This past Sunday, the Open Thread wondered ‘Why didn’t anyone tell me?” about some aspects of getting older that took us by surprise….and we asked our readers to share their experiences.
And how. Bette Davis was right about how difficult it is to grow older, but didn’t mention anything specific. But Senior Planet readers sure did.
“The biggest surprise about getting older: I didn’t realize how RICH it is. And it gets better, really.”
Several people agreed with me that there’s a ‘hit or miss” quality to memory, and quite a few said they spend more time and effort on fitness. “I spend more time to keep my body in shape than I ever did before” said one commenter. “And it feels great.”
“I love the skin I’m in now.”
A few people noted that as an older person, they were invisible…but seemed mostly okay with it. It was great to read how many others welcomed being at the stage when they didn’t care what other people thought; others rejoiced in not doing things to please other people all the time.
Finally for a really uplifting approach to getting older, take a look at the long comment by Linda T. and her adventures and experiences (learned to surf at 57, and longs for her hair to turn completely silver grey as a ‘power statement”).
We will keep this thread open to learn more about what surprised you about growing older – and how you handle it. What do you wish someone had warned you about? And what’s your workaround or solution? Let us know in the comments!
Virge Randall is Senior Planet’s Managing Editor. She is also a freelance culture reporter who seeks out hidden gems and unsung (or undersung) treasures for Straus Newspapers; her blog “Don’t Get Me Started” puts a quirky new spin on Old School New York City. Send your suggestions for Open Threads to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is the first time I have read your column and thought it was Wonderful and Real. I found a little of myself in the comments.
Kind Regards to All!
What I forgot to mention is that even volunteering, which I have done for decades, is off the table as is the travel, both of which so many seniors find so much joy in doing. I just know I am not the only who feels cut off not only by aging and ageism, but by covid.
At 71 I also find the growing older to be both challenging and rewarding. Having experienced profound hearing loss at the age of 33 and my old child when I was 57 I am no stranger to loss. When Covid hit the sorrow that came with it was magnified by the deaths of two childhood friends not from the virus but was unable to attend their funerals. However I did not give up my work. I was able to successfully transition to telehealth and continue to provide my patients therapy. Im very proud that I was able to make that transition despite not being a fan. I focus on what remains as I work from home. Grateful to have my little brown dog at my feet and my 78 year old husband with me. Profound loss in my life has taught me a valuable lesson. Focus on what remains.
I am surprised by all the largely positive comments about getting older. I hate it. I hate it. I hate it. I hate the lack of respect by anyone younger than 30 that I get whenever I say anything or when out and about in the shops or whatever or on public transit. I hate that my body is betraying me despite taking decent care of it all my life. I hate that my skin on my face is taking on a life of its own so much so that I barely recognize myself in the mirror. I hate that my very rich, full former career life as an international civil servant and educator with so much travel and experience – no one cares to hear about. I hate that because I do not have children, or grandchildren now, decisions I made with difficulty but I made them, my views on both are dismissed or discredited as if I have no right to an objective opinion. It is a good thing I have always been okay on my own, making career choices as I said that permitted maximum mobility, but now with retirement and Covid I am forced to be stuck here where I am. Travel always made me feel alive, travel offered the joyous side of independence and invisibility, travel offered me companionship in meeting people who were my own age and had similar life experiences. And covid has taken that away from all of us. But getting old? There is NOTHING good about it because I never cared what people thought before and that is no asset now – I always took care to live a humanely responsible life and not hurt anyone or do anything really, really stupid that would come back to haunt me. All my closest friends I met while overseas and thank God for Facebook and Zoom but it is impossible to form new, decent friendships over the age of 60 and the online thing no thanks. I am divorced now for 30 years and thank God for that but companionship with a nice man would be nice but I have yet to be blessed in that department as I cherished friendship above romance since a bad marriage but as I said all my friends are overseas because of how much time I spent working abroad. My body hurts, my skin is sagging, and no one cares to engage with small talk with old people. In the past I could make anyone laugh and I always had a smile and a hello no matter who I encountered, but now, here, it is as if I am talking but nothing is coming out because I am ignored. I am stuck at home, on my own but not alone, and it is awful. I know we are meant to find the positives, but I think a forum for some of the darker side of getting older would be welcome.
I’m with you all the way, ML West, except that I have been blessed with the genes for no wrinkles and no grey hair! I have met a few millennials and Gen Xer’s who are kind, smart, respectful and energetic — but many more the opposite. When I first retired, I took on way too much: lots of adult education courses, volunteering, gardening, cooking, etc. I soon tapered off on that! My biggest regrets: that I’m not able to be closer to my grand nieces and nephews (whose parents were left with me for entire summers); and that my body is failing me with so little energy that I can’t keep up with my house, and so many minor ailments that I often feel unwell. As an introvert, the pandemic has given me more good time to read, learn a smart phone, etc. but with a chronically ill best friend, I’m overwhelmed with ordering food and supplies, with health care, and paper work.
I am learning the value of “time”. Being almost 70 is not a reason for regret, but a time to double-down on the years that I have remaining – be they few or many. Don’t put off or postpone – just do.
The words of Seneca ring true: “…time is the one loan (from nature) that even a grateful recipient cannot repay”.
I will be 67 in a few weeks…the grays have popped up slightly and for the most part I am in excellent health…my mind seems to drift a lot on ” immortality”…I guess it comes with the passing of time to think of this but it is a scary place to view….I am active and have a strong social circle but in the quiet times when it is just me, myself, and I think of “what if”… I notice the aches in the knees, the back ache and getting organized takes a minutes longer…since I am still in the workforce I am busy most days but Covid had destroyed a lot of my social circle outings…being alone can be lonely but I have a check in buddy so it is not too bad…no one really told you that one day your boos would sag, your teeth will loosen, your mid section would be your enemy and those cute narrow feet would start to spread ( making it tougher to get into those cute shoes you bought)…if you stay busy and active you don’t mind aging and you accept the bumps and lumps that comes with aging…
My biggest surprise is learning how much patience I CAN have as I always thought I was being so “productive” by moving from one thing to the next and not “wasting” time on small talk and so on. As a retiree, I decided to stop and listen and it’s been wonderful to learn more about my loved ones and to take in the world around me with patience and positivity. Aging is a gift.
I’m really surprised that I’m so much happier and healthier than I was before I retired. Taking care of myself now takes a LOT more time though – exercising, whole foods cooking, skin and dental care, sleep prep, classes and lectures for brain health, etc. I do have to manage my time really well to make sure I have time for the hobbies I love.
I read a few columns in the Guardian by a 30 year old man who was ill and knew he wouldn’t live to see the end of the pandemic. In his last column he pointed out signs of aging like wrinkles and aches and pains were a blessing because it meant you had more time to enjoy life and plenty of people like him never get that opportunity. I always try to remember that when my knee hurts or I have trouble with my vision.
I try to practice gratitude in a lot of different ways. Even on those days when everything goes wrong or I read something horrifying on the news I still know I can get a lift by laughing at my crazy cats or appreciating the beauty of the Colorado outdoors.
One thing has always stuck with me. You’re never too old to learn. One of my favorite activities is checking out what’s new at the library.
If I would have learned two words in a title by Miles Davis, “So What!”, I could have avoided a lot of grief.
I live alone & have for many years and I now have worries about that that I never did before. As I’ve aged, I’ve lost strength & balance. Realized I had to get proactive! I joined an online senior exercise program that runs 3 times a week. Covid has been so isolating & this class is making a huge difference…I love it. Like someone said, I am spending more time to keep my body in shape than I ever did before…fear of fall ing is less because we work on balance. I feel better about myself for doing this also! I’m aware of being invisible and I don’t care about that & a whole bunch of other stuff that I used to!
I love the skin I am in now. I don’t miss the extreme shyness and social anxiety of my youth. Love that I don’t need other people to like meany more. The freedom this brings me is fantastic. Don’t love being “invisible” or people making assumptions that I have lost my mental faculties. Working hard at fitness. I feel my anti agesim is coming on strong and I love that. I will not be a doormouse ” little old lady” for anyone.
Hi Beatrix: your words could have been mine. I really feel liberated from shyness and anxiety too. Thanks for sharing.
I find myself surprised at all the body wrinkles; I thought they’d all be on my face. Those don’t bother me; they’ve developed slowly over the years. But what are all these on my arms and legs? Yikes! I’m also surprised at all the friends I’ve lost, many younger than me. My last close friend decided to move away so she and her husband could be closer to family, but I’ve been noticing some cognitive impairment for the last few years, so I’m worried about how long our long distance friendship can survive. With the pandemic, the groups I belonged to have stopped meeting, so how does one make new friends now? I was surprised to discover workplace friends disappeared once I retired. The list goes on…
The biggest surprise: I FINALLY had the guts to try things without worrying what other people think. I learned to surf at 57 (scared spitless!) , I became a fine artist at 60 (no art school or degree, but do take classes), and now at 72, have a bi-monthly group who meets for “Open Studio,” now on my Zoom account (thank you, Senior Planet for teaching us!!). I had a prophetic dream at 42 (so young!) when I was fussing about a glass ceiling & the dream lady told me “There Are No Limits to the Possibilities.” I’ve taken her at her word.
I’ve always wanted to live to 100, and now I’m hearing about folks trying for 120 (overachievers, lol). I thought I was the only one thinking this way.
I have the chance to be a Role Model–and realized I really could wear a leather biker jacket, but got a camelhair coat recently because it would keep me warmer! That’s one surprise–where did my heat go? So now I do like the French and wear scarves around my neck.
Surprised I can’t wait for my hair to turn all silver-gray: Power Statement! I stand up to my hairstylist (in a nice way)who keeps pushing the blonde look & I get an edgy-for-me-haircut.
Aging body, chronic illness–I keep working around things & just wear the damn adult underwear just in case, lol. I ask my doctor & the nurse for advice/help, don’t just take what they tell me without question.
I’ve run into the weird “benign neglect” thing from the kids…but then I remember being so busy with my work and home life and doing things with my husband back in my 30’s & 40’s and my poor Mom probably felt neglected too. I realize they don’t mean it, they’re just busy. They taught me how to text, send photos, etc & now I communicate mostly with the grandchildren (!) who I have more fun with, anyway.
My husband & I make sure to get together with our daughter & her family once a week –it’s on the weekly goals I post on the frig, so we don’t forget either. The biggest surprise about Getting Older: I didn’t realize how RICH it is. And it gets better, really. Hang in there, ballerinas & tough guys!
I expected the aches and pains and the societal dismissal/invisibility, and outgrowing superficial concerns around youth and beauty helps adapt to that aspect of aging, but becoming aware of how long life can go on once any pleasure aside from eating and sleeping has disappeared, chills me to the bone. For a society that otherwise dismisses the very aged, but has made a huge industry of warehousing the very disabled and elderly, the acceptance of medical science prolonging life so people suffer for years – and to be surprised when old people end their own lives seems paradoxical and cruel to me. I think countries like Switzerland – to recognize and help elders who have had enough – have a kinder approach to the very end of life.
Don’t know your gender or age but as an 87 year old male, I absolutely hate the lack of respect I receive from people paid to provide my housing. Can not even tell when they are expected back in their office. Voicemail is not answered and email is blocked. People do not come out from behind their desk to talk. They answer the phone while talking and some doodle with a pencil and paper. They make subjective decisions without objective data. In any job I ever had, I would have been fired or put in jail for treating people this way. Being invisible is a horrible fate. I do enjoy life in spite of these kinds of people. My life is mostly volunteering and mostly online.
I planned for retirement financially but wish someone would have told me that I would have to find a new identity/role in life!
Youth is a time of great optimism and invincibility. So I, like the generations who came before, have no desire to weigh down the young with the realities of old age.
Not at my age did I expect to be so lonely and isolated.
Until the mayor and or governor decide it’s safe to open the senior citizen centers again I will miss my # of peer groups participate in exercise classes, jewelry making, learning new and unknown beliefs, thoughts and ideas of Know Thyself movies and discussions afterwards, listening to Old School music while singing along and sharing dances we were doing or who we were dating. Ah, memories of you and I and days gone by. Now I have to prepare the one main meal of the day and look at videos of the monthly birthday parties and shooping/lunch trips. Just realizing how full at this age my life was Mondays through Fridays.
There was an old radio serial called “The Shadow”. In its intro, the announcer droned, “…Lamont Cranston traveled to the Mystic East and learned the secret of invisibility…” Wasted travel expenditure; all he had to do was live long enough to reach “senior citizen” status. Even though I have all of my [brunette] hair, virtually all of my teeth, am a Mensa alumna and can for the first time breeze through the Sunday Times crossword, store personnel and other Millennial clerical types ignore me.
Why wait to be ignored by anyone? Step up to the counter and speak up. I find that the more I open up to others, whether young or old, the better the response I receive.
I get a kick out of “not at your age” or “you look good for your age!”
I often reply, “what is my age supposed to look like?”
I’mm 22 in my head and waiting for the image/body in the mirror to catch up with the image in my head.
I get a kick out of ‘role reversal”; my kids/grandkids have become the parent, I have become the kid.
I love they are trying to be protective and have learned it comes from a positive place, so it rarely bothers me.
At “my age” I usually say to myself “go for it, what’s the worst that can happen?”
I hate healing more slowly, not being the fastest kid on the block, but I love my vast experience with people, places, things.
I love challenging myself and take pleasure in my accomplishments.
The only one who can diminish me is me, and I have too much to do to fall into that space.
Your remarks resonated most with me. I feel just the way you do. I am still sharp as a tic and hear almost as well. What bothers me is that when I pay the bills , the recipients thank my younger relatives! BTW I am from India
I agree with all the comments above. I also find it truly disheartening to see the chaos in this world. I have tried to hold onto a sense of hope. I’m a widow and have come to the realization that if anything goes wrong in my house, my body, or my spirit, it appears that I’m the one to have to fix it. I was unprepared all kinds of stuff. A minor fender bender, and the other party suing my insurance for the maximum amount. No one told me that people could be so greedy, or dishonest. Really I despair at times as to what the future is going to look like for our grandchildren.
Getting older and retiring was a complete surprise to me. I loved my profession but never suspected that I would grieve It’s lost. Couple that with an almost instant betrayal of my body and I no longer saw myself as vital or needed. All of this was new and astonishing. Marcia mentioned the ‘benign neglect’ of adult children. This attitude caught me completely unawares. We had always been a close unit of three and now… I should know better than to be hurt but I can’t help but reflect on the times I didn’t do/go/purchase in order to do/give/take them. I didn’t expect that aging would be so emotionally hurtful.
Cassie, ditto on the job and adult children. I would love to work after retiring from a busy career. I am current on computer skills and social media and very healthy. However at 76 it seems employers are hesitate to invest in my ability to continue to work. My children are hoping I stay healthy, they are busy with their lives and don’t see themselves as the “sandwich” generation.
I want to listen and observe more to save my energy and peace of mind. Sleep is becoming more important and it wont’ let me win if I argue with it. I plan I how to use my days more for health rituals than fill them up with other things.. I call faraway friends and have deep conversations about things that matter to us. I eat a plant based diet and do gentle postures and movements for mobility. I have to. I want to age being aware of the changes and events that shape our world. I want to age knowing the people and places in my community. Exploring with my camera this place I call home.
I second the point about not worrying what other people think! As I approach my birthday, I realize I have a bit more ease with the classic NYC street confrontations. I also avoid putting myself in situations to make other people happy. When I was younger, I felt like I had to go to a social event for my friend’s sake, but now I tell friends straight out that I’m just not interested in going. I have a long way to go, but I’m really looking forward to aging with attitude, and embracing more of my individuality!
Are you kidding? Everything! Just saying my age. Doctors. Aching back. Aches and pains all over. Mortality so real now. I’ve been lucky. I have most of my teeth. I don’t have a major ailment right now (but my husband does). I look in the mirror and see a little old lady. The loss of attractiveness and sex. Oh, those memories. The benign neglect of adult children. Knowing I won’t find out what happens twenty years from now. Won’t see my grandchildren as adults. Just everything! NOT the golden years.
Hi. Sending you good, healing thoughts and vibes Marcia. Yes life is tough but we’re tougher!
My life loving Aunt had a cross stitch mounted that said “old age is not for sissy’s”.