Now that I have actually started writing this post, I’m beginning to wonder if I gave it the wrong title. This blog is a joint effort between my husband and I, and while I do the actual writing, his input is a very important part of what gets written. Maybe the title should be “Why in the World are We Writing this Blog Together.”
There are actually some very good reasons for starting a blog now. My husband and I have somehow become elderly. We’re relatively new at it and I still have trouble thinking that the term “elderly” applies to me. My husband has an even harder time thinking it applies to him. We are both well into our 70s now and there is no denying that we are elderly. We named our blog the Final Fifteen because we do feel we are in the final 15% of our lives. During each stage of our lives, we’ve tried to have a lot of fun. Getting our educations, caring for our children, carving out our careers, planning for retirement, and now living that retirement: each of these stages of our lives have had their own pleasures and challenges. We want this last stage to be just as good as the others.
This blog is about what we are trying to do to continue to enjoy our lives even though we’ve somehow become elderly. We’ve observed some elderly people who seem to manage to have a wonderful time and we’ve observed others who don’t seem to be enjoying their golden years at all. We’ve developed some opinions about what makes the difference in those two circumstances and we want to learn even more.
I have always made it a practice to alternate between learning things and then trying my best to pass on that learning to others. To me, life seems to go best when I have managed to do both things in equal parts. I’ve written different books over the course of my life in my attempt to accomplish that goal. But the hardest part about writing a book is that you have to declare it done at some point and, as sure as you do that, you’ll learn something wonderful the next week and wish you’d been able to put it into the book. With a blog you can get constant feedback, and if you learn something wonderful right after you’ve written a post, you can just put it in the next one. The feedback is almost instantaneous and it appears to me that the balance between what you learn and what you can teach is very nearly equal. In fact, if you can entice enough people to read your blog and they all give you lots of comments, and suggestions and advice, you probably come out way ahead on the deal.
The most difficult part of having a wonderful time in the final 15% of your life is that you often have some major challenges to overcome. Health problems, the fear of running out of money, loss of independence, loss of mobility, the need for adult diapers; these are among the major challenges that we’ve seen our friends who are a little farther along the elderly path have to confront. Actually, let’s be honest. We are now confronting many of those issues ourselves. I’ve worked on the Board of Directors of the Parkinson’s Association of Orange County for the last five years and, because of that, I have many friends who are dealing with the challenge of living with Parkinson’s disease. I am constantly amazed at how well they meet that challenge. A great deal of our inspiration comes from our contact with the Parkinson’s community.
My husband, Bill, and I have a few challenges of our own. Bill is 77 years old and has some major medical issues, the toughest of which is moderate dementia. Bill calls me his young spring chicken because I’m 71 years old, but I have some definite challenges of my own. For every challenge, like forgetfulness, there is also a reward. We may not be rich but we have sufficient retirement funds to have a dignified old age. We don’t have to fight the traffic to get to work anymore; we don’t have to worry about whether our children are going to be okay (they are doing great); we don’t have to fight to get ahead in our careers.
Bill and I both firmly believe that, if we play our cards right, this can be the most rewarding period in our lives. Most days we stand firmly behind that belief. However, there are some days when old age is really kicking our butts and we think we are nuts for having such an optimistic point of view. We will be happy to share with everyone who reads these posts the tricks we have observed and learned to help make our lives more rewarding, and we would certainly be grateful if anyone who reads these posts would pass along their own tips for doing the same.
I think the biggest lesson both Bill and I have learned is that we had better have a good sense of humor because life is going to test our ability to find the humor in things very thoroughly. In fact I think we both rank having a sense of humor as the number one thing we need to develop if we are going to survive old age. Oh, that’s right, we’re not going to survive old age, are we? I guess it’s a good thing we’re not afraid of dying since we’re clearly going to do that some time in the relatively near future. (Whoops, I’m being morbid, aren’t I? I may have to put this post in the category called “My Children Think I’m Morbid.”) Like many people, Bill and I don’t fear dying, but we sure do fear having a lot of pain along the way to doing it.
So how is writing a blog going to be any help in all this? Because we were crazy enough to believe that old age can be a fulfilling time of our lives, we have been very focused on finding ways to succeed at making our lives rewarding. Most of the posts we write will be passing on the tips that we have learned in our attempts to have a really great time with this elderly business.
Bill and I are going to try to communicate our attempts at living a rewarding life with a sense of humor, but I should warn you now that occasionally we might not manage that. One of the categories we’ve created to organize our posts is called “Demented.” That’s where we are placing all the posts that talk about the times when we failed miserably to make life fulfilling or when we could absolutely not find any humor in it. So I’m going to warn you now that if you’re already a bit depressed, don’t read the posts in the “Demented” section. Stick to reading the posts in the other categories. The “Demented” category is not for the faint of heart.
One of our biggest reasons for starting this blog is the fun we plan to have when we read the comments that have come in about our last post. I plan to read those comments out loud to Bill every morning. Because of his dementia, he may not remember them for long, but I think he’ll have a wonderful time hearing them while I’m reading them. Actually, that’s our first tip. If anyone reading this is also having to deal with some forgetfulness issues (how’s that for a euphemism?), we want to say that things got much easier for us when we stopped considering that the value of something was lost if we couldn’t remember it the next day. The value is there regardless of whether something is remembered, although we will concede that there is a great deal of frustration when important information just seems to disappear and must be repeated. To cease communicating because things might not be remembered would be a tragedy however. The emotional and spiritual value of intense communication is undiminished by the frustration. By the way, we will use the words Spirit and spiritual on occasion. We aren’t planning to promote any particular religious views, primarily because we enjoy the great diversity of views held by our friends, but if you find the idea of being a Spirit offensive, this blog may not be a good one for you to read.
Bill and I both feel that while the brain may misplace things or lose them entirely, the Spirit doesn’t. We feel that the benefits of something are still there whether it’s remembered in detail or not. The brain is a delicate and complex slab of meat that is subject to all the ills of the physical universe. The Spirit is far more than that. Bill and I have long conversations and we enjoy them thoroughly. It doesn’t matter if we both remember what was said the next day. The benefit to our Spirits is still there whether we remember the details or not.