May 22, 2023

Contemplating old age and death

I am grateful to have reached this age.  I didn’t think I would, and I nearly didn’t due to stress and other factors in my life.  I know a lot of people do not reach their sixties, and that I am lucky.  Four people that I used to work with didn’t, and maybe many more that I do not know about, as I have lost touch over the last 9 years.

I still don’t like being old, not because of how I feel (most of the time I still feel 30 in my head and it is a shock when I see myself in the mirror) but because there is a shameful stigma attached to it.  Many people even lie about their age. I don’t, as I am proud and grateful to get here.  That is not to say I don’t worry about getting older and not being able to do the things that I can do now, which are less than the things that I used to be able to do, which is frustrating sometimes.   This isn’t helped when I see services for the old falling apart in the NHS and social care.  Those without money seem invisible as they don’t fit the criteria for help.  I saw my friend pleading to be taken into a home as he could not look after himself anymore. I saw my Mum wither away in an old people’s home during the lock down, her dementia causing her not to understand why people could only wave through a window and she could not have a hug.  I don’t want to go like that.  I want to go with a bang, driving over a cliff like Thelma and Louise.

The thing I fear the most is becoming obsolete. My children already talk down to me a bit, and smile indulgently when I can’t cope with the technology that is now needed for every day life. They barely recognise my wisdom, my knowledge, my life experience, whereas in countries like Japan age is respected and the older people in some cultures are cared for by the extended family. Our society in the Western world does not see growing old as a positive experience and we isolate the old and hide them away.  Our culture is all geared to beauty and what is on the outside rather than the inside. This is why so many people have cosmetic surgery, colour their hair, and buy anti-aging creams.  They don’t want people to realise that they are aging.

I don’t care that I am wrinkled.  I have earned every one of them.  I decided in my forties when my life could not plunge any lower, that people were going to have to accept me for who I am.  I couldn’t pretend any longer to be someone I wasn’t to be accepted.  No more people pleasing for me.  My hair has been grey since then, I rarely wear make-up, never use beauty creams, and I dress to be comfy rather than to look good. I am happy with that. I am in competition with no one.  I intend to embrace my old age and the years I have left.  Now that I don’t have to impress any one, I can say what I want, act how I want, and be as stroppy and cantankerous as I want as long as I don’t hurt anyone. That feels like total freedom to me as my wings are no longer clipped by fear of losing a job, or someone not liking or accepting me.

Although since childhood I have never liked birthdays as they were always a big disappointment, I will celebrate every year that I have left. I will try to remind people that life is for living, share my knowledge (whether people are ready to hear it or not), and try to add kindness to the world.   I will watch the sunsets, marvel at the seasons in nature, enjoy the sun on my freckled face, and relish the time I can spend with my family. When I can no longer do those things, I will turn the lights out and go to sleep when I choose.

My Mum did this when she found out her partner had died, and my aunty did it when she realised that she would no longer be able to live independently at home.  Our minds are wonderful things and many people do not realise how powerful they are, and how we can think ourselves to be ill or well.  Part of it is a matter of mindset.  We have more choice in what happens to us in our lives than people believe.

Hopefully I have a while to go yet, and I know I have to do more self-care and get rid of some of my bad habits to prolong my time here.  I am a bit of a control freak and would like to know how long I actually have left so that I can plan, as I hate being in the dark about it.  However, what I do know is that I need to make the most of every day now, and appreciate each day as if it is my last.  Am I the only one that thinks about these things, or am I just morbid?

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  1. Jane May 22, 2023 at 8:46 pm - Reply

    No, it’s not just you. I think it’s natural when you lose your contemporaries to wonder when it will be your turn. I agree it’s important and freeing to be comfortable in your skin. Like you, I have a young grandchild I look after regularly and apart from the joy of watching him grow and develop, I like knowing that I’m still useful – not obsolete to use your word.

    • ToniG May 22, 2023 at 9:52 pm - Reply

      Yes, babysitting and a grandson has made me feel more useful again and realise skills that I had forgotten that I had. I hadn’t realised that until you mentioned it. I guess we will be useful until our children don’t need baby sitters anymore, lol x

  2. Sue Cole May 22, 2023 at 9:16 pm - Reply

    Love this and agreed. I’d have a full body scan to show how long I’d got left if there was such a thing. Dad died at 68. Fit and healthy but pancreatic cancer took him in 6 weeks and he was so stoic but said he hadn’t really done everything he wanted to so I’m packing in as much as possible – go go go !!

    • ToniG May 22, 2023 at 9:49 pm - Reply

      I have sometimes thought about getting one of those full health evaluations but I know I haven’t always taken care of myself and so am too much of a coward and will stay an ostrich. Glad that you are packing lots into your life. I took my foot off the accelerator and need to do more x

      • Talis Wilson May 23, 2023 at 9:52 am - Reply

        Awh Toni so agree with what you have written. I’m 55 and in my mind I feel in my 30s! I really do not like the thought of getting and when I pass I want it to be sudden,don’t want it to be like my Dad when he passed in 2021, my sister and I cared for him he had osephagal cancer and was such an awful way to watch your loved one pass away. He was a grand age of 85 . My mother is still living and is nearly 80 but we are not close at all,but it is a little reassuring they are a good age to live. I have changed my eating habits over these past few months so I’m pleased I’m making good changes but to be honest I haven’t eaten a lot of processed foods for years now ,I always cook from scratch. I just so wish I knew what time I had left I thing about that alot too. X

        • ToniG May 23, 2023 at 3:44 pm - Reply

          Bless you, me too recently since losing people. Well done with the changes that you have made and hopefully genetics will help you live a long, healthy life x

  3. Gill Ackroyd May 22, 2023 at 9:34 pm - Reply

    I feel exactly the same. After hubby having triple bypass and two strokes, myself a heart attack, we make the most of every single day. I still feel 18 in my head though. I am an old hippy!
    And yes I agree with what you said about your children talking down to you, ours do the same. In one ear and out the other, I don’t want to be techie, more important things to do like growing tomatoes!!!

    • ToniG May 22, 2023 at 9:47 pm - Reply

      Absolutely! Gosh you have both been through a lot. It is weird how we don’t change much in our heads. Old hippies rock in my book x

  4. Agnes May 22, 2023 at 10:38 pm - Reply

    You’re not alone. I’m only 39, but lost my mum long time ago, she just turned 60, it was very sudden, and my dad followed three years later. I have two sons and as my husband’s parents are also no longer with us, I really regret that my children will grow up without having someone elder with them, sharing their vast knowledge and experience. I wish I have learnt so much more from my mum, asked so many questions…it made me appreciate every day and live it so that I never have to regret anything. I tell my husband and my children how much I love them every day.
    I work as a carer, and I know you are right when you say strong mind can at will switch the light off. Ive seen it enough times.
    To me elder people are bottomless chest of wisdom, and I’m always grateful when they are willing to share it. You should be celebrated and admired, not ridiculed and patronised.

    • ToniG May 23, 2023 at 7:25 am - Reply

      My children didn’t have any one either, but for different reasons. I guess that is why I invest a lot into being a grandma, and I bet you will when your time comes. Sorry you lost your parents so young but at least it has taught you some life lessons and to appreciate what you have. Carers do a hard, but wonderful job and should be rewarded with a lot higher wages for the sacrifices they make and the love that most of them put into their work. It is more than a job to many, they are so many skills, and an undervalued occupation. Thanks for sharing, and for you opinions, x

  5. Christina Stores May 23, 2023 at 5:47 am - Reply

    This is such an important topic, and so well expressed…thank you for it; the section about being talked down to by your children really resonated. I was 68 yesterday and have been feeling conflicted recently. Part of me wants to dissolve into older age, spending my time pottering about and generally slowing right down, and part of me wants to speed up and fit more into each day and learn new stuff. My husband died 6 months ago so I think I’m still adjusting to being by myself. I’ll probably end up doing both – slowing down and speeding up – but at my own pace and in my own time. I just need to be more aware that this ‘time’ I have to do these things may be less than I think!

    • ToniG May 23, 2023 at 7:17 am - Reply

      I am so sorry about your husband. Yes I totally get that feeling of wanting to slow down at the same time as fit every thing in. Even though it is scary it is good to be reminded that we do have limited time here. Thanks x

      • Jen July 30, 2023 at 6:25 pm - Reply

        This is a very thought provoking post, I don’t think it morbid at all , sadly we all have to face it some time in our lives. It makes you realise this isn’t a dress rehearsal, you have only one life take care of it, live life how you want to irrelevant on how everyone thinks you should! I am at the age I lost both my mum (47) and my mums mum (70) within 3 weeks of each other and I lost my sister ten years ago aged 39, all by Cancer. It makes you appreciate anytime you have with loved ones more precious. Mr J and I don’t act as though we’re getting older! We go for long walks together when we are both not working or looking after our disabled adult son.

        • ToniG July 31, 2023 at 12:13 pm - Reply

          Gosh you have had a lot of loss, but at least it has given you a nudge to make the most of your lives. Thanks for sharing x

  6. Katie Naden May 23, 2023 at 6:47 am - Reply

    Wow Toni brave subject & thank you for sharing.
    My parents died suddenly within 12months of each other . I had been divorced had twins worked full time &became a carer for my bro along with 2 teenage step daughters . I didn’t have time to think about what I want & still struggle putting me first but I’ve survived we didn’t have much as kids but I remind myself we were left a legacy of love .
    I’m taking on living life to the full everyday . I tend to waffle on but have noticed each day reflecting on your FB page top up my gratefulness store . Thankyou ❤️🙏

    • ToniG May 23, 2023 at 7:15 am - Reply

      That is an awful lot of responsibility for you and it must have been hard. I am glad that the FB group helps, it does for me too x

  7. Pam May 23, 2023 at 7:58 am - Reply

    Thank you for talking about such a difficult subject with such openness.
    As someone who has always tried to plan my life ( whilst embracing the unexpected)
    I also have difficulty accepting the “not knowing when the time will come”
    Live every day! x

    • ToniG May 23, 2023 at 3:47 pm - Reply

      Yes.I think the not knowing is the hardest part as I like to plan everything as I am not good suprises, but I can’t x

  8. Francie Fuhrel May 23, 2023 at 12:52 pm - Reply

    Yes, I’ve had to slow down some too, as I’m 77 nearing 78, and lost my dear hubs 6 years ago to a sudden and unexpected heart attack. Today, I will be taking my younger dear old friend for an MRI and other tests as she is in later stages of dementia. Her nephew and niece took her into their home, fortunately, but she is very unhappy about living with them and thinks they are stealing her money, etc. I
    can think of nothing worse than loosing my mind and going down that road being a burden to my loved ones. In less than a month I’m traveling to Cuba on my own. I have been 3 times before. The last time I went by myself as well. I am asking myself if I’m doing this to prove something to myself and the answer that keeps coming up is yes! I just returned from taking care of two grandchildren while my daughter and husband, in another state, went to Switzerland for 2
    weeks. Not one mishap, fortunately! So I’m feeling my oats! I’ve always loved to travel and want to keep traveling as long as I can do so! I live in Florida so Cuba is close and inexpensive, also a fascinating place full of interesting and extremely resourceful people. I will be staying in a family home (casa particular) and there are 27 steps up to my suite. There are handrails. I had to ask before booking. If something were to happen to me there, there are excellent doctors and nurses there. I am just going to do it while I still can! My mom used to always say, “Use it or loose it”, and I believe this is true. She lived very well until 95. Best wishes to all who are struggling with being older!!

    • ToniG May 23, 2023 at 3:43 pm - Reply

      That is amazing. Well done. It must be sad slowly losing your friend in that way. She is lucky to have you supporting her x

  9. Charley May 23, 2023 at 10:11 pm - Reply

    Hi..just came across this thread by chance! So relieved not just me thinking about time passing so scarily fast! In my 20″s and 30″s ..60 seemed a lifetime away, now I’m 57 and it’s peeping round the corner making rude faces..and it terrifies me. Time has become finite and yet there’s a lifetime of stuff I really want to do and especially places I want to see and experience and I’m scared I’m going to run out of time. I’m a single mum with a 15 year old boy who suffers from anxiety and panic attacks..and I’m ashamed to think sometimes..” please, please be well enough to go to university or find your place and let me start finding me again…”
    I do count my blessings and I have much to be thankful for just sometimes I feel I’m running out of time . 😬😔

    • ToniG May 24, 2023 at 3:05 am - Reply

      Bless you. I was a single parent too and unfortunately that often means that we have to put our own lives on hold. My youngest had really bad anxiety after a custody court case, but she did eventually go to university, but worked first. He will make his own life and you will find time to do the things you want but it will mean you learning to be selfish sometimes, which is not easy as most of us are used to putting every one else first. How about making yourself a bucket list and seeing what you can tick off now, maybe with your son even, and that way it might not feel that time is ticking away. Take care x

  10. Sandra May 24, 2023 at 5:59 am - Reply

    A great post Toni. I’m 75, widowed for nearly 20 years and still on my own. I have regular contact with family and provide child/dog care daily so have a set routine. Along with aged friends, we all say we wish we knew when the end will come so we can allocate time/money wisely, you are not alone with those thoughts. Because I live alone I do everything, all the housework and gardening, paperwork, and decisions, so plenty of physical and brainwork, a balance. I have found that a balanced life, pacing oneself, helping others in a small way keeps me positive and going forward. No point in dwelling on the past, it is gone, plan your day but not months or years ahead. Achieving balance is not easy, you have to say NO sometimes and self care is important. If someone talks down to me I politely ask them not to, it’s disrespectful and hurtful, even if meant as a joke. Why would you hurt someone you love, who loves you. Sandra.

    • ToniG May 24, 2023 at 5:29 pm - Reply

      I agree. Yes I think having a purpose and interests is important. Writing my blog and being admin for the FB group and growing my own food are mine. It sounds like you have a good plan and routine there. The money thing is hard as I want to start spending some of my savings but do not know how much I will need for care and support later. Thanks for sharing x

  11. Masha White May 25, 2023 at 1:27 pm - Reply

    Great post, Toni. I am feeling quite low about aging at the moment. Fed up with arthritis and body parts heading south! I know the “black dog” will depart but lacking the energy or will to fight him at the moment. I read your FB group every day, such a supportive and kind bunch.

    • ToniG May 26, 2023 at 5:17 am - Reply

      Aww thank you. I am so sorry that you are not in a good place. Some times I have to hit rock bottom before I can bounce back up. At least you know that these feelings are temporary. I find that thinking of 5 things that I am grateful for from the day before helps me when I am down. I will do it when I first wake up, and even write them down if I am in a really bad place. It is hard to feel down when you are feeling grateful. Sending a big hug and thanks for writing on here x

  12. Jane Cartmale July 4, 2023 at 10:21 pm - Reply

    There’s a lot to think about here!!
    I only feel old when the old knees start hurting or after looking after my grandson when I realise how tired I am the following day.
    I was 70 last year but people say I don’t look it, they obviously don’t see me on a regular basis!!! I tend not to dwell on when I’m going to die or how long I have left, but I do know that I want to carry on living in my own home until the end and on this thought I eat the best as I can, walk as much as I can and keep my mind healthy by reading and learning new things. I’m lucky in that I’ve always been quite healthy and I’m not suffering from anything at present, mind you I found out a few years ago I can’t jump off things – I don’t seem to bend in the right place’s anymore 😂 but reading this has prompted me to start thinking about putting things in place and sorting the house out. I have been meaning to write in a journal where everything is paperwork to the house, will etc, telephone numbers, where I want to be scattered and the such like so I will put that on my list of must do’s. Oh a couple of years ago I started dressing how I wanted to rather than conforming, the makeup stopped and I stopped dying my hair after my youngest got married 😀 and I felt reborn!

    • ToniG July 5, 2023 at 5:42 pm - Reply

      It is so liberating when you stop doing things for other people and can be yourself, isn’t it? I am glad that I have given you a nudge. It is so much easier for those that are left when we are gone if we have organised things and told them what we want to happen to us. Well done for keeping yourself healthy. I must admit I don’t jump off things any more either! Thanks for commenting x

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