….all your life. Keep your mobility, your desire to stay fit. Being young is a uniquely beautiful time of life, and it only comes to you once. Don’t be afraid to take a risk. Do the best with it that you are able. Take off your blinders of innocence, open wide your eyes to growing better every day of your life….even unto the end of it. Count your blessings every single day. And never take them for granted. Love and be worthy of love.
One of the most critical aspects of the retirement years is the need to be open to the inevitability of change. For some people this is not too difficult, as they may have experienced multiple career moves. Pulling up roots and relocating to new cities at different times of their lives is the norm. They learned how to replant and bloom again…often, repeatedly. These experiences are beneficial and broadening. For some, however, unwanted moves are anathema and leave them resistant to change. At least they have the know-how buried deep inside, and when presented with the challenge of changing, they are well equipped to do it. For others who have spent all their lives in one house or one city, change is unthinkable…and impossible to ponder.
Yet keeping yourself open to change is voluntary. It requires determination and effort. Here are six positive reasons why we should all embrace change:
1. Downsize. As grown children graduate from college, find jobs, marry and move to their own homes either close by or far away, the need for a large home becomes unnecessary. There are many unused rooms, plus the cost of upkeep: heat, lights, repairs, paint, etc. and even higher taxes. Why spend your well-earned money when you can move to a smaller home and have less work and pay less to the government?
2. Travel. During the early years of retirement, use the money you save by living in a smaller house for traveling to new cities and new countries. Take a cruise, go on a bicycle trip through France, visit the country of your ancestors. ENJOY your freedom of retirement and inhale its benefits while your body is still young enough to travel with ease.
3. Expand your thinking. Find your passion: spend your time pursuing hobbies you always wanted to explore but were too busy to enjoy. Audit college courses, take an art course, learn to paint, or, write a book.
4. Volunteer. Give of your talents to a worthy organization. Become a hospital or literacy volunteer, teach English as a second language, and bring yourself closer to children who are the future of our country. Give them a good dose of your wonderful old-fashioned values.
5. Give generously of yourself to friends in need. As we age, more and more of our peers experience health crises, losses not only of spouses but of adult children. Reach out and give sustaining love and support to them. None of us is impervious to loss. “What goes around comes around.” Or as my mother always said, “Ye reap what ye sew.”
6. Locate an affordable, topnotch retirement facility. Give your family the gift of not worrying about your old age. Give yourself the security of moving to a fully staffed and equipped step down retirement center, where your needs as they increase can be met. Give yourself the gift of peace of mind and your family the freedom to lead their own lives without caring for you.
Live your life to the fullest every day you have on earth.
Sooner or later when you near retirement, the subject of where to live pops up. So many things to consider. Perhaps for the first time in many years you have a choice rather than a mandate of where to live. Those working in some professions may have been able to chose their home city. Big corporations, however, are notorious for selecting where employees live…and it may not always be in a city or town of our choosing. Because jobs are the key to earning a living, workers are compelled to follow the paycheck trail.
Happily, the Retirement Era opens many doors, allowing us to make our own decisions. But it is up to us to give serious thought about our Happy-Ever-After location. Take your time and contemplate the whole picture. Make a list of the pros and cons of making a move or staying put. Think carefully about what you want to gain or what you are willing to sacrifice if you move. Remember, for most people, retirement is a big adjustment in itself.
First thing to consider is how much income you will have each year. Compute your annual expenses based upon where you currently live, such as the cost of maintaining your house or condo, the cost of living, your taxes, your insurance costs, etc.
If you decide that you can afford to stay put, decide if you like the weather. Many “Yankees” head south during the winter months to Florida or Arizona or even the Caribbean. Some lucky people can afford to buy another house and keep their main residence where they may have lived for many years. However, many retirees do not have overflowing bank accounts.
Carefully consider the future as you age and realize that your health may become a problem. Do you live in a place offering excellent medical facilities and retirement homes that are well staffed with trained professionals? When you are newly retired, you may feel young and vibrant, and that is great. However, times change, hips give out, knees may need replacement, to say nothing of requiring heart surgery or cancer treatments. A healthy mind and body are paramount to quality living.
Many people think that if they move closer to their grownup children their lives will be easier and simpler. Never forget that as much as parents and children love each other, our adult children have busy, active lives of their own. In today’s world, they are not meant to be our caretakers. They are meant to enhance our lives and live their own lives. We are meant to provide for ourselves as best and as long as we can. Decide if your supportive network of friends can nurture you BEFORE you sell your home, uproot your life and zip off to live next door to your daughter or son.
Choose where to live according to how it can impact your interests. If you love the theater and the symphony, don’t move to the hills of Montana or the backwoods of Maine. If you love to learn, consider auditing classes at the art museum, a city college or university. If you like to volunteer, be near good hospitals or charities that will gladly welcome your services. Consider how vital it is for you to remain independent and vibrant for the foreseeable future. Concentrate on how important it is to give of yourself and your own talents as long and as generously as possible.
Remember how blessed you are to have earned the freedom and flexibility of retirement years. Appreciate how lucky you are to have the option of making choices. Embrace how exciting it can to be to continue to Live, Love and Learn. Mostly, remember how wonderful it is always to help Spread the Joy of being alive!