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.
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.
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.