“Never ask others to do what you won”t do yourself.” is one of the platitudes I learned along the way. So here I am staring into my last week as a 69er as the age of 70 is hurtling towards me. And I’m taking stock of how to age well. I jokingly say that I survived the 1960’s and 70’s and somehow made it to this age and that I’m nearly grown up.
Childhood was pretty wild and woolly in the mining towns of Derbyshire in the Uk in 1950’s. The daughter of Eastern European parents who were ” displaced” after the war and coped with the trauma of war in different ways, none of which can be found in current parenting manuals. But I was happy in my village, loved school and published my first article in the Girl’s Own magazine aged 9. It was a stiff, surly piece about being a bridesmaid at my cousin’s wedding where I had to wear a pink frou frou dress instead of a Latvian national costume with its embroidery, ribbons, peasant blouse and long, flowing skirt. I sulked on paper and got paid two shillings.
In 1966, mum, dad and I set off for Australia. I was dragged here. At 16 I had left my boyfriend, friends and all I knew. My sister had married and headed off to Canada so life was grim. Bob Dylan was my saviour and I spent hours listening to moody protest songs and planning world revolution. University gave me my first taste of independence and spun my parents into a living hell. My boyfriend was a politically active and the street marches against the Vietnam war and my university life opened another world to this naive migrant girl. Teaching, volatile relationships and activism followed. I lived in Italy for a year and traveled often.
Two life events completely reshaped my life. One was having my son in 1981 after being told I could never have children. He is the most precious person in my life.
The other was a complete nervous and physical breakdown in 1998 after years in the corporate sector scratching my way up to the top. In and out of hospital and with years in therapy I needed to rethink who I was and how I lived. I had to learn new ways of living. I lurched from Japanese Morita therapy to Buddhism to country life, organics and to many Balinese retreats. I healed and reshaped my life. I did my MBA and learned organisational pysch. in the USA, and then I set up a business, Moving Conversations which over 20 years until I retired, helped organisations and individuals do what I had been forced to do- manage change, reshape their lives and workplaces and live well. I retired for 11 months, and then set up Viva70……….my passion project.
What do like about life at this age?
The pressure’s off. I don’t have to perform, impress, excel, achieve, compete in the way I had to in the past. I’m indulging all I love- my grandaughter and family, the arts, home and garden, friendships and some travel. I know who I am and whom I’m not and don’t need to apologise for being an introvert any more. I wake each morning in anticipation of the new day and while I still get anxious, my depression has left town.
What are the challenges older age brings?
Damned arthritis and creaking. Fine, hardly noticeable deterioration in eye sight, hearing, flexibility, skin tone… but then one morning its all noticeable and annoying and I push it all away saying..this is not ME…But it is and acceptance is not my strong point. I hate the ageism in our world. I get angry when doctors talk to me like a child or shout at me because they think I’m deaf or ignore me. I loathe being patronized and hate myself when I apologise for being slow. I look around at friends having major illnesses and I attend more funerals. I’m scared of an unknown future..not death itself but the process of getting there. I don’t want to be young but I don’t want to be sick and old.
What are the things that are still on the bucket list?
Being a fun naughty, granny
Living in Edinburgh for 3 months and doing more walking in the highlands.
Having a wild passionate fling with an artist or musician in a French farmhouse
Writing one or 2 books
Developing Viva70 into a creative community of writers, poets artists and photographers.. a soft landing place for people to share their work and see it published in a quality blog that is focused on ideas not lipstick trends… although fashion and cushion covers are OK!
What’s your advice to others about living well in older age?
Know yourself and be authentic and true to who you are
Be kind to others and to yourself
Create the life you have always wanted..time is running out- do it today!
Downsize, rightsize, declutter, live simply- spend money on experiences not stuff
Add value- do something that benefits others- activism, charity, volunteering- get outside yourself
Live consciously- review your life, take stock, make plans..ask the big questions..is this life really good enough for me and those I love? If not fix it.
Nurture friendships and connections
Mobilise your inner strength, calm and assertiveness in navigating the medical system and a world geared to speed and acting young
Staring 70 in the face I stand with my family and friends beside me, a clear head and an open heart. I celebrate the peaks and valleys of my life so far. I walk forward, knowing myself, my places of fear and courage. I have the wisdom of an elder and a spirit of naughtiness and rebellion that will travel with me in the journey ahead.
Thank you for being here.