I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Being elderly is in my future

A flower shop display yesterday
I was walking around downtown Bellingham yesterday, having parked my car quite a ways from the Farmers' Market so I could get some extra steps in, and I walked by a florist shop with a fabulous display outside. These are all hothouse flowers at this time of year, of course, but it simply amazes me how good this eye candy made me feel.

The walk with the ladies (plus one man, a husband) was very pleasant, too, with the sun actually shining for a change. It's always nice when my regularly scheduled outdoor activity is in the sun, or at least not in pouring-down rain. I recently learned that every day in December so far has had some measurable rain. Not surprising, plus the snow that was absent this year is piling up in the mountains, where it belongs. When it rains here, it's usually snowing a few thousand feet up in altitude. I much prefer dealing with rain rather than slippery walking conditions. I'm just not as steady on my feet as I used to be. Perhaps my new gentle yoga class will help with that; I start it in two weeks. In my quest to find a yoga class, I have reluctantly realized that I cannot tie myself in pretzels any more. My knees and back need a more gentle approach.

Yesterday after the walk while drinking coffee with the ladies, we were discussing our concerns about aging. Although many of the women are retired, there is no age limit (in either direction) for the walking group. All you really need is a willingness to meet at 8:00am on a Saturday and walk at a brisk pace with the others. One of the really nice things about keeping a blog is being able to look back and see how long it's been since I started walking with them. I wrote a post about the group on January 1, 2010, my first time. On the first day of the year, Cindy schedules a walk to start an hour later and always holds it at Lake Padden, one of our usual meeting places. After one time around, we share coffee and goodies with each other. This New Year's Day will mark six years since I started walking with them.  At first I skipped the times when it was raining, but gradually I began coming every single Saturday, no matter what the weather.

As we sipped our coffee after the walk, we talked about the term "elderly." Who is elderly, really? Is it a set number, and if so, what is it? Or is it a state of mind? We laughingly decided that the term should only apply to those in their nineties. Upon checking the internet, however, I found that there is no set number that defines elderly, and the older one is, the later one thinks it should be. I found an interesting article on NPR that discusses the dilemma. Apparently at one time the New York Times referred to a 69-year-old woman as elderly in a story and readers complained. From that article by Linton Weeks:
"Nobody likes to think of themselves as old, let alone very old," says Michael Vuolo, co-host of Slate's Lexicon Valley podcast. " 'Elderly' often carries the connotation of feeble and dependent. Which is offensive if you're not and condescendingly euphemistic if you are."
Most developed countries define elderly as "being past middle age," around 65. That's also when the last of the senior citizen discounts usually kick in, too. I am able to buy a bus pass for three months here in Bellingham at half price since I'm older than 65. Once I reach 75, I won't have to pay for a bus pass at all, as I'll receive a Gold Pass and can ride unlimited for free. That's because I will definitely be well entrenched in old age by then and, as I've mentioned here before, I'm aware that my reaction times and many other marks of aging are definitely present. Wikipedia, as usual, has a very good page about it; I like the part about old age being defined as "nearing or surpassing the life expectancy of human beings, and thus the end of the human life cycle."

Sometimes I'm just fine with being old, and other times I simply forget. I've got a couple of friends in their fifties, and I think of myself as their contemporary, and suddenly I'll remember that I could be their mother and am in another age bracket entirely. Oh. Yeah. That's right; I've got every right to my aches and pains, as I'm nearing the end of the human life cycle. I've been a babe, both a little tyke and a gorgeous young woman, a mother, and although I have no grandchildren, I am a great-aunt to many. I had a great career and retired from it eight years ago now. I've managed to stay active and eat right (most of the time) and keep my weight under control.

So I'll go ahead and consider that being elderly is still ahead of me, in the future somewhere. But not that far ahead. Every birthday reminds me that life is finite, it's the way it works. And partly because of this blog, I get to see myself on the arc of aging. I've discussed all this before, but it is often on my mind these days as I wrestle with balance problems and with my back and knees going out on me now and then. When I remember that this is perfectly normal for someone my age, I cut myself some slack and relax about it. Plus I get to talk to you, my dear readers, about it and will have the chance to hear your comments. I look forward to that more than I would ever have thought. Blogging gives me the chance to remain mentally active, another great benefit of sitting here each Sunday morning, pecking away at the keyboard and arranging my thoughts.

I can hear rain pounding on the roof again. But I can be thankful that yesterday was simply lovely, and the sun will return again. Some day. For your amusement, here's our weather forecast:

From Weather Underground
Until we meet again next week, I hope you will have a Christmas filled with love and light and that you will remember than after tomorrow the light will begin to return, a little bit at a time, until by the end of January we will actually notice that the sun comes up earlier and goes down a little later. The winter solstice will be behind us. I wish you all good things until we meet here again next week.


Linda Reeder said...

I expected the rain this morning so it was not disheartening to see it. Dark and stormy it is once again. Christmas in the northwest.
I use the word elderly to describe older people who may even be about my age because it just seems more polite than saying "old". About myself I facetiously say 'Old", but since we only age on the outside, not the inside, I too forget that I am aging.
This will be a busy week for me. By next Sunday morning I will be looking for some dry weather and a good destination walk. On this blog I will see you then. On our other blogs, and on Facebook, I'll be seeing you soon.

Rian said...

DJan, I'm reading blogs as we drive back to BR. DH's mom passed away Friday not long after my last post. As for being elderly... I don't think about it unless there's a reason to mention age... 70 sounds old (even to me).

Far Side of Fifty said...

Looks like you are getting snow for Christmas and I want to see a photo if that happens. Oh we are all old! I used to think people who were 40 were old...now I think 80 is old, the numbers keep changing! I guess it is what ever you think it is. I hope you have a lovely Christmas! Those flowers are a breath of fresh air!! :)

Linda Myers said...

I think of myself as "older" but not yet old. Mostly I am baffled about how this happened!

Anonymous said...

When I look at myself, I don't necessarily see an elderly woman. I see an obese woman. Lol.

Marie Smith said...

In our book club a number of the women are well into their eighties, some having more than twenty years on me.They are active in every way, keeping abreast of the news, and bringing a wealth of experience to every book we read. When I grow up...

Meryl Baer said...

I do not think of myself as old, But whenever I get an ache, pain, or injury, it takes longer to heal. My mind thinks young, too often my body doesn't!

Glenda C. Beall said...

Elderly to me means someone who is old and frail. I have a 91 year old friend who is sharp and smart as she was at fifty. I have trouble saying she is elderly. She cares for her husband, 91, who has Alzheimer's. Last week she drove him to the city for a doctor's appointment. The trip was over two hours long and she had to drive home after dark. She said it was a tough day.

As I get older, I want to do what Dr. Northrup says and just say I am getting older, not that I am ageing. We are all ageing from the time we are born. And we are all getting older. In my mind I am about forty, but I am much more relaxed about life's problems. I like that I have gained wisdom and feel less anxious, probably because I have faced some of the worst pain and loss already and I made it through. I am told that I am admired for my independence and courage. I had neither when I was young. You are always an inspiration and you are always interesting to read, DJan.

Tabor said...

I call myself and elder because I do not know of a better term. I could say a "wise-old-one" but that takes too much typing. I noticed every month some new change in my body. Some are too weird to write about! But I am still ambulatory and I think I have a good brain, thus, I accept this aging process with as much grace as I can.

Friko said...

Thank you so much for reminding me that we are on the turn of the daylight/nightdark already once again. I was just settling down into my usual winter depression when you so fortuitously yanked me out of it.

The perennial question, am I elderly? Of course I am. I did a lot of road walking during the past week, delivering Christmas cards all over the village, and now my hip hurts. That makes me elderly, doesn’t it? Even if my head and heart think I’m a mere stripling of 70 mumble mumble.

Let’s have Christmas and enjoy ourselves before we go into a decline, shall we? I’ll have another think about getting older afterwards.

Merry Christmas to you and the chap sleeping next to you.

Red said...

I saw an article where they divided elderly into three sections like young elderly mid elderly and very elderly. Where ever you are you might as well go with the flow you can't reverse time.

Gigi said...

Yes, I think being elderly is in your future. When I think of you, I don't think of "elderly." I think of a a vibrant woman who seeks out adventure!

Thanks for reminding me that the sun is coming back. I need the sun, you know.

Elephant's Child said...

Elderly is a a 'how long is a piece of string question'. Some days I feel older than dirt. Others? Not.
You, however, are not elderly. Your body may have its treacherous moments but your mind and attitude are vibrant. And spritely. And wonderful.

Teresa Evangeline said...

I expect to think of myself as middle-aged for as long as I can .... maybe in my last week of this life I'll admit that time got away from me ... :)

As always, you inspire me to be more active mentally and physically. And I thank you. :)

The Furry Gnome said...

When i think of getting 'older', i think of the book 'Younger Next Year'. And then i think of all the things i can do to stave off being'elderly', which in my mind means your life is starting to be limited by physical infirmity. I guess that's inevitable eventually, but i hope to put it off til at least 85! As for you being elderly - never! You're much too young at heart, active and adventurous!

Rita said...

I prefer the term seniors. Seems to have a little more dignity to it somehow. But I just moved into a "senior" building...I doubly qualify to be here because I am over the age limit and am disabled and yet I don't think of myself as a senior, to be honest. I've had arthritis since my late 40s--which was way too young and I definitely wasn't a senior then--therefore, just because I may hobble about like one some days doesn't equate "senior" or "elderly" in my mind. So even having more physical issues since my 40s...I feel like I snuck in here under the wire--LOL! Plus most of the family live to be in their late 80s, at least. Many into their 90s and my one grandmother was 104. So 64 is middle aged in my family--LOL! ;) Gosh I love your Sunday posts!

John's Island said...

Hi DJan, I had to smile while reading this post. Well, the discussion of “elderly” reminded me of something that always makes me smile. You see, the church I attend has a group of leaders known as “Elders”. They help with all kinds of things to make sure that all activities are carried out smoothly. A few years ago one prominent member of the church, and Elder, was Mr. Phil Smart, who happened to also be owner of one of Seattle’s largest Mercedes dealerships. Phil passed away in 2013. The thing that made me smile was the badge he wore in church. You see, Elders all wear a little pin on their lapel, “Elder”, so people will know they are there to help. Phil didn’t like the implication and had his own special little pin made … “Younger”. :-)

C-ingspots said...

We must be neighbors - relatively speaking anyway, because our weather forecasts look the same. With some high winds thrown in today for good measure. :)

I enjoyed this post very much. A wonderful attitude, and one I heartily agree with, about aging. It is the way it is. And is really a blessing when we think on it. I'm hoping that being elderly is in my future as well.

Thank you for the perspective and the well wishes.

May you also have love and light and laughter in your holiday. Merry Christmas!

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

You'll never be elderly, even when you're a 105!

John's Island said...

Merry Christmas to you and Smart Guy. It is such a pleasure to be following your blog! And thank you for all your kind comments on mine. Have a wonderful day and take good care.

Sally Wessely said...

Great post! I have a hard time calling my 99 year old mother old. She is quite elderly. Duh. She seems young at heart and her voice never changes. She is interested in life and interesting. Yet, I do see her becoming more insular. I find that disturbing. I think the best approach to aging is to stay active and involved. I feel young and old at the same time. The body whispers to me at times that it is not what it used to be. Other times it shouts it is not what it used to be.

You, my dear, will never be old. You have an ageless quality about your in your thoughts and your actions.

Barb said...

I call myself an "old lady" sometimes, but I really don't feel elderly. My health is good, and like you, I keep active. I really think attitude is very important in aging. Some people younger than I am seem old because they're always complaining. I just keep stepping forward, trying to get it right more times than not.

Rhapsody said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rhapsody said...

Great flowers. Just live and be human, leave the labels in the trash.

Blessings and happy new year.
All the best to you and yours.

May you have more triumphs than trials
More joy than sorrow
More support than judgement
More Inspiration than discouragement
More resources and access than obstacles
and may you know through it all
That you are blessed and a blessing (by D.S.B.S.Rhapsody)