To my surprise I think I am happier now than I have ever been.
And it is a surprise. I hadn’t expected it. Years of exposure to the sad stereotyped image of old age portrayed in the media doesnt make it sound a cheery prospect does it?
When you are young, it seems impossible that you could be happy living with a short life sentence doesn’t it? You can’t imagine what it is like to be old, wrinkled and rusty.
Let me explain. How can it be that life feels so good at 81?
Here are 10 reasons:
First and most important. You have succeeded. Made it. Lived four score years and ten. Yet the essential you is just the same, the one who lived through being six, sixteen and sixty to reach a serene seventy plus.
At 80 you have had ten bonus years! You feel proud. You start adding years on!
You now know that happiness is about friends, family and the rich details of life. You can forget all the things you used to worry about like looks, and possessions. They dont matter!
Second. You are free! There is nothing now that you have to do. No more “musts” or “shoulds”. It is entirely, ‘Coulds’ ‘ Might if I feel like it’ Whenever… or not at all. Your choice now. No one can make you. You can rebel!
Wonderful relief too to discover how many things you are never now going to have to worry about.
And particularly delightful, you can put off doing anything you don’t like until tomorrow on the legit grounds that you may never have to do it……Might die in the night!
With a wicked internal grin I slide my trainers off at bedtime without bothering to undo the laces. If I am still around tomorrow I will do it then…..maybe the dusting and cobwebs too?
Income tax? Late January of course!
Third: Maybe some things do need to be done. But you can always have fun with them.
Really ought to leave things sorted, make a will, clear the attic, Oxfam whatever, so they don’t have to? Boring sad work? No! Finding family memories, old school reports, swimming prizes, letters about truancy, my secret diaries ..turns out to be a huge pleasure . I am creating little surprise packages to leave for them to discover, and I hope be hilariously embarrassed by, and enjoyed.
Fourth: An absolute delight is remembering things that have gone.
Hadnt realised what a treasure trove we have at 80 years. And what a joy it all is: my own box set of memories. I can walk the lanes and paths of my childhood village. Though the fields were long ago covered by a housing estate, for me everything is still there, the stiles, the sounds, the scents and my Mum. I can go there whenever I wish.
The tree with a hole in which we made fairy dens, the field with rabbits, who scattered with white tails when you clapped your hands. The log shaped like a crocodile which we always crept up to in a state of excited caution, I can still see them and feel that excitement.
And that excitement remains! Love taking my Curiosity and the old Knees on exploratory walks to find that magic again. It is still there! You can be eight again when you are eighty!
Fifth: Great Fun to be had revisiting your stupid mistakes and embarrassing moments.
So much to think about, think over, be amazed by. The ” Was that me?” “Why on earth did I do that?” questions.
Sometimes looking back on your own life is like remembering a book you once read, almost fiction about a person you can’t quite recall. Such an idiot! But also,” How dared I?”
None of them now matter at all, you can look at that idiot and think “Good grief!” -and then tell the tale with relish to your grandchildren. And embroider it , with a quiet grin, hoping of course that you might be creating a family legend.
Sixth: You are short of time so you make more of it. Value it
Everyday is precious and because you know it, you use time better, you notice things you never bothered with before: the details in a flower, watch a spider weaving. Did you ever make time to do that?
Even time to try something new like Blogging. Super to discover that you can still learn something fresh at 80.
Lovely surprise to find it produced a whole new interest …Began to recognise the Unwitting Ageism of today’s world and took up the task of challenging it.
Life is so full! So much to do, classes, travel, hobbies, family and volunteering…We are all as busy as ever we were, but our choice!
And are you surprised if I tell you that , the other continuing pleasure is sex. ? Dont be. Older people are normal humans, nothing changes…except strangely, sex is better! And time is a key component of that..get up late, afternoon nap…no hurry.
Seventh: Oddly, there is an exquisite pleasure and agony in seeing old friends.
The delight of joint nostalgia, the warmth of shared memories is always sharpened by that underlying thought “We may not see each other again“…parting hugs are especially poignant. Almost beautiful. I think it is hard to explain to someone much younger how quietly real that feels at 80.
The sense of loss becomes different when you are older. It is in some way a shedding of layers of life, but it feels an inevitable and a surprisingly calm state to reach.
Eighth: Things that were important are so no longer. Adrenaline kicks are different now.
Who now cares about ambitions? You can reflect on them wryly. Such a relief to be able to accept and enjoy yourself, as you are and no longer need to push.
Winning and competition remain as keen as ever. Keen supporter of your team? Enjoy. But personal achievement? Not any more, at least only if you choose so. My bridge, bowls, bingo, golf and fishing friends of course are Fanatics. The lot of them. Pure adrenaline addicts!
The great pleasure is time to enjoying discovery and ideas. The web is brilliant for that. What a gift to later years! The world open to you. And so many memories to find there and share with friends. The daily dose of Social Media is pure pleasure.
For me, just going out..somewhere, anywhere and exploring for the Magic Walks blogs is perpetual delight. Curiosity, wide awake, always finds something to ask questions about, and usually someone happy to tell you answers.
Ninth: Love the nonsenses of being ancient too.
Had to go to buy a new casserole. On being told that one is more expensive than another because it has a 40 year guarantee, I delighted in telling the somewhat snooty sales assistant that I would have the cheap one. “Not because I am mean” I said ” but I won’t be needing it for long, will I?” He didn’t know how to deal with that. No one seems able to face the reality of your imminent death do they? They ought to, but for many it is still a sort of taboo. In the modern world that needs changing and I am happy to do it. Of course we ancients know we are due to die. It almost becomes a joke and I love to catch out the unwitting deniers by happily talking about it. Certainly it is no worry of mine, see my blog about why I feel that .
Ageing itself becomes a delightful nonsense. I can’t explain, but realising that you can no longer do things seems ridiculous. Me? And then you find it funny. We all do! Read my blog about getting stuck in a bath to see what I mean.
And in an odd way discovering the nonsense of Ageism is part of the fun! You have a secret they just dont get…They are scared by something you now know will be fine, even thoroughly enjoyable ! But can you tell them?
No. But you can help them get there by challenge the stupid stereotype of old age and maybe change this image they’ re so worried about. Hence this blog!
Tenth: So many things turned out alright in the end that at the time seemed hopeless.
With relief you can look back at all the fears and worries you had, the bad things which seemed catastrophic at the time. You got through them! The out of control son is now a respected father of two and you can commiserate with each other about teenagers. The career path you planned went haywire, but look how it turned out.
It is amazing to muse on what you have lived through…World War two for example.
If only I had known!
This a me : Homeless single mum at 30, widowed at 45, collapse and suicidal despair both times.
I could never have thought then that I would make a successful career, have travelled the world, be happily re married at 74 and be blogging about the fun of life at 81!
Why have I written this? Because somewhere the idea that later years are a happy time has got lost. Research has shown that most people over 70 are enjoying life and see themselves as much happier than in middle life. Yet the media repeatedly portray ‘Old Age’ as a sad, lonely decline.
It isn’t! Later years are bonus years, to be celebrated and enjoyed. Time to say so……out loud!
If someone young and in trouble gets to read this please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Happy to talk about anything, if it would help.
Thank you! We need a big change in the image of age don’t we! Any retweet helps.
Thank you! We do need to get a change in thinking about age! Any retweets help.
Joyce I just love reading your blogs and twitter comments. You had an inspirational impact on my career twice once when I heard you speak at CSP conference in late 70’s I think. You were chair of council at the time and then in 1993 ish at Hinchingbrooke when you set me off after 20 clinical years onto the next 20+ years and counting going up the management tree while always hanging on to my clinical roots. Thank you so much x (I was Sykes when you knew me)
Thanks Liz! Lovely to get that at 82 and great to hear how it worked out for you. Well done. Remember Hinchingbrooke well!