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An Age Old Question . . . Old Age February 24, 2011

Posted by nrhatch in Health & Wellness, Humor, People.

In my teens, I embraced the passing years:

Sweet Sixteen . . . Sublime! 
Driver’s license at 17 . . . Freedom! 
Legal drinking age at 18 . . . Par-tay! 

These stepping stones to adulthood beckon us  forward, and lull us into complacency about the relentless march of time.

Fast forward a few years and we start to face milestones which are not nearly as fun . . . like the daily decision of how to tie our shoes.

Tying my shoes used to be almost as reflexive an act as breathing.  Now, I have to strategize:

Hmm, should I bend down to tie my shoes, and risk getting stuck due to my creaking, arthritic  knees?  . . . Or should I put my foot up on the bench, and possibly wrench my back in the process?

It’s a tough way to start the day.   It’s also one of the reasons I moved to Florida.

Here in the Sunshine State, the aging populace can don footwear without laces to tie or shoe horn extensions to wield.

Just slip on a pair of sandals or flip flops, no bending or stretching involved.



Despite having solved the issue of footwear, I still stare perplexed at the  number of candles littering my birthday cake each year, wondering where those years disappeared.  I smile only by considering the alternative . . .

No, not death . . . cryogenics!

I’ll freeze myself until they discover a cure for Old Age!  I just wish I’d thought of this about 15 years ago  . . . when I was still worth preserving.

While I could go on about the challenges faced with each passing year, there really is no need.  If you are as old (or older) than me, you can supply your own examples.   If you are younger, I don’t want to worry you about the future you will face ~ like needing a crane to hoist yourself off the toilet, or not realizing, due to hearing loss, that your flatulence is audible.

In any event, my biggest concern is not my own deterioration.  I am not going to worry about the passage of time until my feet no longer look good in flip flops.  If my eyesight fails quickly enough, that day will never come:

As others run away from my hideously deformed feet, those same feet will continue to look shapely and youthful to my aging eyes. 

At present, my primary concern with aging involves my parents.   Instead of aging gracefully and surrendering the things of youth – like shoelaces – they refuse to let go of a house and yard that are two sizes too big for them to maintain.  Except for their family room, kitchen, and bedroom,  the rooms in their two-story Colonial sit idle, collecting dust.

For 15 years, we have encouraged them to find someplace smaller ~ fewer rooms to heat and cool, fewer stairs to climb, and less to maintain. While they agree that it would be better to live in a retirement community with everything on one floor, no exterior or interior maintenance, and lots of planned activities, they are  dragging their feet . . . and sometimes tripping over them.

During my dad’s last hospitalization, following a fall, mom felt lost and alone:

“Mom, let’s look around at retirement communities.  While dad’s re-learning how to walk, we can find you a place on one level . . . with neighbors right down the hall.”

“Well, I don’t know if this is a good time to talk about this.”

“This is Dad’s fourth hospitalization this year.  When is it going to be the right time?”

“Well, we just have so many memories tied up in this house.”

“Mom, it’s a house, not a photo album!  Take the memories, leave the house.”

“No, I can’t think about this right now.  I want your father to be involved in the discussion.”

“Dad’s been involved in the discussions for the past fifteen years.”

“Well, I don’t want to talk about this right now.  Let’s wait until your father comes home and then see where we are.”

Meanwhile . . . time marches on.

Quote:  What I wouldn’t give to be 70 again. ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (at age 92)

No rules.  Just write!

What about you?  What are your biggest concerns about aging?  Mental deterioration?  Physical deterioration?  Death?  Dying?

Or being Home Alone?

* * * * *

Inspired by The Daily Post Prompt:  What Gets Better With Age?


1. Tilly Bud - February 24, 2011

I had a struggle getting my Mum in sheltered accommodation which is a similar thing, but she loved it in the end. All you can do is persevere; maybe do some research yourself and present them with options – sometimes old people just can’t be bothered. I finally persuaded Mum to move by promising to pack her entire flat and she could sit and watch. And that’s what we did 🙂

Funny post. If ever I loved a reason for moving to another state, being unable to tie shoelaces is it!

nrhatch - February 24, 2011

Thanks, Tilly Bud.

We haven’t given up, but as soon as they are back together, they see no reason for moving.

We’ve offered to take care of all the logistics. We’ve found a place 5 minutes away from us . . . and I’ve promised to visit every day.

No luck so far. Maybe tomorrow . . .

2. Rosa - February 24, 2011

My stepmom, Thea, has some of the same issues that you mentioned early in this post- and she cracked up when I read her the part about wishing there was something worth preserving!
One of her favorite blogs is fiftyisthenew and she recommended it to you through me!
I feel so fortunate that my parents are all still very healthy and active!!

nrhatch - February 24, 2011

Keeping a sense of humor is important . . . keeps our minds young and gives us a reason for getting out of bed in the morning.

Enjoy your parents now . . . they may become as challenging as pre-schoolers later. 😀

3. Piglet in Portugal - February 24, 2011

My mother is in her eighties and refuses to move out of her home even though she is not coping! she is a tough and cantankerous old bird – she ain’t moving anywhere!

As for tying my laces there is a bump in the way and I can’t see my feet LOL 🙂 Sandles are good!!

nrhatch - February 24, 2011

Sounds just like my mom. Time will tell . . .

Later in the day, I can tie my shoes with ease, but I’m stiff when arising. Flip flops and sandals are a better start to my day. 😀

4. Shannon Sullivan - February 24, 2011

Hi Nancy,

I work in a retirement community in Green Valley and have seen over the years this same issue arise for many of my clients. Some embrace it and recognize when it is time to move and some fight it until the end. Short of forcing your parents to move, I’m not sure there is much else to do except keep the conversation open for them whenever they are ready.

I had a client the other day who is 80 tell me, “Me and old age got in a fight today, and I kicked his ass.” I said, “You go girl!”

nrhatch - February 24, 2011

It’s hard to stand on the sidelines and watch, especially because they are so isolated where they are . . . just going out for groceries and doctor’s appointments.

But there are 4 kids ~ 2 want to insist that they move to Florida. The other 2 feel that we should wait for them to decide.

It’s a stalemate.

Tell your client, “You go, girl!” from me too!

5. barb19 - February 24, 2011

I have been where you are regarding your parents. My mother lived on her own and the only way she could manage the stairs was to sit on them to get up and down because of her arthritic knees! We tried for years to encourage her to move into something smaller. Long story short – she had a bad stroke and was forced to move into an Aged Care Home. Thing is, she has never looked back – she has more friends now than she has ever had, no housework, no cooking (not that she is able) and she is very happy; she is 91 in April and still going!
If your parents could make the decision to move into a smaller place, they might just find that they wished they’d done it years ago! Good luck with them – old people can be very stubborn and don’t like change!

nrhatch - February 24, 2011

We have found them a wonderful place, Freedom Village, just 5 minutes from us. I could see them every day, get together for tea, and I know they would love it . . .

We just need to shoehorn them out of their house first. 😉

6. therunninggarlic - February 24, 2011

I feel like I could have written this … in a few years. We are contemplating a move because of our aches and we will be scoping out FL in a few months. My parents actually are trying to convince Gramps to move to a retirement home, but he doesn’t want to discuss it. Aging is another journey in the process of life and it doesn’t worry me; but I do wish I could tie my shoes a little quicker!
Debbie 🙂

nrhatch - February 24, 2011

Since moving to Florida two years ago, I feel much younger, healthier, and happier. Not having to deal with winter weather and cold gray days has done wonders for me.

I expect that my parents would benefit from the change in climate as well.

I’ve got my fingers (and toes) crossed . . .

Have fun scoping out Florida. We just love it.

7. Paula Tohline Calhoun - February 24, 2011

Great post, Nancy. Been there, done that! Although I do have a solution for all you folk who must still tie your shoes: Elastic laces! That’s what I have had to resort to since one-handedness doesn’t lend itself very well to lace tying! You lace your shoes up (you can hold them in your lap) with the elastic laces, then you can just slip your feet in, no lacing required – and the laces expand and contract as needed! This was originally for the kiddies, but it works for me very well, thank you! 😀

One of the things you might mention to your parents (you’ve probably already tried it, but just in case) is that you want to make sure they have the opportunity NOW to make the decision for themselves, instead of having it made for them by circumstance (health, infirmity, accident, etc.) You might also tell them they because places are not always available when you make up your mind to finally go, it would be a good idea to research the places (as you have), and put in their reservations – so it will be available when or before they think they really need it, instead of having by necessity to stay in some substandard place temporarily.

Another thing I thought of was for you to create (in all your spare time LOL) a memory book for them – photos, letters, favorite clippings, etc. that they will always have with them wherever they go. Snapfish and other services do a fantastic job of printing hard-cover books for you. All you do is send them the photos and the layout you choose online, and voilá – in less than 2 weeks you have a beautiful book they can keep forever!

Anyway, I know how hard it is to watch it all unfold before you, and feel helpless or in the position of perhaps becoming the parent to your parents. I try to put myself in the shoes of folks like your parents. How hard it must be to relinquish that sense of self-determination that you’ve always relied upon. It is easy to overestimate your strengths when they have faded over time, and you didn’t really feel them going! There often seems to be the hunch that you can still go at it like you always have. Many times the truth is not recognized until it is almost or too late.

Blessings on you and all in your family. Tell your sibs to get on board! 😀 (I was VERY fortunate that all three of us were in agreement when we had to make those tough choices.)

nrhatch - February 24, 2011

Thanks, Paula. What a terrific comment filled with ideas.

We hoped that our decision to move to Florida would stir them to action. No luck so far.

They actually have beautiful photo albums filled with memories they could take with them, and we would find room for all the family heirlooms in their new place.

They definitely do overestimate their capabilities . . . until it snows again, or the basement fills with water, or the cable goes out. Then they rely on my brother to “bail them out” . . . literally. 😀

He’s got kids of his own, and we don’t. That’s why I would like them here ~ 5 minutes from me.

I’m sending a plea out to the Universe as I type . . .

8. clarbojahn - February 24, 2011

My mother, the planner of the two, moved them into my brother’s place for the last five years of their life. I was the chauffeur after they couldn’t drive. Now I worry about my own old age. I love my vacation house here in NoVA, but it is isolated from town. I think I would enjoy a retirement community but know I can’t afford it. A dilemma.

nrhatch - February 24, 2011

The retirement home near us works with people who have homes to sell before moving in . . . extending bridge loans, etc.

Find a community you like, and talk to them about the finances. They may know something that you do not yet know. 🙂

9. Maggie - February 24, 2011

I’m mainly worried about deteriorating so much that I can’t do anything I like anymore. Limbs too arthritic for walking, eyesight too poor for reading, or even a mind failing so much that I couldn’t remember the good times. What good is living until you’re 90-something if you can’t DO anything? That’s always the question I have.

nrhatch - February 24, 2011

I hear you, Maggie. On a positive note, my Great Aunt lived into her 90’s. She could no longer walk and her eyesight had dimmed to the point that she couldn’t read much.

We loved visiting her because she could still “wag her tongue” a mile a minute and her brain was sharp and alert until the end. 😀

oldancestor - February 24, 2011

A lot of age is attitude. My mom is in her mid-70s and she tears around like a 20-year-old. She won’t have any part of being an old lady. A couple of years ago she booked passage on a coastal steamship in Scandanavia and spent two weeks chugging around the arctic circle.

Sure, sometimes health issues hold a person back, but you don’t have to give in to being old.

nrhatch - February 24, 2011

Very true, OA. But a decade makes a difference. My parents were still “young” well into their 70’s.

I expect they would be younger now if they did more ~ but just taking care of their house and yard exhausts them. Their house is an anvil anchoring them in place and weighing them down.

10. souldipper - February 24, 2011

As a daughter of (very) elderly parents and, for a few years, a Manager of a Senior’s Residence, I saw a pattern. Folks will stay home as long as they can…until repeated falls or bad health plant fear. Fear was the major motivator that sprung these folks into action.

As long as couples have each other, family members or caregivers who are willing to be there, they will choose to stay in their home.

Most often degeneration begins at home due to poor nutrition. Cooking takes too much energy, etc. Many people who came to our residence arrived after the death of their spouse. It was amazing to see their improvement in one or two months after regular meals.

Some of the quietest moves into the Residence came when the family was honest about their feelings: “We cannot bear this worry and concern for you…” “We can’t be there and we are worried to death…” Some old folks are so wrapped up in tying their shoes 🙂 that they fail to realize what their decision is doing to family.

My dad decided himself to into 24 hour care – he couldn’t bear the indignity of bowel accidents. Mom, on the other hand would have died at home if she hadn’t had a stroke that put her in the hospital (for years) until her death.

My heart is with you, Nancy. This is not easy.

nrhatch - February 24, 2011

Thanks, Amy. It is hard ~ by far, the hardest part of my life at the moment.

It’s difficult to see the “right” thing for someone to do, and not be able to convince them to do it.

11. Carol Ann Hoel - February 24, 2011

I’m 26 years younger than my husband. If I were his age, being his caregiver would be much harder on me. When I was 20, I thought 40 was ancient; at 40 I thought 40 was young and 60 was old. I see much more clearly now, and old is a few decades down the road from where I am. (There’s no denying that I’m in denial.) Where aging is concerned, I suppose I’d be most concerned about my mind. It’s too late for my body.

I understand your concern about your parents. My mother died young. My father left my mother early on. He has a second family of five boys, and they are watching out for him. He has Alzheimer’s. Blessings to you, Nancy…

nrhatch - February 24, 2011

Thanks, Carol Ann. I’m glad that your dad has someone to look out for him since you have your hands full at the moment.

Some days it weighs more heavily than others. We want things to change and find ourselves powerless to change them. We want to roll back the hands on the clock and see our loved ones as they were, instead of as they are.

But the hands are frozen in place. Time is a one-way ticket.

12. Cindy - February 24, 2011

Excellent post. You have to keep nagging at your parents.
I think I most fear being old and alone and poor!

nrhatch - February 24, 2011

Thanks, Cin. We won’t give up. Every conversation I have with them, I talk about how great it would be if they lived around the corner so I could see them every day.

They both sounded good today. I try not to worry. I don’t want to look back at time wasted struggling against the “what is.”

It is, what it is.

13. oldancestor - February 24, 2011

I can’t blame elderly parents for resisting a move into a retirement community. They want to maintain control over their lives as much the rest of us.

nrhatch - February 24, 2011

I hear you, but the residents of Freedom Village have their own apartments, and they seem happier, less overwhelmed, and more in control than my parents.

oldancestor - February 25, 2011

Maybe if they had a chance to see the place and talk to some of the residents without any pressure of having to make a decision, they would make the choice on their own.

nrhatch - February 25, 2011

That’s what I’m hoping. They actually put a deposit down on a similar place a few years back, and then changed their minds. Darn.

14. eof737 - February 25, 2011

“Well, we just have so many memories tied up in this house.” It’s hard to let go of those memories at any age… I don’t know what I’d do but for now, I hope to downsize after the kids head off to college. I won’t mind a warmer climate but NY still calls my name.
It ain’t easy Nancy; especially when emotions are tied to a location. I feel for you and your parents. 🙂

nrhatch - February 25, 2011

That’s why I’m such a big believer in clutter busting ~ the less stuff you have, the more fluid you can be.

If we are not careful, our possessions come to possess us ~ ruling our lives and determining where and how we live. From my perspective, that’s a shame.

Downsize while you’re young, and reclaim your freedom. Like happiness . . . memories are not in things, they are in us.

15. frizztext - February 25, 2011

I still stare perplexed at the number of candles littering my birthday cake each year, wondering where those years disappeared…
I am 65 now – but it is easier to get older nowadays because we have the internet!

nrhatch - February 25, 2011

With no mirrors around, I feel about 25 or 30. When I stop and realize my calendar age, it shocks me ~ it all adds up, all the years are present and accounted for, but it happened in the blink of any eye.

Life goes by so fast.

16. kateshrewsday - February 25, 2011

Change is really, really tough sometimes…

nrhatch - February 25, 2011

But if we don’t embrace change, we stagnate.

My parents are wasting away in a mausoleum they built to store their STUFF . . . instead of flowing through life.

Instead of laughing and enjoying life, they are just going through the motions . . . day after dreary day.

kateshrewsday - February 25, 2011

I must pin this to my fridge. If I look at it enough times I may just be able to let go one day 🙂

nrhatch - February 25, 2011

What I’ve noticed: the more STUFF I set free . . . the more freedom I feel. 😉

17. granny1947 - February 25, 2011

OMW….great minds and all that…a simlar theme in your post as mine…seeing what you want to see!!!

nrhatch - February 25, 2011

I’ll be around shortly, Granny.

18. frizztext - February 25, 2011

getting older, all of us have to tell so much more stories!

nrhatch - February 25, 2011

Thanks. I’ll be around shortly.

19. linda - February 26, 2011

I say old age is just horrible. A cruel terrible trick. I really don’t like getting older, not that I want to die either! But everything is falling apart. And I am not inherting very good genes so it’s scary too see what is ahead. I am trying to do what I can to change the path but having Fibromyalgia makes everything difficult and makes me feel more like 71 than 51 more often than not. Things seem to be going downhill very fast this year. Where is that fountain of youth at? I miss being young. It all dissapeared so fast!

nrhatch - February 26, 2011

If only we could take the wisdom we’ve gained, package it in the body of a 37 year old, and infuse it with the energy and enthusiasm of a 3 year old. 😀

20. CMSmith - March 7, 2011

I love this. I could have written it myself. It’s funny—but it’s not. I guess keeping a sense of humor about it helps.

nrhatch - March 7, 2011

Keeping a sense of humor about life (and death) (and aging) (and taxes) is essential if we want to maintain our sanity.

We can’t afford the luxury of a negative thought when we are fighting the hard fight.


21. Lisa - March 7, 2011

Wonderful post. I’ve been reading a lot of posts this week that(including yours and CM Smith’s) that are making me think a lot about how we can make aging better, for everyone. Thank you for the humor.

nrhatch - March 7, 2011

Thanks, Lisa. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could . . .

1. Stop the aging process at about 37.

2. Get our parents to make plans BEFORE they are too sick (or tired) to make plans.

3. Discover a fountain of youth.

Lisa - March 7, 2011

Honestly, I think the most impossible of those three options is #2. 🙂

nrhatch - March 7, 2011

I suspect you’re right.

We don’t plan to fail, we just fail to plan.

22. Home . . . Sick « Woman Wielding Words - March 7, 2011

[…] reading CM’s post lead me this post about aging by NR Hatch, called “An Age Old Question . . . Old Age”.  She writes this post with a touch of humor, because all of us face the dreaded factor of joints […]

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