The Boomers are kicking and screaming our way into old age. By the time the last of us turn 65 in 2029 there will be over 71 million people over age 65 in the United States (marketers like to say “better than” 65). One big question: where will we live? Most of us plan to stay “at home” and age in place, and many of us will be able to do so with only minor modifications. However, a recent article citing housing preferences indicates that few of us middle-aged folks plan any home modifications at all. That’s because when we imagine ourselves older, we don’t imagine any changes taking place in our physical selves. The thought of home modifications makes us sound, well . . . old. Oldish. Baby Boomers Happy to go Nowhere. . . .
The good news is that we have a few years to educate ourselves about accessibility and universal design. Homes that allow us to age in place do not have to shout this fact. Wider doorways, no barrier shower entrances, varied countertop heights, and so much more can look elegant and “normal.” Our real challenge is to acknowledge that we will grow old (if all goes well) and we would be smart to prepare ourselves ahead of time. Let’s talk about it, so it’s not so scary.
Shhh! Be vewy, vewy quiet. . .I’m hiding from my older self.
“Resilience” is the buzzword in aging today: the ability to “bounce back” from life’s challenges is key to aging well. Recognizing –and accepting– the losses that accompany aging is part of this picture: you have to accept in order to adapt. Older adults who report high levels of life satisfaction exhibit self-awareness about the changes in their lives. As you age (“who, me?”), keep three things in mind:
1. Accept what happens in life. Know that it is always changing, and do what you can to accept even the changes you don’t want. Don’t waste today wishing for yesterday.
2. Get physical. Exercise keeps us young: people in their 80s are still running marathons! If that’s not your thing, take a walk. Swim. Lift a weight. Toss a ball. Garden. Move.
3. Finally, reach out to others. Make it part of your purpose to do good for someone or something who does nothing for you in return. Community counts!
Body language can tell you all kinds of things: learn F.A.S.T and make a difference.
Marie Kondo is a supreme delight. The Container Store is Quaking in its Boots
See her in action:
It isn’t often that we are able to step outside of ourselves and see the smallest bit of this world passing us by, unconcerned with our curious gaze. As someone whose work involves sorting through all the stuff your mom and dad have in the garage, or the office, or the kitchen, I can tell you that it is often best to half close the eyes, in the interest of moving forward. There is dust. There is junk. There is too much of too much.
Every so often a scrap of paper hits me in the face. Not literally, although that happens, too. But a page torn from an old cookbook, a formerly blank page with a handwritten recipe for some sort of cake, deserves some thought. This woman made a cake, in her kitchen, for the people she loved. There was an occasion, a birthday, a holiday, or maybe she was the sort of woman who made cakes just because. A small affirmation, here in her own handwriting—the kind of handwriting of the generation now dying off: the rhythmic, steady Palmer Method, carefully studied and practiced until calluses formed on the fingers. The writing is just the kind that you want your mom to have: stable, steady, and dependable. It is beautiful.
I sometimes feel like an archaeologist bearing witness to a lost world: no one uses the Palmer Method anymore; the teaching of cursive is not coming back. The same feeling emerges when I find an old Monopoly set, with a cloth board and wooden houses. The pieces of our lives. The matchbook collections. Matchbooks were colorful reminders of where we’d been: stylish and useful for lighting all those glamorous cigarettes that people smoked for their health (that was a long time ago). Most places don’t have them anymore.
I can’t lament the passing of time: it’s bigger than me. It’s terrifying, and oddly comforting. Every day, our lives connect through the procession of trivia and significance that surrounds us. If we find ourselves mired in a wish for the past it could be because we fail to see it surrounding us still. Every day connects to the one before, and to the one that follows. If time were a string I could find my way back to the day that woman made a cake. I could touch her flour-dusted cheek and tell her not to be afraid. I could tell her.
In the spirit of Halloween, take a look at how quickly we age. In geologic time, you are not even the gnat on the hide of a buffalo. It’s ok. Cheers.
Time is but a stream I go a-fishing in. . .
Let’s face it: getting old is scary.
Richard and Alice Matkin had the same fears about aging that many others share: loss of independence, physical strength and beauty, identity itself. As artists, they used their creative strengths to explore the topic of aging, and found a sense of beauty, strength, and joy not typically championed in our culture. The power of art works to diminish our fears, and connects us to one another as we make our way into the future.
Richard and Alice Matkin: Celebrating the Authentic Aging Self