Subway warning sign "Mind the Gap:

Let’s Talk About Aging

Since I turned to an advanced age, some people are treating me in  unacceptable ways, and I hope that perhaps this article will at least make some people stop and listen.  More than that, I hope they change their ways.

What prompted this?

Just recently, someone refused to get in my car if I was driving. Also, I was told I should use a cane because her husband does. In other situations, I was asked, “What is it like being 90?”

How the hell do I know? It’s just happened.

What I do know is that I continue to work at ignoring people who should on me. They tell me kindly what I should and should not be doing at my age.  They always tell me to “Drive safely” to which I reply, “Pray for the others on the road!”.

So, this article is all about why people do these things.  How do they live with this kind of arrogance? I would love your responses – the few people who read my blogs. Recently I read that a woman wanted to remove the word “should” from the dictionary. I am all in favour of that!!!

The people who really know me never question my activities or my work schedule. Those with whom I work don’t care about my age. Why should people who do not know what I do care? There are very few people who know the extent of my work, which is sometimes dangerous. In fact, upon reflection I don’t think anyone does. I didn’t even tell John the exact nature of the risks I sometimes take. Why do I do it? Because I can.

When I speak to a retiring community, I ask them what do they do when they are surrounded by people who “should” on them. Some of their responses are surprising;  well not really as we live in the country of labelers. From the terrible twos, the dreadful teens, the ignorance of the twenties to the change of life 40’s to 50’s and then……………………….those who receive Medicare.

There’s something about getting that card that assigns us with yet another number and evidence that we are losing it. I had a friend who actually cried when she received her card!

Some families are guilty of “shoulding”, and I understand their concerns. However, creating this challenging situation isn’t helpful. A comparison is, going to a gathering, feeling well and excited to be met by someone who says,” You really look tired. You’ll be yawning in no time”. The other one is “You don’t look well. If I am not well, I know it. There is no need to highlight it.

Isn’t it surprising that there are some people who have to say something other than, “Hallo, good to see you”. Believe me, there is enough grief out there without being reminded of how dire circumstances are.

So not only are we a nation of fixers, but we also now know what’s best for people who reach advanced years. I am cognizant of challenges with some age related illnesses, loss of vision and so on. It is just not all of us reach and enter those categories. How can people differentiate? Maybe they can learn to listen possibly? Is that too much to ask?

When people reach a chronological age, it’s almost like a metamorphosis. Overnight in fact. Suddenly they aren’t capable of doing things they could do before. Yes, certainly there is less strength in certain lifting or carrying. Not with everyone, but we are shoved in the same area of concern. It’s as though we can’t think for ourselves.

If I can’t lift as I used to, carry trash bins out, pick up heavy amounts of water, I ask someone who can. I know, not everybody has someone to do these tasks. However, there’s a lot of help out there and one might have to pay a small fee. Here is another challenge. A lot of people are on fixed incomes. This is where organisations like the Department on Aging comes into play. Watch that your ego and pride doesn’t allow you to look into that. I get it. It took me years to pick up the phone and I am still accused of being annoyingly independent. Damned if you do. Damned if you don’t.

Let’s not overlook the control freaks who feel people need to be like others. I think not. I look at the people who are not affected whatsoever about age. This morning, I told the group with whom I was working, that probably the vast majority weren’t even born when I went into recovery. I don’t think any of them were. Amazing isn’t it? They don’t give a damn about age as long as they are learning, growing, listening to someone who has a message of hope, how to get it and stay with it. Listening is a primary function of a healthy life. I listen 90% of my work week.

Here’s a favourite of mine. Some people do not understand there is no age restriction on falling in love.

I knew several people who have moved into retirement communities, met someone and created a  beautiful relationship. I was 55 when I met John. He was 61. That’s not “old” by today’s standards when one considers 70 is middle aged in Europe. I had never experienced anything like it.

So, I am meeting some who are in their eighties, even riper than that and enjoy each other as they never have before. It’s a beautiful thing but the judgements are ludicrous. Some people are literally disgusted. HOW DARE THEY?

My John died June 5th, 2015, after a ten year battle with three cancers. He was immediately cremated so there was no place to visit, not that I wanted one. So, I decided to create a memorial just for him. My right arm is all tattooed with what was important to him. I love it and it has helped me in many situations regarding relating to certain communities. Like my phoenix, designed by my son Daniel, the Royal Navy, his feral cat, so many that they would probably be sufficient for an article of their own. Then I gave myself a gift for this recent  birthday.  I now have purple highlights. Do you see? Ripening can bring freedom. Choice again.

Yvonne with purple hair sitting and relaxing.
I am 89 and 12 months if that makes it easier!!

Here is what I think to be necessary. Really learn to listen. People have  history. I was told by a very wise woman many years ago to take the cotton out of my ears and put it in my mouth. Others might learn from it. Powerful.

Stop rolling your eyes when Grandpa talks about the war or Grandma when there was very little money when raising the children and discover what she did. In England, there is a notice on entering the underground tube trains. It is called the subway in this country.                                                                                                                                                   

The notice warns to ”MIND THE GAP”, the space between the platform and the door. MIND THE GAP. It could apply to the generation gap which exists more than ever with the age of technology.

Young people have forgotten how to spell, to converse, to read. They only know technology. I remember reading a story of a young person who insisted that his grandmother stop making notes on paper and instead use the computer. It wasn’t comfortable for her at all. Her paper notes were sufficient.

I know it is a good thing to have some skills so that riper people can appreciate email, Facebook and the simple act of tidiness. I loved what happened next in his story. The young person was in the toilet and yelled “Gran, we’ve run out of toilet paper!” At which time she slid the laptop under the door.

I thought that was hilarious.

Another person who doesn’t consider ripening to be a challenge is my Physical Therapist. His expectation of my strengthening work has paid off and he has me off a walker, onto a cane and now without a cane, contrary to the advice given that I should use one. Why would I want to rely on a cane and in so doing, weaken my muscles even further? Doesn’t  make sense.

I keep one in the car and should I feel wobbly, I use it. I am intelligent enough to have common sense. I have a podcast of Eric on my website, and he explained this in excellent terms. He has that most valuable asset – a sense of humour – which helps enormously as I relate to laughter very strongly. Ask the ER at Doylestown Hospital!

Here’s another aspect of aging that I believe needs to be addressed.

Again. Humour. Some people are so impatient with the ripening community, they can’t take a joke. Now I know some older people can be cantankerous but that isn’t only the “ripeners’”. People can go to doctors, stores, anywhere with an attitude. Not a good idea especially when help is needed.

Look, I’ve been around in this work for years. Had my first case when I was 18 in 1951. So, I have met people who are addicted to misery. I am addressing my age group and the people who deal with us.

Drop the attitude. If we want to be treated with respect, be respectful.

There’s a certain release in ripening, weathering, re-inventing. I can choose to do just about anything I want, including what I watch on the idiot box, listening to my music, just read, eat when I want to, turn the phone off when I want to – a myriad of choices. With that in mind, there is no need to be annoying. As I learned from my mentor Dr. Viktor Frankl in his amazing book, Mans Search for Meaning, it’s all about choice. Like it or not, I am responsible for the way I feel and the decisions I make.

Another piece of wisdom I received from a very wise woman – when you do a good deed, keep your mouth shut! Brilliant.

Edie Weinstein and Yvonne Kaye
Edie Weinstein and Dr. Yvonne Kaye (With purple hair.)

Some years ago, John and I went to a restaurant where the tables were fairly close together. A couple came in (you might recognise yourself if you read the blog which I doubt), sat down close to us and she began to complain as soon as her bum hit the chair. The tablecloth wasn’t  right, there wasn’t enough ice in the glass, the server didn’t appear immediately, the menus weren’t long enough, few options. I thought to myself – leave. They didn’t.

The poor man was almost squirming. I had no sympathy. He could have taken care of this a long time ago. That codependency is a bitch (sorry female dog). This continued and I just rolled my eyes at John. Continued to enjoy my meal, chatting to drown her out.  Then the meal didn’t come fast enough. When it did, it was too cold – yes! Salads usually are. Then the entrée……………….by this time we had finished, and I had had it with her ungrateful attitude. When we got up we had to pass her table and John said to me, “No, don’t”.

Pity the man. He knew that was useless.  I have that sense of justice that gets me into trouble. So, as I passed her I smiled and said, “Aren’t you glad you aren’t in Afghanistan?’ Her face was the colour of beetroot (I know –  you call them beets but I’m a Brit and I’ll spell it my way!  It’s my blog. Looking back, she ate her meal quietly and I hope her husband left a huge tip!

So that’s my take on ripening and what to do about it. I would really enjoy hearing from you to get your take on this. Another aspect is that ripening people need to understand assertiveness before it becomes aggressiveness. If you are not treated with respect or get the care to which you have a right, say something. If you can’t or won’t, call me. I’ll do it for you.

My website has all my information on how to reach me. Of course, people rarely do as they don’t want to be involved with a fighter.  I want to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. Older abuse is on the increase. My son Daniel, who I interviewed on a podcast, works for a retirement community and he is on the alert for any abusive behaviour. Really – we can make a difference.

I am 89 and 12 months if that makes it easier!! Be well and flourish.

10 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About Aging

  1. First of all my dear Yvonne, congratulations on turning 89 and 12 months, and I love the purple highlights! What a wonderful age to be. I was so happy to be able to share my 75th and 12 months with you. It was a terrific visit and not once did your driving upset me. I would much rather ride with you than with someone half your age that thinks they are great drivers and still text, answer their phones, or read their laptop while driving. Really folks you are NOT that talented – trust me! I remember on one of my trips to the easter shore I was passed on the interstate by an arrogant middle-aged “professional” businessman, in a Mercedes, doing about 80 mph, steering with his knees mind you, while using both of his hands reading the Wall Street Journal?” Talk about a rolling death machine in action!

    People are always asking me the same insensitive questions that you get. “OMG What is life like at your age?” I don’t know what it is like because I am still 24 in my mind. My heart, humor, spirit, and compassion inside of me never ages, it’s the outer shell that is making all the changes. Do I look at the world around me the same way as I did when I was younger – no – thank God! I now look at the world with a sober mind and tranquility that only comes with age and experience. I would not change my life even if I could. By my standards I have had many success’s in my life but it was all my failures that helped to create the man I am today. It shocks many people when I say “I like me – I really do!” This isn’t an ego speaking it is simply a sober judgement of who I’ve become as a man during my ripening process.

    It was so much fun visiting with you and sharing all the laughter that we shared. Watching you throw your head back and just let go with a beautiful round of laughter, tears, until our sides ached. Both of us have been blessed with the ability to listen with sincerity and the understanding of how laughter is a cure all for almost everything. I believe in my heart that when you quit listening to others you lose your ability to laugh or if you quit laughing you no longer know how to listen. Watching the population around me is the funniest show on earth. I mean truly, unapologetic entertainment, as long as we can laugh, especially at ourselves. I have done some really dumb things in my life and even at this ripening age as long as I can look back at that silliness and it can still bring a smile to my face I know I have had a good life.

    Yes there have been fears, bad judgements, painful losses, and denial but you must keep on living your life to the best of your abilities. Not someone else’s demands, concepts, or abilities of who they think you should be or what you should be. No one knows better than you when you’ve made a mistake or hurt someone. No one knows better than you when you’ve turned your back on someone asking for a hand up. No one knows better than you of when you turn that corner and accept yourself for who you are and what you want to do with your life. There is only one thing stopping you from being you and that is “YOU” and no one else.

    So my dear dear friend, keep on laughing, doing the things you want to do, and keep your heart full of joyous memories. Please give “Lady Linda” my regards and yes that is my new name for her. Great love and you have a place in my heart always.

    Rev. Dr. Dan Newman

  2. Thank you Dan. Together with my two sons, the man I most trust in the world. I will tell Lady Linda although she will probably read this. Love you and appreciate your support with gratitude.

  3. You know I love you and every word you say or write. People are stupid. Excluding me and thee, of course. My mother was happiest when she was unhappy. Quite the complainer. Once, when reacting to her litany of complaints with my version of your “Aren’t you glad you aren’t in Afghanistan?” she growled, “Denise! Stop being Pollyanna!” I think she gave me my resilience in learning from her how I didn’t want to be. I nurtured the good parts of her in me and rejected the others. I hope.

    Your blog (hey, I don’t know how to do that) reminded me of an Abraham Lincoln quote: “Most folks are about as happy as they make their minds up to be.”

    I’m glad you are who you are, Yvonne. Most days I’m happy to be me. Thanks for doing what you do.

  4. Right on ms Yvonne well said much love and Happy birthday 89 and 12 months bahahahahahahah I love you keep your sense of humor as always thank you for this blog I love it

  5. You are ripened to perfection. Stay just the way you are and keep on being YOU!!!!! You are an awesome and amazing gift of humor and insight and wisdom!!!!! Sheila

  6. 90 years. It’s amazing to look back on one’s life and the incredible amount of things that have happened. Feels like forever and just yesterday at the same time. You can amuse yourself and confuse those with poorer vocabularies by telling them you’re a nonagenarian. I haven’t experienced much ageist shit yet, but I’m sure more is coming. I hate when what’s behind the should is the all too common, and sadly, too accepted idea that it’s ok to try to impose a person or group’s beliefs on others. Such arrogance. Different is not wrong. I want to carry that around on a sign. I always read your blogs. You say so many wise and wonderful things. I love you, Yvonne.

  7. Hello Yvonne,

    Celeste here! I thoroughly enjoyed your article. I can relate and relay some of my encounters with age. I am 63 and realize I don’t look my age. This is years of not going out in the sun. Being of Irish descent I would literally turn to burnt toast. I am treated different than I was in my youth even in my 30’s 40’s. I encounter miserable unhappy complaining people weekly. If I encounter someone that is miserable I usually say to them “Are you having a bad day?” I sincerely mean it and usually it works.

    When things are spiraling out of control I once said “Did you say that to help me or hurt me?” I have used the so called death card or cancer card on people. Almost like your comment on Afghanistan. That is desperate and end of my rope comments.

    Humor and wit are what saves me daily. You have to be smarter than your average bear to understand this fabulous gift of humor. Gary had it and I have it. We would have ourselves hysterically laughing at our situation and ourselves. It is not meant to demean or show sarcasm. If you get it you get it.

    I often get the comment although not exactly age related but I find infuriating and just have to mention. Many many people ask me why I don’t work and why I don’t have a job. The thoughts in my head often go from Its no concern of yours to my goal for my son and I is insolvency. Im working toward homelessness. Rather scathing of me.

    Thank you for your wonderful words. I forgive people silently but often remove them from my world.
    Hard to do but I need peace in my mind and my heart. I love my son Kevin and want to show him resilience and good ways of handling life too.

    Thank you for reading.


  8. I am so grateful for all your wonderful encouraging comments. Some people write blogs and hundreds read them. I don’t know how to do that which is why your responses are so very important to me. I love you all. A special mention to Kim who does the website for me and finds the appropriate photos. Blessings to all. Yvonne

  9. I do not even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was great. I do not know who you are but certainly you’re going to a famous blogger if you are not already 😉 Cheers!

Go ahead and talk to me.

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