Aging As An Experience

Aging for most people in their mid-80s and early 90s brings daily challenges not expected or anticipated. Rarely is it a gentile sailing into the sunset or a pleasant afternoon of sitting on a comfortable swing on the back porch contemplating one’s past. 

Aging into these later years brings changes we cannot know until they occur.  They are different and specific for each individual. Overall, they comprise experiences we have never faced before, and much written about this process mainly reflects the viewer’s viewpoint and not that of the aging person. 

I suppose I am one of the unique ones who do write and hopefully continue to write about my “aging experience” from the perspective of one who is there. 

The life changes are substantial. Food becomes unimportant but necessary. Sleep is an escape, although it occurs in brief periods because I frequently wake to use the bathroom. I feel constantly chilled, so I wear a vest and seek the sun’s warmth whenever possible. 

I used to be strong and agile, but while I can still walk on my own, I am weak and cautious with each step. The little push-wheeler and seat most here walk gingerly behind is not yet me.

I have shared that my sight and hearing are deteriorating along with the rest of me—all a natural part of aging. Still, I consider myself better off than most who reside here with us since I am also one of the oldest. I feel fortunate that my mind is still hanging in there. Why? This is not for me to answer, but I’m grateful and determined to keep using it to document what I’m sure will be my final journey. I think I say it as it is and, as I am. The teacher in me refuses to give up. It is what and who I have been and still am.


Facing Depression

Throughout my life, I have been subject to many feelings. I’ll never forget my awe watching the huge waves of the typhoon batter the ship I was on. I wasn’t afraid at any time during the storm and was so overcome by the enormity of nature’s fury that I was prepared to witness my own drowning. I remember no fear, only awe. 

No street fight I had ever fought brought fear, even when a blade was held against my neck. Instead, I felt only excitement. My focus was to do battle and damage, and when aroused, that was what I did.

While I experienced many emotions, I do not remember being frozen in fear or worse. Yet, the black cloud that enveloped me the other day was intent on overwhelming and encasing me. 

During that moment, I faced the cloud and spat in its face. “Not me, not now, and not ever,” and it disappeared. I know what I faced, and I dealt with it. I have always risen to the occasion; whether I lose or win is never the issue. I have never, and will never, run from anyone or anything.

Life is taking place, and Lenette and I are mere pawns in the game. But we are still responsible for choosing how we handle what comes at us. 

We face the aging process daily, and we are less able and more in need of help. Amazingly (at least to us), people are there for us. They become our eyes and ears and give such care and love that we are often emotionally overwhelmed.   One cannot expect this, and yet what we are given is provided with such love. Why? Dare we ask?


Another Day

Each day brings another challenge or “takeaway.” Like many my age, my hearing and eyesight continually worsen with no chance of ever improving. The overall experience is one of loss, and a sense of depression begins to make itself known.

Giving in has never been my style, so more tests and better glasses are in the immediate future. I am also looking into using dictation with the computer instead of typing. I have always been the “speaker,” so this technology should work fine for me. 

In any case, despair is not a characteristic of mine, even in the worst of times. Fighting for a cause, for what I feel is justified, is who I am and have been my entire life. Nothing is going to change me, including my “aging issues.” The battle is joined, and you will be a witness.

And so it goes until the day comes that I will not be. In any event, I was a pretty good storyteller in my early years. It might be enjoyable for me to go back to more of my old ways. Time will tell, and you will be the best judge.

It is said that the older we get, the more childlike we become.  Early demise avoids this; aging guarantees this. Since I did not choose this long age process, I am going with it, like it or not.

You have my full support to make any comment(s) you wish to make.


A Reversal Of Roles

The continuing story of aging is one of loss. Not abruptly or all at one time, it is a slow, insidious process. The gradual loss of hearing and vision, a full night’s sleep, forgetfulness, and much more. Aging is, at best, a lousy, challenging time of life.  To want to be old or to look forward to being old are the thoughts and words of someone who is not there and likely many years away from being old.

Those who claim to be looking forward to aging are, at best, ignorant of the aging process or, at worst, living in fantasy.  How does anyone who has lived a challenging, creative life with its numerous ups and downs look forward to a sedentary life when once routine activities become uncomfortable or unmanageable?

Life is meant to be lived even as we age, and when we cannot do those relatively easy things, it signals the beginning of the end. We may see or feel what is slowly changing in us, and we can either accept this or choose to fight every inch of the way. 

Being close to 97, I refuse to cease being who I have been all these years. But truth be told, I am not nearly the person I was. Old photos are a stark reminder of that. Still, my resolve is unshaken.

Yet the reality is undeniable. Helping to make the day-to-day possible are the people who fill our lives and give us the care we need but have such difficulty asking for. They made it possible for us to move to our new place and to make it as much like home as possible. They have taken charge, from hanging pictures to separating the essentials from what we don’t need and much more.  They have undertaken all of these tasks we are unable to do.

To say we love and honor them seems foolish and light, considering all they have done for us. Our gratitude goes far beyond words; they and others need to know our love and appreciation for them and what they do.

Now, we are their children, as once they were ours. The role reversal is no accident. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Sy & Lenette

Old Age Is No Picnic

There is absolutely no question regarding the challenges of aging. Nothing I write, have written, or will write contradicts what we experience 24/7. Old age sucks. You are reminded of its presence every waking moment. There is no escaping it. It’s at least one reason why the bed and sleeping take on such significance. It is where you try to find peace with your body and mind. Sadly this, too often, is unsuccessful.

My essays on aging will continue and occupy a good portion of the book I hope to complete before the year ends. Now, I am in the process of searching for a title. Perhaps, “Aging Sucks!” will work.  You tell me. Other sections of the book will be my usual smatterings of papers on power, leadership, relationships, the inner circle and dialogue, and who knows what else.

I obviously loved working with children, youth, and young staff.  Yet, those programs didn’t prosper by accident.  I also enjoyed working with adults and my study on power, leadership, and dialogue. I know how well this acquired knowledge has served me over the years.

The memories of the 50s and 60s are my favorites because I was a participant.  When I did workshops with professionals and entrepreneurs, they drove me to be as good a teacher as I was capable. Working with most of them meant learning for all of us and yielded some profound and lasting relationships. I am forever grateful to them.


The Challenge Of Old Age

We have completed our move to a total care facility.  We wear a call button, and people are available to assist us in any way 24/7. It is a new care facility to the west of Reno, and we are settling in. But I would like this paper to be about the people that have helped us and continue to do so. All this would be impossible without their help and guidance. 

We are not who we were and do not have the sight, hearing, and strength we were once blessed with. But a team of people surrounded us, took our hands, and helped us to where we needed to go and be. This is an entirely new experience for us. For most of our lives, we did for others, and now others do for us, and we are grateful. Now, it’s time to contemplate what this experience is teaching us.

If we live long enough, we will need help in many ways. As others have said, and I agree, “Old Age Sucks.” How can anyone feel pleased with diminishing eyesight, hearing, strength, and the rest? I admit to taking those things for granted because I never thought of a “long life” and a “good life” as a senior citizen. I thought we lived and died.  Yet, the problems are many if you, like us, are blessed (or cursed) with a long life.

When one has overseen their own life, they rarely can anticipate their own care and that they will need others. Still, remarkable people have come to our aid and given themselves in ways full of kindness and love. They saw what needed to be done and took charge, all with great sensitivity. 

We regard them as family who are there for each other. But what of those without family? That realization leads me to believe that Lenette and I may be two of the luckiest people on the planet. 

Getting Old Demands A Plan

Getting old demands a plan. If you’re waiting to get old, then it is already too late. The time to begin thinking about what may lie ahead is when you are young and clear of mind. If the train has passed through your station, you are already old, and your plan is long overdue.

About six years ago, Lenette and I began discussing “senior living.” We loved our home on the river, and yet we still had to start the process of arranging for our older years. Not our kind of dialogue, but necessary.  

We found a place, much like a resort, and moved in. That was nearly four years ago, and now we are moving to a 24-7 care facility. This is what happens if you live long enough. If one lives too long, you must be cared for because caring for yourself becomes more and more difficult. 

We were happy at the place we first moved into. We met wonderful people our age and enjoyed sharing bits of our lives with each other over meals. Also, the management and staff there are wonderful people absolutely dedicated to servicing their 150 residents. It is a full house with a deservedly long waiting list.

Now, we are doing what life dictates. The place we are moving to has become necessary because Lenette may require care that is unavailable here, care that I am becoming incapable of giving. Again, if you are long-lived, this becomes essential. Your children, try as they might, are ill-suited for what caregiving actually entails.

Thankfully, a friend stepped into the breach and took charge of our move. When I called and asked them to assist us, they responded immediately. “We’ll drive tonight and do everything we can.”

We are blessed to have such remarkable people by our side to help in any way possible.


Curve balls & Spitters

Curve Balls & Spitters: Life throws all that and more at us. Yet, we can never anticipate this before it happens and are left standing as if in cement. We rise and prepare for the day, shower, maybe shave and do what we usually do.  We may have the entire day outlined in our minds. We may have things to do, people to see, and places to go. At least, that is what we are thinking. Still, life plays tricks on us, and the best-laid plans will often go completely astray. 

This is a frequent happening in old age. Don’t bet on feeling great and prepared for what you were ready for and doing yesterday. This is a whole new day, and the effects of aging are insidious. It can creep up or attack full bore, and in an instant, everything is changed. It is why we are constantly reminded to live each day to its fullest. We must, or we lose what we possess, which is “this time, this moment,” and those experiences that take place. 

I have written that for the old and aging, our memories, particularly the good ones, are where we need to live. Being in the present is everything for the young and those who see and do and have much life and living ahead of them. On the other hand, being in the “present” does little for the aged.

The truth is often hard to swallow, but as we grow old, injuries gained in more youthful days return along with other numerous ills that are part of the aging package. It is why I suggest seeking out those old and fond memories. As bitter and callous as life can be for some, there can still be a few memories worth bringing back to life. Hopefully, the good ones are there, and digging for them is the right thing. Ideally, where you are at this moment is pleasant and enjoyable. If so, file these memories as worthy of hanging on to and sharing your good feelings with friends.


Our Wishes

I have been advised that I need to share our thoughts on when we finally depart. I understand it is important to some, and I have always responded to the call when asked. I’ll attempt to state our wishes.

After Lenette and I are both gone, we want our ashes to be mixed. People have often said, “We are one,” which is how we see ourselves. Hence, the mixing of our ashes is appropriate. After this is done, I have asked Ian and Merry to take them to Yosemite and place our ashes on a boulder up at Glacier Point so that the winds can spread us around the Sierras. As our guests, we also want them to have a weekend at the Ahwahnee Hotel.  The weekend, all meals and drinks are on us. We also want to take the following people to the best dinner in Town: Mark and Carol, Will and Linda, Ian and Merry, Pete and Dennis, Doug and Gloria, Stacy and Ronnie. Go for the best wine, food, and desserts. This time, we pay the bill.

As for any celebration or memorial of our lives and work, we remain neutral. We do not feel this is necessary, but if people choose to do otherwise, we are fine with whatever.

Life has given us a ride, often wild and out of control and, without question, serendipitous. We are not religious but have had numerous “spiritual” moments, including extended periods of the unexplainable and even the “weird.” We have climbed mountains, crossed wild rivers, struck out, and hit home runs. We know failure, and we know success. We have worked with some of the finest people: The young, entrepreneurs, professionals, powerful and destructive leaders, powerful and remarkable “leaders of leaders,” Queens, and worker bees. It was a great ride, and it will continue as long as we are here.


Our Next Move

If one is alive, aging is unavoidable. Its challenges are numerous, and those who fall into this category must deal with it head-on. If not, the options are few. One can run and hide, although I’m hard-pressed to imagine where one can do so since it is not what we have ever done. In any event, Lenette and I are smack dab in the middle of it.

As far as day-t0-day goes, I know that eating and keeping hydrated is essential, along with the other absolutes of life. Sustaining oneself adequately is necessary, though, at times, challenging. And, of course, there are other issues. For many, seeing is difficult, so reading is out. Hearing is almost impossible, and skin is so thin that a wrong touch means bleeding.  Aging is this and more, and any idea that any of this is easy can only come from 40- and 50-year-olds.

Now, we must move to another facility. The process is complicated and demands attention to detail, paperwork, and a mix of professionals. I was once able to do this, but now as an old man, I am not.  However, a couple, who have been close friends for many years, have stepped up and taken charge of our immediate life. Pure love is given to us, and we are being cared for.   

I will continue to write because it is what I can do, and I must do something. Recognizing that I was a leader of leaders makes it even more critical that I continue to reveal my thoughts as I discover or rediscover them.