Sooner or later we all have to recognize what is no longer possible and find alternatives. Years ago, body mechanics forced me to give up tennis and ice skating and now strenuous gardening. I still do 10 mile bike rides several times a week in good weather, but the two week uphill and downhill bike rides are a thing of the past.
A dear 90-year-old friend is my role model and serves as a witness to reality. When I asked her if she would accompany me on a trip abroad, she replied: “Thank you, but I am no longer up to the level of activity that this entails.
I vowed to stop telling anyone about my aches and pains and aches, what Mr. Petrow called the “organ recital.” It doesn’t relieve – in fact, it might even make the pain worse. Rather than instilling empathy, the “organ recital” probably turns off most people, especially younger ones.
And I cherish my young friends who keep me young at heart and focused on issues important to my children and grandchildren and the world they will inherit. In turn, they say they appreciate the information and wisdom I can offer.
I also strive to say something flattering or happy to a stranger every day. It both lights up our lives and helps me focus on the beauty around me. But my most valuable piece of advice: live each day like it’s your last, with an eye to the future in case it doesn’t, a lesson I learned as a teenager when my mom was died of cancer at age 49. His death caused me to suffer a catastrophic loss, which I manage better than the little ones.
The stickiest wicket in the future will be driving. When I was around 70, my sons started pushing me to stop driving just because of my age. I hadn’t had any accidents or even near misses or received a traffic ticket for an offense in motion. Still, they increased my liability insurance (OK, I said, if that makes you feel better). And, to get rid of it, I ditched my 10-year-old minivan and replaced it with one of the safest cars on the road, a Subaru Outback.
Like many other cars currently on the market, the Subaru has several protective bells and whistles that compensate for the decline of the senses and the slower reactions that accompany aging. It alerts me when a car, bicycle or pedestrian is approaching when I back up from a parking space. It stops dead when something suddenly appears or stops in front of me. If I had to turn my head to see something, the message “Keep your eyes on the road” flashes.