Healthy Aging

 

March 2011- I couldn’t remember if I would be turning 64 or 65 this year. But not to worry. The mail started to arrive to remind me of my age and that this was the year in June, that I officially would be considered a Senior Citizen, or “Older Adult” as I would like to be called, and on Medicare. This means “legal senior discounts”, more wrinkles, higher health care costs, and sagging skin.

 

However, on the inside of me there is a bright light, wisdom and a beautiful feeling of oneness that I either didn’t have time to notice or I have just grown into it. But it is nice.


So far, I’m not on any drugs, although my blood tests keep telling my doctor that I need to be on cholesterol medications. After three years of her calling me to remind me of the scientific evidence of the importance of these drugs, I did go on them for over one year and then my blood sugar began to go up. Was there a correlation? I was told no. However my Dad’s voice is always in the background ( he is 94 and still plays golf, drives and doesn’t wear glasses and he is on no drugs at all), “Be careful of those drugs number one daughter”.  So I went off the medications and for some reason my blood sugar went back to normal. Have I made a mistake?  Will I die of Coronary Artery Disease??

   

The question that keeps coming up in my mind is what is Healthy Aging?

And the answer that I keep getting is maybe the question is worded wrong.

Maybe Healthy Aging is really about “us”  which takes me back to my true belief and that is the importance of forming “Intentional Communities”. These communities  are for the purpose of nurturing and supporting each other. To have a circle of support, to cut down on expenses (why do we each need to have a car anyway), and why can’t we share spaces, and utilities, and gardens, and tools, and conversations at dinner. Why can’t we build that into Healthy Aging? Why do we continue to think we need to be so extremely independent anyway. We came from families. Why not build and expand on our “existing families” which I like to call “our circle of support”?


Thinking about this aging thing, and as we talk among ourselves, one ponders on a sentence I once read, “How do we control our last years?” I wonder about that and ask myself, is that really the right question? I think back over my life and look at each new mountain/challenge I faced and ask myself, was I really in control? I am not sure. I think instead I had choices, some choices that were harder than others. Some choices I really didn’t want to make but knew I had too. And it seemed that when I went with the flow, towards the light/energy, things seem to work much better. Now ,don’t misunderstand me, I did this the best I could, one step at a time, with tears, fears, uncertainty, and then I would reach a summit and I would exhale, look back and exclaim, Wow, that was amazing. So maybe I don’t have to try to be in control of my life, but to listen more closely to that “inner voice” as to what direction makes more sense, sharing your thoughts with those you trust and respect and then moving forward. Another thought, is for me and maybe for my generation, I didn’t have many mentors to turn too. It was a new frontier for me. New people, different ways; how did I fit in?  So I ask, do we need to decide from whom we gain this knowledge  of growing older from,  or is it better to look inside and ask ourselves “what is right for me?” 


And when I leave this earth, it is my hope that my footprints will be left behind      

and seen, along with the other footprints too. Since I believe that many of us are finally on the same path. So lets help carry the load of this journey called life. This to me is truly health aging...


I also want to share with you two great books I have read. One is an old one, written in 1978- “Aging Is A Lifelong Affair”- Ben Weininger and Eva L. Menkin, and the other “Aging Well- George E. Vaillant, M.D.


As I am aging, without a partner, many different people seem to be asking me the same questions- “Do you want to get married”, “Do you want someone in your life”, “You seem so independent, would you be able to handle someone in your life at this stage of the game”.  And these questions give me thought! And I try as I may to answer these questions to the best of my ability. So I answer with the following “No matter how old we are, we never lose the hunger for a loving touch and emotional closeness”. And then as I ponder and think deeper, my next reply is-”Being able to have a deep and warm and exciting conversation is to me, the aspect of any relationship that I value the most. And what comes after that is the frosting on the cake.” Now of course the question “What about Sex” is often asked and of course once again I had to ponder on that question too. My thoughts on this question is “must we search for someone else to satisfy ones needs or do need to learn to give thanks for what we have instead of being frustrated at what we don’t have”, and I believe this statement is not just about one’s needs or wants, but all needs and wants. And yes Touch is very important and there are more than just one way to meet the need of touch and we all really understand that don’t we? Or do we? And how many out there have a partner and find that their sexual needs are not or have not been fulfilled! Just a thought.


June 2012. It has now been 11 years since I retired from my full time work. Since that time I went through a Disillusionment  (don’t you love that word), worked 24/7 on Madrigal, did some part time consulting work, involved myself in volunteer work that I believed in, made friends and explored my new town and the City of San Diego. And this month I will start receiving my  social security. I know that statistics have shown that it makes more sense to start taking your benefits at 62. However my Dad just turned 95, on no medications, healthy, still driving, and my Mom is 85. So with that being said I thought I might need the extra dollars waiting a little longer. 


                     MY CONTINUING THOUGHTS ON HEALTHY AGING


So, as I look back over my life, what I have I learned, the First Born in our family?  Both the yin and the yang that is.

1. How lucky for me that I had a Mother who believed in me when I was growing up, who told me I could do what ever I set my mind to do. That no one was better than me or was I better than anyone else.

2. When I came home from school after my head injury and I was getting very low marks and I just thought I was stupid and it made me so sad, Mom said if you did you best then don't worry. And so even though school was always hard for me I just believed I came  to planet earth stupid but my Mom said if I was doing my best not to worry so I got my Masters because I believed, because she believed.

3. How lucky that I was encouraged to go to school, and school was paid for so I didn’t have to take out loans: encouraged to get out of Fulton ( to leave the tribe) and see the world.

  1. 4.How lucky I was that I had parents that worked hard to give me as many

opportunities  as they could, showered me with love and attention ( Yes I know I am the Queen), but Craig , dear brother- in-law, you live with the Princess/who thinks she’s a Queen, or maybe SHE is the Queen- ha-ha.).

  1. 5.How lucky I was that I had parents that cared enough about me that they put

me in their bed and saved my life.

  1. 6.How I watched Mom in her own way try to have control over her life (right or

wrong) when she was married. How she wanted to work, go back to school. However, little did I know back then how much work it took for both of them to take care of a big family in their own way. And what little time they really carved out for themselves. Of course I do think that Dad made a point to make time for himself and some men were able to do that back then.

  1. 7.How hard it is for me to be so far away from Mom and Dad at this stage of

their lives, yet when I am there they don’t seen to want or understand things that I bring up. I hope that will not be the same with me with my son and family.

So I hope I am learning from all this.

8. How much I miss my family, and how I miss out on the many memories that they are sharing because some of them live closer to each other. But how lucky I have been to continue to find wonderful people that do include me in their lives and bring me into their family.

9. How much I have grown by opening myself up to other people and cultures and learning how to listen more, judge less, and realize the only person I can change is myself.

10. How happy I am to have created a circle of support with people that I would probably have never met if I didn’t keep on looking. And how hard that is too, especially that each move was a different community. And also knowing that these circles continue to change.

11.How hard I fought to not loose my independence when I was married ( and thank God I did or where would I be today).

12.How I was afraid (right or wrong) just to stay home and raise William, or have more children , for fear that I would get trapped like my Mother felt ( right or wrong).

13. How much I miss, and still do, being more a part of my family. For so many of the things they do ( memory making) I have not been there.

14.How fortunate I am to be living in a State that is progressive, and still has many opportunities for learning, growth, diversity and the ability to connect with interesting people.

15.That I had a marketable degree/license and an environment where there were many jobs to chose from.


And now I have entered another Chapter in the Book Call Life-”Aging”.

Books say 65 + is OLD AGE. And let me tell you this is not for sissies.

1. I run out of energy quicker and easier than before.

  1. 2.Looks like I am now Pre-Diabetic, even though I am eating healthier,

exercising more.

  1. 3.Have to go to the Neurologist again to re look at my MRI. My Internist

says high cholesterol, Pre-Diabetes and a possible stroke ( she thinks my atrophy on the left side is not due to my old head injury) is reason to be on Statins and Diabetic Medication. AND I DON’T WANT TO GO THERE.


So as to me-As I am aging I have to spend more time with me, whether I like it or not.

1. Gum Disease keeps creeping in. So much more time then I like is spent on my teeth. Brushing at least 2 minutes, flossing, mouth wash, massaging my gums etc. etc.

2. And remembering that I really shouldn’t drink a lot of wine, or eat simple sugar of any kind any more. No white paste or rice. And on and on and on. And so I hold my head up high, look for wisdom where ever I can find it. Try to stay healthy and off medications.

  1. 3.And to continue to find avenues to grow, learn, stay open to life and continue to contribute.


So it will be interesting to see what type of email/journal my son will write about me. I hope I can stay open, continue to look for support, continue to nurture and love the people around me. For each of us help each other to grow. And so I hope I don’t let anyone down.


July 2014- Wow, Three years have gone by all ready. so back to Healthy Aging. A new development in my life that has brought some stress, but enormous joy for me. My 97 year old father finally realized ( reluctantly) that he could not longer live alone ( see my ongoing Blog for more on this subject), so I went back to Fulton New York, around the end of June, put his house on the market, got rid of his processions, closed is bank accounts etc., packed two suit cases, and bought him back to Madrigal to live with me. It was rough going for a while and now he is living in an independent senior facility and he is thriving.  Some journey for Dad. Leaving the town that he was born and grew up in and raised a family. A small rural town that he knew like the back of his hand. Now in a new State, new people, new cultures, new, new, new. It is interesting to see him navigate these new waters. I notice although he processes much slower, his thinking skills are are amazing. It just takes him longer to think about what is happening. He is meeting people that have names he has never heard before, introduced to foods that he has never heard about or tasted. He is in a world that is so very different than what he knew. Yet I can tell he now feels safe, and yet still free to make decisions on his own, to go on supervised outings and he is doing it. You go Dad. You are a very good example of “Healthy Aging” being done with dignity, somewhat independence, and yet knowing that you are not living alone, and that a family member is close by. How lucky for me to watch this unfold, and yet as I watch my fathers journey now I remember a passage I read in the book Life Drawings by Robin Black “I sometimes picture a star doing the same thing over a million years, slowly, slowly losing its bearings in the universe, finally flickering out and disappear”.


    Read a great book that I want to share with you all. The author is Marie de Hennezel -  First published in 2010 as “The Art of Growing Old”, and then the title changed to “The Warmth of the Heart Prevents Your Body from Rusting”. Both books are still out there. I think you will enjoy this read. 


May 2018 our father Victor Arcadi finally said good by to Plant Earth sometime during the night/early morning. I didn’t morn his passing, and I have no regrets, for life was getting more difficult for him to navigate. So we wish him well and the memories he left behind will always be with us in one way or another. When they called me and asked if I wanted to see his body before they came to pick him up I made the decision not too. I wanted to remember him as he was and not once his spirit had left. So when I went to pick up his ashes I didn’t know how I would feel, but it was good. I knew my Dad had left us and I was so glad that I was able to be closer to him during his last 4 years to help him as much as I could in this last chapter of his journey on earth.  Below are some of my thoughts that cam to mind.


“As we all know life can be hard to navigate at times for all of us regardless of our age, and it does help when we have "A Effective Circle Of Support" that we can count on. Of course that is much easier to do when we can just pick up a phone or text to ask questions or ask for help, or even better when we have people close by that we can call on to help us to better evaluate what we need. However as one ages and our body/computer begins to break down it is hard at times to known what one needs or even what questions to ask, and many of the support systems we either had or didn't have are now gone. On top of that as we age our body/computer doesn't always work as fast and our processing skills can get compromised and confused so one reaches out in what ever way they know how. Fear/Stress/Pain/ etc. can be a bitch. None of us like it, but it comes and goes, sometimes staying longer than we want. I think of my mother right now who is 91 years old and living 3000 miles away from us. Her immediate "Circle of Support" has to be the staff where she lives ,with her children as her emotional support to say we are there, we are listening, how can we help. On the other hand I saw first hand how difficult it was to make sure that Dad's Quality Of Life needs were met by the system he was in. And I too (like so many people I talk with) have to navigate ineffective systems on a constant basis to solve on going situations. So yes we all know how frustrating and time consuming it is, many times with no results in the end.


With that being said I wonder what it is going to be like for all of us as we enter the last chapter of our lives. Questions like- "What will our money be able to buy", who will be in our Circle Of Support and will they be effective", "How will our Quality Of Life be effected if our Circle Of Support is not strong and coordinated".


In closing-The process of dying is just has import as living. However It is a journey with no google maps to help to show us the way. My wish for all of us.


"May be all have be fortunate enough to continue to have effective "Circle Of Supports" in our lives when even we need them. And let us all continue to look for ways to continue to be Circles Of Support for others".

“Madrigal Final”

created by Dustin