When should you hand over the keys?

My step-dad Bill’s last car was a 1965 Mustang. It was a beauty – sporty looking and fun to drive. He was always a car guy and had a new car every few years, but that Mustang sure held a special place in his heart. I have great memories of my dad and mom, very active members of the local Mustang Owners Club, participating in road rallies, Mustang caravans to Vegas and other fun social outings. That car was not just reliable transportation.  It was his alter ego.

1965_mustang

My dad was the proud owner of a license to drive for over 60 years.  Like most of us, driving was part of his identity.  It gave him freedom. And as he aged, it helped him hold on to his vitality and his “youth” – well past anything that resembled actual youth .

I don’t remember for sure, but I think he was about 80 when he gave up driving and the Mustang.  He sold it to two women friends who loved it almost as much as he did.  He was happy to see it go to a good home.  I’m sure it was bittersweet.

Giving up the keys was not an easy decision, but as I look back, I realize it was one he made with grace and much wisdom.  We didn’t have to worry about him on the road, we didn’t have to have “the talk” or to wrestle the keys from his hand.  He knew it was time.  And he rose to the occasion.  Thank you Bill!

After he’d given up his car, Bill used to visit me in Oregon and talk wistfully about driving.  I would offer him my keys but he never took me up on the offer.  I didn’t think much about any of this at the time.  Now that I am older and wiser, and growing closer to the time when I will have to make that decision myself, I am grateful.  Especially when I see my friends struggling with their parents who are well into their 80’s or 90’s and still behind the wheel.

How do you know when it’s time? There’s no magic number. It’s different for each of us and it is a life changing moment – relinquishing of your personal freedom, your independence and along with that some of your dignity.  Not a decision any one of us takes lightly.

Most of my peers are in their 60’s or early 70’s and giving up the keys seems like something in the very distant future. Hell, we’re still young. We’re healthy. We’re world travelers or marathon runners. We’re not the problem.

Until we are.

I’m not saying anyone I know should give up the keys…yet.  But it should be on the table for discussion.  I want to follow my step-dad’s lead and know when it’s the right time and have a plan.   He gave up the keys and took up walking.  I think the walking is what kept him fit and healthy into his late 80’s.

I sent this video to a friend who is struggling with “the key issue” with her parents.  It sheds an interesting light on the question “when is the right time?”  Listening to 97-year-old Evelyn puts a whole new spin on the current thinking. At least it did mine.

Perhaps the freeways of the future will be filled with centenarians swooping in and out of traffic in their mini convertibles.  And, although I can’t picture myself not being able to drive my own car, I’m not sure I’m comfortable with that either.

What I know for sure is that we will all be there sooner than we think.

I’m throwing this out for discussion… talk amongst yourselves…or better yet, leave your thoughts, experiences and brilliant ideas in the Comments below.

Now, where did I put my keys?

Nancy

Aging with Attitude ~

It’s not your age.  It’s your attitude.  Isn’t that what they say?

Well, I’ve got plenty of attitude and some days its not the attitude of gratitude I’ve been striving for.  Some days I just feel old.  And tired.  And really tired of working for a living.  I’m the last of my peers to still be chained to a desk and while most of the time I am extremely grateful for the job and the paycheck, sometimes I think I’ll never get out of the retirement starting gate.  The grass looks greener where my friends are playing, and gardening, and traveling and starting happy hour at 3 o’clock instead of our usual 5:30 meet-up time back in days when we all snuck out of work a little early for attitude adjustment hour.  I’ve got short-timer’s disease for sure and the time feels very long indeed.

But here’s the thing.  While I am ready to give up the desk jockey job, I am not ready to give up some kind of meaningful work.  Whatever work might look like.  So, I’ve been trying on all kinds of hats to see what fits and what feels kinda groovy.  At least for a while.  travel writer – blogger – world explorer – pet and house sitter – walking enthusiast – photographer.  So many hats!  So little time.  And I still don’t know what I want to be when I finally get the chance for my second or third or forth acts.

It's fun trying on new hats!

It’s fun trying on new hats!

Some people seem to float from act to act with ease.  I admire these folks.  And, I love hearing their stories and learning from their adventures.

Meet Barbara Beskind ~

Barbara-Beskind-Aging-With-Attitude

photo courtesy of IDEO/Senior Planet

Barbara is somewhere around her 6th Act.  She is a role model extraordinaire.  Barbara just celebrated her 90th birthday – with her co-workers at IDEO, a Silicon Valley innovation company, where she recently started her latest gig as one of their designers.  A job she won when she competed in the firm’s design challenge for products for older adults.  Every Thursday Ms. Beskind travels by train from her retirement community in San Mateo, CA to the IDEO offices in San Jose.  She’s not an engineer, but she certainly is a real life adviser.   Read more of Barbara’s inspiring story on Senior Planet.

Rock-on older ladies, indeed!

So, my dears, here’s the question of the day. What does aging with attitude mean to you?  Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Cheers!

Nancy

 

What Makes a Great Partner ~ the sequel

This video says it all about being a partner and a friend.  And, if you read my earlier post on partnership, you’ll agree that these two have #4 (comedian and straightman) down pat.  Go girls!

And to my dear sister…may we be our own version of Irene and Alice 30+ years from now.

Cheers to best friends and partners everywhere,

Nancy

And thanks to Steve Harvey for sharing two amazing women with us.  They are truly an inspiration.

Old Dogs ~ the art of aging gracefully

I’m pretty much an old dog and I know it.  But I’m not too old to learn a new trick or two.  One of them is the art of graceful aging.

Professional photographer Nancy LeVine has been poignantly capturing beauty in the watery eyes, graying muzzles and wizened faces of elder canines for the past nine years.  Senior Dogs Across America is Nancy’s personal project and you can see her love of each subject that stands before her camera – often on slightly tottering legs.

Nancy has traveled to every region of the country to meet elderly dogs and the humans who love and care for them.   She says she’s learned a great deal about aging with dignity from her work.  Dogs live in the moment – right up until their very last moment.   They aren’t fretting about the past or planning for the future.  They are here now.  And that’s enough.   It’s a trick we human old dogs could all work on perfecting.

Nancy has a wonderful Senior Dogs Across America Facebook page and a book in the works.  Click here to see more photos in Nancy’s online gallery.

Cheers!

Nancy

Brain Games ~ Are you playing?

Are you feeling it too?

Some of us are at that age where losing our glasses and forgetting what we went downstairs for seem to be the norm, rather than the exception.  It happened to me again this week.  There is a TV commercial with a very well-known actor that’s getting a lot of air time right now.  I knew who he was.  I’ve even seen quite a few of his movies, but every time the commercial came on, I silently played the “what is that guy’s name game”.  Oh, it was in there, but it sure wasn’t coming out anytime soon.  Hubs finally saw the commercial last night and immediately looked over at me and said “Isn’t that Samuel L. Jackson?”  Bingo!

Two old fogies out taking their brain cells for a walk and trying not to forget where they are headed.

Two old fogies out taking their brain cells for a walk and trying not to forget where they are headed. Yep, it’s a selfie – were not totally OLD.

Why couldn’t I pull that name from the recesses in my gray matter?  Just a few years ago, hubs and I would laugh about lapses like this.  These days, it doesn’t always seem so funny.  Especially if you are the one who can’t seem to remember anyone’s name.

How timely, then, that I came across an excellent and very relevant article from Next Avenue on the miracle that is our brain and how to keep it young, healthy and functioning for a long time.

It’s well worth the read.  How You Can Make Your Brain Smarter Every Day 

If you are new to the blog or don’t remember reading them, you might also enjoy these previous posts on memory and the aging brain. Have You Seen My Glasses?  and  Thanks For the Memories

See you on the road!  Please don’t take it personally if I don’t remember your name.

Nancy

 

It Still Takes a Village ~ a really cool option for aging in place

This week I had another NPR Driveway Moment.  If you listen to public radio, a driveway moment is when a conversation on your car radio is so interesting that you actually continue to sit in the car in the garage or the driveway until it’s over because it’s just too good to miss.  I love a good driveway moment.

With my 65th birthday looming on the very near horizon and my recent proclaiming of my Leap Day to retirement, it’s safe to say that the whole process of living out whatever years I have left in this particular go-around has been on my mind.  In the short term, it’s about staying fit and healthy, downsizing, scraping together all our pennies and coaxing them to miraculously multiply and looking at ways we can spend the next few years traveling and exploring other countries and cultures.  All good stuff, but there’s also the longer view.  What happens when we can’t, or no longer want to be retired gypsies.   At some point, we’ll have to settle down, settle in and settle for a much quieter existence.  Oh, NO! Not the HOME!

Actually, I’m pretty sure we won’t be able to afford assisted living.  At least in the U.S.

And that’s how I came to this particular driveway moment.  The show was about the Village movement for elders that has been quietly springing up in towns and cities across the United States, Canada and is slowly spreading to other parts of the world.  The idea for the first village came from the brilliant minds of a group of folks in Boston’s Beacon Hill area who were facing retirement and wanted to explore creative and affordable options that would allow them to age in place – literally living in their own neighborhoods and homes.  In 2002 they founded Beacon Hill Village and it has become a model for other villages.  These “villages” are springing up everywhere.  There is one in the planning stages in Northeast Portland.  Another in Ashland, Oregon. In fact, there are more tha 70 village networks in the U.S.  From Maryland to Michigan elders are banding together and creating exciting alternatives to assisted living facilities.

The village concept begins with the simple idea of bringing services to the people rather than people to the services.  Each non-profit village is independently created and functions with a board, a small staff and many volunteers.  Instead of paying thousands per month, you pay between $200 – $1000 a year to become a member.   The village system offers transportation to doctor appointments and the grocery store, yard work, home repair, and other services (usually for a discounted fee, but sometimes at no charge by a volunteer).  There are social and educational offerings, as well as fitness classes – all with transportation provided.  Each village is unique to its residents.  I smiled at the comment made by a women from the Village to Village Network.  “Most people think if you’ve seen one village you’ve seen them all, but the truth is – If you’ve seen one village, you’ve seen ONE village.”  They are created by the people, for the people.

I absolutely love this idea.  A little help when it’s needed.  The social contact that keeps our minds lively and our spirits and bodies healthy.  Dignity still firmly intact.  If it takes a village to raise a child, it seems like a perfectly wonderful idea that grandma and grandpa create their own village to grow old in.

We’re not ready to become Village People yet, (sorry I had to fit that in someplace)  but it gives me peace of mind to know that when the time gets closer, we have options.  Maybe even options that won’t break the bank.  More research is definitely in order.

If you have experience with this type of elder village or other unique ways seniors are finding to age gracefully and less expensively, please share them.  This is important information!  Aging minds want to know.

Cheers!

Nancy

 

 

 

 

Friday’s Food For Thought – Six people I want to be like when I grow old(er) ~

My granddaughter can’t wait for her 9th birthday.  Why?  Because it’s closer to the magic age of 13. That is apparently when life gets good.  Older is better.  Or so she thinks right now.

Her comment got me thinking.  Isn’t it true that at every age we look to those ahead of us for inspiration.  Maybe like my granddaughter, we think they’re cool.  We want what they’re having.  Perhaps we just want to know their secret to success.  I’ve become obsessed with people in their 70’s, 80’s and 90’s who are still going strong, still grabbing the gusto and still sucking the joy out of every moment.  They are my inspiration and my role models for living juicy in my own golden years.  Hearing their stories makes me sit up a little straighter, eat a little better, try a little harder.   They’re everywhere, these models of aging with grace and gusto.  I’d just never noticed them until now.  Timing is everything.

Inspiration is close to home and its name is Don.  At 81, he is the human incarnation of the Energizer Bunny.  He owns a vineyard and works the land.  He’s a handsome devil, too.  Last month Don left his wife at home and flew to Africa to check one more adventure off his Bucket List.  Yes, he visited the wineries; but this trip was a three week camping photo-safari.  Sleeping in a tent.  On the ground.  In 100 degree heat.  He (mostly) loved every minute.   One of the highlights?  Bungee jumping in Zimbabwe!  Who wouldn’t get excited about jumping off a very high tower with your feet tied together?  Well…me for one.  And his wife.  But Don just stepped out into the unknown and soared!

Don flying high in Zimbabwe

Don flying high in Zimbabwe

Meet five more amazing role models ~ (click on their name to read more and see the video)

 Yoga instructor and ballroom dance champion Tao Porchon-Lynch is my hero!  She still teaches several yoga classes every week and can do poses I could never do.  This video was taken on her 92nd birthday.  She’s had a couple more since then and as far as I know, she’s still tearing up the dance floor.

Through rain and snow and sleet and hail, 91 year old  Morris Wilkinson has been delivering the mail for over 70 years.

Canadian Olga Kotelko – A 94 year old super-great grandmother and winner of 400 gold medals will step up to the plate in 2013 at the World Masters Games in Turin, Italy.

Here’s 81 year old triathlete Lew Hollander crossing the finish line at the 2012 Ironman in Kona, Hawaii.

Forrest and Rose Lunsway met at a senior dance and have been “dating” for thirty years.  They married on his 100th birthday and then danced the night away.

The only failure is to grow old and not to have tried what you really wanted to do.               ~ Beatrice Cohen

Have a fun and fabulous weekend.

Nancy

Thanks for the memories ~

I just spent the past week with a woman who has been a dear friend since the early 1970’s.  When we first met, I was newly married and still childless.  Bell bottoms were high fashion and shag carpet came in burnt orange.  We have remained friends for over forty years and although we don’t see each other very often, it’s amazing how we can pick up the conversation as if we had spoken just the day before.  Good friends are like that.  Our friendship has outlasted a couple of husbands and more than a few boyfriends.  One of us (me) moved several times while the other has lived in the same home for 43 years.  Life goes on and yet some things never change.

Which brings me to the subject of memories.  Isn’t it amazing how you can talk for an hour about something that happened 30 years ago…. but, dammit, you can’t remember where you put your wallet or the name of the person you just met?  We talked about that a lot this past week, my friend and I.

Is it Alzheimer’s?  How many times has that thought flitted through your mind?  If you are like me, more than you care to admit.  Well, the good news is that Alzheimer’s disease is not a normal part of aging.  Most of us won’t get it.   Fewer than 1 in 5 people over 65 and less than half of people over 85 have the disease.  That’s the good news.  The not so great news is that our brains do change over time.  Some cognitive abilities actually continue to improve (yea), some stay constant and some unfortunately decline.  Both episodic (when you forget your doctor’s appointment or what you went into the kitchen to get) and long term memory decline as we age.  Information processing, learning new things and doing more than one task at a time also become more difficult with age.

The American Psychological Association suggests some ways to keep your brain functioning a little better, at every age.

Be Social –   Hanging out with your friends and joining community activities improves mood and memory function.  Girls’ night is good for your brain.

Get Moving – Exercise, including brisk walking and dancing, help boost and maintain brain function.   Get that blood pumping!

Brain Training –  There are websites you can join such as Luminosity or try simple mnemonic strategies to improve learning and memory.  You might remember this one from 5th grade geography.   The names of the Great Lakes are: Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, Ontario. You can remember the order from west to east with the following: Super Man Helps Every One.

Check Your Hearing –  If you can’t see it or hear it, you probably aren’t going to learn it or remember it.  Just sayin’.

Pay Attention –  Try to avoid some of the distractions that divert your attention such as loud noises, TV in the background, talking and not watching where you are going.  Focus on one thing at a time and then move on the to next.  I learned that lesson the time I could not find my car in the parking lot at the airport.  It was raining.  It was midnight.  I was not happy.   Since that night, whenever I park, I always stop, make a mental note of my location and then write it down on the parking ticket.  I can’t tell you how many times that extra couple of minutes has saved me and my sanity.

Use Memory Aids –  Keep to do lists.  Establish routines.  Keep everything in it’s place – have a place for things like keys, glasses and cell phones and put them there – every time. Use the calendar on your phone or computer – they will remind you of important appointments.

Don’t Buy into ageist stereotypes about memory decline.  Studies have shown that having positive beliefs about aging can improve memory performance in older adults.

My first memory lapse is still vivid in my mind.  I was a single mom in my late 30’s, driving home from work, kids in the back, thinking about dinner, homework, the long, long, long To Do List and when I stopped at a red light a few blocks from my house, I could not  decide if I should turn left or right.  I literally could not remember how to get home!   So, now when my memory fails me, I remind myself that it’s probably not Alzheimer’s, it just my brain on overload.  The brain can only take so much and it needs a break.   It’s my signal that it’s time to make a cup of tea, ease into my comfy chair and close out the world for a few minutes.

And, to my dear friend Betty… Thanks for the memories!  The ones we’ve made over forty years and all of the fabulous new ones we made this past week.

Enjoying the oyster sampler at Southpark.

Enjoying the oyster sampler at Southpark.

 

 

Senior Moments ~

Old folks.  Now that my husband has joined the ranks of the “officially old as recognized by the United States government” and I am so close I can breathe in the smell of must and mothballs…I’m seeing old people everywhere.  They touch my heart.  To be honest – with a bit of fear, but also with a whole lot more compassion that I ever had before.

It’s almost wordless Wednesday, so I thought I would share these photos of seniors “having a moment”

May we all age with this much grace.

I’m 64 and I’m Just Glad to Be Here ~

Yep, one more time with the birthday musings.

I don’t know why, but today I feel OLD.  I felt old yesterday too, and I was only 63 then, so I’m not sure what the heck is going on.   Up until now, I have not been one to think about age.  I passed 30, 50 and even 60 without any visible (or invisible) angst.  Age?  “It’s only a number.  It’s not how old you are, but how old you feel.”  And I feel good – much younger than my calendar years.   But somehow, turning 64 feels different.  I feel different.  My body feels different and my face looks different dammit.  I do not like any of this and I no longer want to play the aging game.  I didn’t even wear my birthday tiara to Starbucks this morning.  Not like me at all.  I’ll slip that purple sparkly crown on my head at every opportunity.   Maybe this year I just need a little time before I’m ready to party.  Time to think about where I’ve been.  Who I’ve been. Who I’ve become, and how I got to right here.  Strange as it sounds, I think I need to mourn just a wee bit.  And then get over it.   I know all the struggles and victories and lessons learned in the past have led me to this particular place at this particular moment in my life.   And it is a very good place to be.   It has been a life worthy of celebration.  It’s just all passing a little too fast.  And I can’t control that.  I like to be in control.  I’m not happy.

So, my gift to myself will be a little self-indulgence.  Spending time.  Looking back.  Taking stock.  Being grateful.  Wondering what the future holds.  But really, just getting back to being glad to be here ~ however damn old I am.

Tonight the kids are coming over to cook us a delicious vegan birthday feast and share the bounty from their garden.   By then, I’ll be ready to get my party on.  To toast a life pretty well lived and celebrate new adventures on the road ahead.

And in the words of Bessie Cooper who turned 116 two days ago, here’s the secret to longevity – Mind your own business and don’t eat junk food.