When I look at pictures of my grandmothers, I label them as old; they were always old. Now I realize that some of the pictures were taken when they were only 50. Only 50, now that fifty sounds young. When I retired, I thought about sixty-five being old, but since I was still active and productive, I quickly dismissed the idea. I adopted “60s are the new 50s,” and I approached life as if I were still young.
I can no longer dismiss my age. When my 79th birthday passed, I realized eighty was only one year away. While even I felt 70 sounded old, 80 conjures up pictures of walkers and wheelchairs, loose teeth and soft food, although I have dear friends in their 80s who are role models for me with their active lives. I have a year to adjust to being old and to welcoming the gift of old age.
A gift is free and should have no strings attached. When we wake each morning, we have the day ahead to greet it with a smile or be an Eeyore who answers a greeting with “If it is a good morning, which I doubt.” As we seniors venture forth each day, we have limitations of abilities, income, and environment like everyone else. We are more blessed than some and worse off than others, but our attitude toward life colors how we react to circumstances and, in truth, what we get out of each day.
Good health plays an unquestionable role in accepting our gift of old age with grace and feeling younger than the numbers. Good genes help but, also, heathy habits. People smoked, and still do, long after the warnings of its danger. A glass of wine with dinner or genuine social drinking may not be harmful, but alcoholism contributes to early problems. Exercise and nutritious food are necessary to keep the body’s engines running, but some treats and lazy times are more than acceptable. I have been known to remark that at 80 I would eat ice cream for breakfast, perhaps topped with fruit to ease the conscience, and I might.
More important than excellent health, however, might be mental attitude. Why live to be 80 if each day has only gloomy clouds? We make our own sunshine, or we experience rain that muddies our minutes. During the shut-down COVID-19 period, my close friends are ones who mirror the positive attitude, even when their health issues loom or when disappointments mount with no pleasant solution available or when family members face difficult times. They are always looking to make life happier for others by sending cards of cheer each week, sharing books or sweet kitchen treats, or calling to phone visit.
Teenagers and young adults tend to focus only on the present, never thinking about the creation of bad habits and the eventual results. Our actions and choices have consequences that may never be reversible. How to impress the importance of being mature on young adults, when they are not quite ready for it, is a dilemma parents and we grandparents face. Being a role model is number one, but what else would be beneficial? Words often fall on deaf ears taking root only after tragic mistakes have occurred. Gifting motivational books might appeal to a few but lie dormant on end tables too often.
As our grandchildren age, they will realize that doors sometimes shut to allow a better door to open, that difficult times often are temporary and usually help build our strong fortitude to face other problems. My 79 years have been dotted with disappointments, uncertainty, heartache, but always a mixture of joy and eventual contentment triumph.
A recent televised sermon focused on “Why Am I Here?” As senior citizens, maybe we should simply ask, “Why do I have this day?” What purpose does my life have for the next twelve hours? Maybe it is to revel in the goodness around us, to enjoy our blessings. Maybe it is to be a conduit of good for someone else. Maybe it is to embrace selflessness and step out of our comfort zone. Much can be done in 12 hours, even when we move at a slower pace.
As we age and our stamina wanes, being a quiet support by verbally reinforcing our forever love is about all some of us have to offer our grandchildren. Love and prayers that they will come through their hard times with new strength to build a successful, happy life and make wise decisions may be enough. Each day of our senior years provides an opportunity to meet it with a smile and a determination to not let our age interfere with our enjoyment of the moment and to find purpose in why we have been given the gift of old age.