Tag Archives: aging

Be the Change #8 – Remember the Elderly

Nursing home

Nursing home

This is another easy one.

Almost all of us have an elder in our lives.  If your parents and grandparents are no longer living, you have great-aunts and uncles, or elderly neighbors.  Many elders are widowed and may be lonely.

This week, spend some time with an elder.  If you still have one or more of your parents or grandparents, make a date to take them out to lunch, or to a movie or another event they might enjoy.  As a parent of grown children myself, I absolutely guarantee that you will make their day.  If your parents or grandparents don’t live near you, then call them, or send them a surprise.  It can be something small, like a book or video that you think they would enjoy.

If your parents and grandparents are no longer living, do a small kindness for an older relative or an elderly person in your neighborhood.  Pick up their newspaper from their driveway and put it on their front porch.  Better yet, knock on the door and hand it to them with a smile and a few words of conversation.  Take your elderly neighbor a jar of homemade soup of a plate of fresh-baked cookies if you’re cooking this week.

I’m blessed to still have my mother in my life.  My plan is to take her out to lunch this weekend.  What’s your plan to brighten up an elder’s day?


I wasn’t looking forward to turning 60 and I had this notion, early in the year, to celebrate my 6 decades by doing something that I liked to do in each decade, making a donation representative of each decade and getting back in touch with someone from each decade of my life.  That didn’t get very far, because my actual current life had an annoying habit of interfering.

So, when I thought about turning 60 at all, I still mostly hated it.  There are so many things that I miss about being young.  I miss having smooth skin, and thick, shiny hair.  I miss daily sex.  I miss being able to wear high heels for more than 5 minutes without my feet killing me. I miss my grandparents.  I miss turning cartwheels.

But now that the 60th birthday has come and gone, what I mostly feel is grateful. 60 years were not promised to me on the day I was born.  In 1955, children still occasionally died of measles, chicken pox, mumps, polio.  My best friend and I went through a hitchhiking phase in the 70s.  That could have ended badly.  My bout with breast cancer in 2011 could have ended a whole lot worse than it did.  I grew up during the Cold War, which could have ended VERY badly.

But I survived to live a very ordinary and very blessed life.  I made my career in information management during the adolescence of the Information Age:  I typed my first programs on punch cards, and now manage information living in a vast global cloud.  I’ve been to Paris, New York, London, and Rome, dipped my toes in the Atlantic, the Pacific and the Mediterranean.  I’ve lived in the richest, mightiest nation the world has ever seen, at what was probably the pinnacle of its power and glory.  I wrote a book.  I danced with an Isley Brother (true story).

I have lived to see my children’s children.

I have loved the same man for 37 years. We’ve passed through the stage of joyful lust, the years of blissful, exhausted parenting, and the tensions and adjustments of midlife.  Now we are two survivors, with a one heart attack, one mastectomy and a lifetime of memories between us.

At 60, I know most of my life story.  I can relax a little.  There’s a happy balance between having enough time to want more and being content with what I’ve already had.  After the hot, exhausted hell of menopause, I have renewed energy, but also a new respect for my limits and peace with the many, many mistakes I’ve had time to make in 60 years.  I am a little less eager to please, a little more willing to tell hard truths, but also way more compassionate and tender with the weaknesses of others.  I am completely at ease with other people, can talk to almost anyone, but am perfectly content with my own company, too.

Just as I was not promised the first 60 years, I am not guaranteed another 60 months, 60 days or even 60 seconds.  But, if I’ve learned anything in my 31,536,000 minutes on this planet, it is that, as Peggy Freydberg says (in a poem written when she was over 90 years old!):

We shape the world towards joy

with our dreams of it

For whatever time is left to me, I’m grateful for love and curious about what will happen tomorrow.