Will You Give In to Aging?

I do not give in to aging and will not. I accept and frankly admit to being surprised that I am still around with a relatively sharp mind, memory, and in good physical condition. Still, I do not take any of this for granted. I may be an aberration compared to the rest of my family, but I’ll take this gift and run with it for as long as possible. 

I believe I am here as I am because I want to be here for Lenette. I fight aging, and I know deep inside me that I do this for her, and I know she does this for me. A year or two ago, I was ready and willing to die. Lenette sensed this in me and challenged me with, “You have no right to make that decision on your own. We are ONE, not two.”

How funny this is. While doing workshops around the country, I often brought Lenette into the dialogue, and some people thought I was SyLenette, not Sy. They associated what I was saying as being one person, not two. And now, I began to understand that l also thought of us as one. And we are.

So, the message here, and it is essential, is that we all need a cause worth fighting for and staying alive for. Lenette is my cause. Do you have one? It could be your spouse if you are still blessed to have one. It could be your children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren. It might even be a friend that has always been there for you. In any case, the point is that we need a cause beyond ourselves if we are to continue to fight our aging battles.

I so love Lenette—She loves me too, and maybe more—We are twice blessed. 


Aging Is A Jungle Walk

Aging is a Jungle walk, and it is a jungle we do not know. We are on a narrow, difficult trail where each step takes us deeper into the unknown. Still, we cannot go back. There is only enough light on our path so we do not lose the way forward. Danger lurks on all sides and in front of us, so we dare not fall and cannot stop. This is my picture of aging.

On the other hand, we have hiked, biked, camped, and traveled to many parts of the world and loved those challenges and mysteries. This aging experience is unlike any we have ever had, and nothing we have thus far experienced is cause for joy.  Examples abound: We cannot drive and have no wheels, which makes us dependent on our dear and caregiving friends. We are blessed when we have no pain. Our eyes are going bad, our ears, even with hearing aids, are lousy, and the possibility of falling anytime and anywhere increases tenfold. And never forget, falling results in trauma, which is to be avoided as we age. 

So, when I write that our aging experience is a dangerous walk in a jungle where dangers lurk on every side of the path we trod, I know this. Because I am walking it with a host of other aging people. I witness them aging and eventually dying. Of course, they must be witnessing this with us.

The interesting thing is that although it sounds scary and might be to others of this aging group, it does not scare or worry us. Today we are here, and one day we won’t.  So, while the end does not worry us, the journey does. We do not want or seek pain or discomfort, but avoidance may be impossible.  Thinking one lives with it through drugs and various other means is not an answer. Trust me when I write this.

The jungle is dark—Walking is not what it was—The path chooses us


Are We Helpless As We Age?

My recent post raised the possibility that aging people who live together, as we do at Revel, influence each other in the aging process. Whether that’s true or not, the factual reality is that we are aging with each passing moment until we stop.

In previous essays, I’ve said that while we will lose the war, we can still win numerous battles. I’m all for winning as many battles as possible and am fighting to stay around for a bit longer, hoping for a few extra years. The weapons or tools (call them what you will) I’ve recommended to win the battles over aging remain community, work, or serious study, and being as social with others as possible. If one commits to these few tools, the battle is joined, not run from.  It is also important to remain upbeat in attitude and behavior. Giving in to lethargy and the sense of helplessness assures losing all around.

Being positive even under challenging conditions may be difficult but find and hold on to the positive. We alone make the choices. We can choose to be isolated; we can choose to let pain rule over us. Or we can choose involvement, participation, being our own voice, and mixing it up with others. We are on a road going somewhere, and we have choices about where that somewhere is.

I choose how I live-Why not more than less to do—My question to me


Age As Influence

We live in a Senior Complex. It is not a “Senior Care” facility but more like a resort. We rent an apartment and have a variety of activities. There is a small theater, gym, pool, restaurant, and bar. Our apartment is cleaned once a week and serviced if there are any problems. We are happy here, enjoy our new friends and believe our move here was appropriate. But here is the question.

Does living with and among aging people speed up the aging process? This is hitting us on an almost daily basis. The people we have befriended, meaning more than a “hello” and a nod of familiarity, are aging in front of us, and I must believe we are aging in front of them. One day they are here, and the next, they are gone. People fall, are taken to emergency rooms, have hospital stays, or must move to a Senior Care facility (which we are not) and die. That’s the way it is.

So, my question is a serious one. Does living with people, who are aging as we are, hasten our demise? Is it possible that this environment of aging people contributes to the aging process itself? The power of environment is undeniable. In this case, it has nothing to do with leadership or management. It is about our influence on each other. Does our shared aging grow like a virus in a confined space, becoming more powerful over time? It is a question that isn’t easily dismissed.  If so, are we helpless? I don’t think so, and I will address the topic of helplessness in another essay.


We Were Blindsided

 Lenette and I were blindsided, but why? As I have written, we had yet to think in terms of aging. Whatever we did was as if it would continue, and of course, nothing ever does. Even the Sun is wearing down, as is our world. I’m writing about this more because it intrigues me, as does why we never once thought about being old and unable to be what we were.

So, I asked a few people if they ever thought about aging, and their answers surprised me. Most have said they did, and at an early age. I’m gathering their responses and am sure more essays will result from my inquiries. I’m left to ponder why Lenette and I continued living as if we were fixed in time. Neither of us saw us aging, but we did age, and one day we realized we were old and could not continue to live as we had. Reluctantly, we moved from our beautiful home on the Truckee River to a senior living complex.

Aging is inescapable. Suddenly or slowly, and no matter how one envisions the future, aging is the relentless truth. It is the drumbeat that is with us throughout our life, whether we pay attention to it or not. With Lenette and me, it was silent; with others, was it heard, understood, or prepared for? Maybe that is the lesson. 

It will require finances and planning so as not to be a burden to others. They will have their own aging issues. It is the way it is. Life is a series of chapters, and each chapter is its own and not what it was, even if one lives solely in the present as we thought we did.  The hourglass is the perfect example, as we will run out of sand one day. To understand this and include this in our living our daily lives, I now know as wisdom.


Is Aging An Issue For You?

I’ve written that aging was never an issue for Lenette and me until shortly before we moved into our senior village. Only then did we confront it, as it was right in our face. Lenette and I lived life as if each day was another day to do what we did yesterday, perhaps even a bit better. Getting old was not anything we were aware of or thought of.

Today we still live each day, but we are starkly aware of our agedness. We are surrounded by and live with old people. Besides our socializing and dialogue, no one is unaware of their age issues. All realize that everything is temporary, including us. This we see every day. People fall, and walkers and canes become essential aids. Hearing aids that become worthless in crowded rooms are worn by most. Oxygen, when necessary full time is wheeled or carried. So, with increasing handicaps, people function until they are gone.

If you are one of those who, over the years, had thought about getting old, I would like to know what thoughts you had and why. I have some advice (I usually do) to share. You are getting old, and there is no escaping this. So, make the most of this day and do not count on the next. Tomorrow is only a guess on your part.  Life is a journey, and like the pages in a good novel, they connect to each other. You need to read each page in order to relate to the next one. A good book is worth this process, as is the “good life.” Don’t miss today. It is yours, and there is no guarantee that tomorrow will be.

I age, here for you—You age and here for me too—We age together


You Might Need To Ask Yourself This

In my most recent paper, I wrote that “I did not” think about aging and that the issue did not occur to me even as I was getting older. In addition to lots of skiing in my late 60s and early 70, I Hiked in the Himalayas to the basecamp of Everest, biked a hundred miles a day in China, 50 to 70 a day in Portugal, and kayaked off the coast of Hawaii and Guatemala. Never once did I think about a time that my active life would come to an end. 

It did, of course, and here I am at 96, writing about aging and asking others about their inner thoughts regarding the subject. There was someone very close to me (I am amazed and honored by the number of people I feel close to) whom I asked if they ever thought about aging and getting older. I was surprised when he answered without hesitation that he had thought about aging for some time. He is an artist and has done work in a variety of media, loves woodwork with a passion, and, by the way, is an exceptional furniture maker.

He has worried for years that the time will come when he cannot handle the tools of his trade and art. In fact, he has gone so far as to donate his entire artisans’ shop full of sophisticated tools to a local University when the time comes when his tools will become too dangerous for him to operate.

I know he has always been an artist. In one way or another, he showed this even as a young boy. His first hammer belonged to my father, a carpenter by trade who saw this love of craft in him. After he earned his master’s in art, he did oil, watercolor, and pottery, worked with metals, and eventually found his true art in woodwork. What an interesting and beautiful person he is.  And, obviously, deep and thoughtful.

As to the question I asked him, be prepared. I will be asking you!


How Do You Think About Aging?

I believe that hardly a thought is given to the issue of aging when we are young unless we witness this with our grandparents and parents or if we are called upon to be part of a caregiving group. My father’s mother lived with us in tight quarters when I was very young, and I remember little of her except that she caused him considerable pain. There are moments I recall, but I am unable to connect them. In any case, age meant nothing to me, and I know that I never thought in terms of the future or what the future held for me.

My gang was what was important to me, and the sports activities we were involved in. School was unimportant save for a few activities and one or two teachers that I liked. And so, life was lived each day, and thoughts of growing up and earning a living were never a part of my mental process. In fact, if I did think of the future, I thought being a merchant mariner would be the best way to see the world, an adventure that appealed to me.

Note that it was the adventure I thought of, not the work I might be doing. If I thought about it at all, my future did not manifest itself until my experiences on Okinawa at the end of the 2nd World War. I never thought beyond my belief that I could handle anything thrown my way. Being physical was my answer until I was shown alternatives. Alternatives became my life.

 As I reflect, I realize I never planned on getting old. What about you?

What awaits is there—I meet it and it meets me—Serendipity?

The Significance Of Community

A week before I spoke at the University on aging, it occurred to me that there were four “weapons” I considered essential to winning some battles with aging. While we will not win the war with aging, I think winning some battles is a good thing. Yesterday I experienced another epiphany, and I now realize some of these tools are more important than others.

Community, for example. I feel that living isolated or relatively isolated is a big mistake regardless of how comfortable you think you are. Being isolated may include the work you do, such as artistry. Yet, where and when is community part of your life? I argue that as we age, community moves to the very front of importance.

Relationships are why. Community is all about relationships and caring for each other as the need arises. Membership, fellowship, conversation, and dialogue are all essential to longevity. Having lunch and dinner together, sharing holidays, and enjoying the better parts of what it means to be a part of a group. 

At one time, groups were essential for survival, and because a greater number of us are living longer, groups are more important than ever. Not being what and who we were is no small problem. Regardless of financial means, older people are different than who they once were. Not accepting this is allowing ignorance to control us. So, my answer, thanks to my epiphany, is to get with community when you can do the choosing instead of others choosing for you. 

I age do I know—Maybe yes and maybe no—I will decide this


Aging And Role Reversal

Being a leader may or may not be a choice. If it is a choice, choosing to be a leader means taking on responsibility for the lives and certainly the behavior of those you would lead. Being a parent is an excellent example. To choose to be a parent means undertaking a lifetime journey initially loaded with responsibility. Then, as aging occurs, The roles reverse, and the parent becomes the recipient of power.  

Yes, children grow into adults, and the parents become more childlike. This transition is rarely a fluid one. At some point in the growing and changing process, the likelihood of conflict between parents and children increases. Power and influence are wrapped into our relationships with our children, yet they transform over time. What was clearly the parent’s leadership role in relation to the child’s role as follower disappears. It may be sudden or slow, but the transfer of power and influence is inevitable.

This is true in our families and homes but not at work, where most people are pawns in the pyramid we call “our jobs.” Leaders employ us, teachers teach us, military leaders lead us, and political powers rule us. But at home, power and influence change as we age. 

During this change of roles, preparation is called for, as is dialogue on the subject and not avoidance. Aging is an “in your face” reality. If we live long enough, this will become an issue for those who must reverse their roles. The sooner this subject is breached and understood, the better it is for all involved.

I am your leader—You will become mine, in time-—Do we understand?