Aging Gracefully – Is It Possible?
My beautiful Aunt IS aging gracefully. My memories are filled with years and years of her magnificent, huge holiday dinner events. The tables (there were often several tables) were filled with large portions of a huge variety of tasty foods – not always healthy, of course. But those big catered affairs at my aunt’s home are a memory I will treasure but will not be able to experience again.
For the past 10 years, holiday dinners with my aunt, who is now 91 year old, are not quite so elaborate. In fact, she does not cater dinners anymore. We all go out to a restaurant, my aunt, several of my aunt’s elderly friends, my cousin, and a few of our friends. These friendly family and friend holiday dinners have taught me all I need to know about aging. My aunt describes it quite well when she says: “Living longer is wonderful but it comes with a price.”
She doesn’t have to explain what she means. The evidence is right in front of me. My aunt has lived a life of elegance. She always dressed impeccably. When she took painting courses, she created romantic and elegant scenes. Her decorating skills were applauded by all those who knew her. She still manages to look lovely and at her 90th birthday party people at the restaurant, not part of our party, were surprised to hear of her age.
Friends were always an important part of her life. She and her husband, my uncle, traveled often, sharing those adventures and experiences with many of their favorite couples. They had many wonderful years together and many close friendships. However, her husband passed many years ago. Several of her closest friends have also passed on. Being naturally social and friendly, she has created a new set of friends to keep her active, laughing and socializing.
Fast forward to 2012. Still highly sociable, she has quite a number of friends who live nearby. She no longer travels to faraway places. This once vibrant, energetic, feisty, outspoken and joke telling lady has become quieter and more subdued. In a crowded restaurant, she is bothered and upset by all the noise around her. When her friend suggests, “Try my hearing aid,” my aunt rebuffs the suggestion instantly. One of her friends has a cane hanging at the edge of our booth. Although she doesn’t use a cane, over the years she has become less secure of her footing, negotiating steps or curbs very carefully.
A few months ago, we spent time walking on the beach path near my home. She used to walk energetically and confidently, sometimes for miles. Now, she was uncomfortable, felt the need to lean on me for support and she explained that she has begun working with a physical therapist to improve her balance.
Her eyesight has also been quite an issue in recent years. Macular degeneration threatens to totally destroy her vision and those regular shots directly into her eyeballs have become a necessity. She is still able to read some menus but often asks for assistance when needed.
Now I notice that her memory is a bit less accurate. She forgets that we met at a certain restaurant or that she has already confirmed with me what time we will be meeting next. She is not quite as jovial as before and her temperament is a bit more impatient, testy and easily irritated by inconveniences.
As her friend shared with me at the dinner table about the aging process, “You just have to accept the changes.”
A few years ago, I met my friend’s 102 year old mother. I had been so excited to meet her. But when we met, I found a lady who was extremely quiet, sitting in a corner at this big house party, hardly talking, lounging and sleeping openly part of the time. She appeared to be like an autistic child, withdrawing from her surroundings. That is what I have been experiencing as I observe my aunt continuing to age. There is a slow progression of social distancing, physical slowdowns and gradual disabilities, as life continues on.
I can’t help asking myself, “Am I ready for the golden years?” And I realize, NOW is the time to do whatever I can to maintain a healthy body, mind and spirit. I want to live gracefully and fully alive, contributing my accumulated wisdom and experience to enhance the lives of those who follow me.
Are YOU ready for the challenges of aging as you approach your own Golden Years? None of us really believes that we are going to reach those elderly years until we do.
What are YOU doing, right now, to keep your body, mind, spirit, social life, finances, and family and friend networks vibrant and healthy?
Read how Your Body Believes You and knowing that can keep you healthy.
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Here’s to living your life in happiness and vibrant health.