Part 1 of Aging: Are Wrinkles on the Inside More Telling than the Wrinkles Outside? pondered what makes us look old. Our skin, hair, extra weight, dated or too-youthful wardrobe, and how we act all contribute to making us look old. Our culture in the USA puts a premium on youthful looks, and billions of dollars are spent trying to erase or minimize the imprint of age on our bodies.
if you want to age well and still be relevant in this world, you have to manage both the wrinkles on your exterior and those metaphoric wrinkles lurking inside you. Pour a glass of wine or cup of coffee and consider that.
As actress Tina Sloan, author of Changing Shoes, grew older on The Guiding Light, the younger, prettier actresses got more and more air time, and her screen time shrank. In order to stay in the game as she says, she had to devise a way to make her older character still relevant to the show. I don’t know about you, but as I age I still want my voice heard, opinion sought or valued and still be invited to parties!
As I watch my mother and her friends age at her retirement community, I see my future staring back at me. Of those who still have their faculties, the most vibrant are not necessarily the youngest. My mother plays water volleyball with a few 90+ year olds. One of her dearest friends is 94 and doesn’t let low vision hold her back from being as vivacious as they come.
How to Avoid Getting Inner Wrinkles
If we don’t stay vibrant, our soul becomes old, and inner wrinkles develop which can’t help but radiate outward. Then we will read old, no longer be relative and eventually become a burden, possibly before our time. What ever we do or don’t do now is akin to the power of compound interest: doing or not doing a little now adds up each year upon the next until — all of a sudden — we have enough stashed away to live comfortably (independent, happy, active and interesting) or NOT.
Take Care of Yourself — NOW
- Although we can’t completely control what health issues befall us, we can do our best to remain strong. Take one pass through a local retirement community, and you’ll know what I mean. Don’t let a sedentary lifestyle compound itself to the point where it’s taking a toll on your joints, muscles and cardio capacity. Keep Moving. Don’t let your dream vehicle become one of these.
- Get your health screenings. You know what they are: vision, hearing, colonoscopy, mammograms, pelvic exams and dental check-ups. At the top of my to-do list is a hearing screening.
My family history doesn’t bode well for me, and I have seen first hand how a severe hearing loss can be frustrating, socially isolating and potentially dangerous. Hearing aids have come a long way both in size (hardly detectable) and strength, but they can be expensive. Get over the vanity of having to wear them and the cost of buying them. It’s awful to not be part of the conversation anymore.
Keep a Full Life After the Nest Empties
We have written much about the Empty Nest, but both Mireille Guiliano of French Women Don’t Get Fat and Tina Sloan say this is the time to cherish and embrace. Don’t look to your children or spouse to make it happen for you. Many a woman will seize the opportunity in different ways: return to the workforce, retire from it, reinvent herself professionally or go to school. The possibilities are endless. My grandmother became active in local politics in her sixties after retiring from a career in teaching. She became the first female mayor of Kerrville, Texas! What are you considering?
Read, Use Your Brain and Make an Effort to Stay Current
No doubt you’ve heard about the benefits of keeping your brain active through a variety of activities: playing bridge, doing crossword puzzles, reading a variety of books and literature, and learning or maintaining hobbies which require thought like gardening, playing a musical instrument and singing. Staying current also makes yourself interesting to others, especially younger folks.
Hang Out With Younger People
Younger people are plugged in and keep will you in the know. Brooke Astor, the New York socialite and philanthropist who lived to be 105, used to say that each year she took on one new friend to replace an old one who had died. Well that’s sobering, but not the only reason to make friends with younger people.
Just like making friends in kindergarten, to make friends you have to be one. In that vein, Ms. Sloan says of making friends with younger people: Showing a genuine interest in them without being judgmental or talking about yourself will keep them coming back to you.
I’m grateful to my fellow work-out buddies at Zinger Fit. They keep me current on social media, fashion, school and children’s issues, music, restaurants and shopping. It’s hard for me to resist the urge to say been there, done that when they get to talking about children and their inherent challenges, so instead I just exhale a sigh of relief that I’m through with that phase of my life.
Have a Plan to be Independent
It seems like a long way off to be thinking about maintaining independent living, but my mother is only 25 years older than I am. She’s been in her retirement community for 10 years, mostly because my father had Parkinson’s Disease, and she needed to move him while he was still able to do so.
So while I have aging on the brain at the moment, I must recommend the tasks identified by Tina in the chapter entitled Acts of Mercy. It’s an exhaustive list of things to decide now, like your will, medical directives and insurance, where you want to live and finances, and disposition of heirlooms. She also listed all the items and locations that your loved ones will need after you die: name of lawyer, personal certificates, deed and other documents related to your residences, insurance policies, bank accounts, securities, charge accounts, and funeral arrangements.
Hers is an exhausting list, to which I would add all user id’s and passwords to online accounts, computers, phones and other devices. Our digital world may be larger than our physical one, and we don’t even realize it.
After she spent several years caring for her infirm parents, maintaining a family, marriage and a job, Tina reflected on what she had learned:
What was the secret to living out the last years of your life in dignity and comfort? I now felt strongly that this was far more important than keeping away wrinkles or staying active in your professional life. After all, what good are make-up tricks and high-heeled shoes if you end up being a burden on your family–or worse, penniless and alone?
I’ll adopt her philosophy of getting my affairs in order if I want the years ahead to be all that they can be. If you haven’t had to care for an aging parent yet, your time will come. What I have learned from caring for older family members is to try to not be a burden.
I want to be as prepared as possible so my children don’t dread the elderly me. If we have a plan to either age in place or head to the retirement community, we can assure our families we are doing our best to not burden them.
It’s expensive, time-consuming and seriously not fun to put your affairs in order, but once it’s done, you can get on with the next phase of your life with a clear conscience. When I finish those tasks, I hope the result will be peace of mind that will minimize my inner wrinkles that no fancy serum or face lift could ever achieve.
And now, let’s party!
March 22, 2016