Sooner or later we all have to recognize what is no longer possible and find alternatives. Years ago body mechanics forced me to give up tennis and ice skating and now give up the grueling gardening work. In good weather, I continue to do 10-mile bike rides several times a week, but two-week bike rides up and down are now a thing of the past.
A dear friend in her 90s is my role model and serves as a reality check. When I asked her if she would come with me on a trip abroad, she said, “Thank you, but I’m no longer up to the activity.”
I vowed not to speak to anyone who would listen to me about my pain and discomfort, what Mr. Petrov called the “Organ Concert”. It doesn’t bring relief – it can even make the pain worse. Instead of arousing empathy, the “organ concert” is likely to put most people off, especially young people.
And I appreciate my young friends who keep me young in spirit and focus on issues that are important to my children and grandchildren and the world they will inherit. In turn, they say they value the information and wisdom that I can offer.
I also try to say something flattering or cheerful to a stranger every day. It lights up both of our lives and helps me focus on the beauty around me. But my most precious advice: Live every day like it was your last, with the future in mind if it isn’t, a lesson I learned as a teenager when my mother died of cancer at 49. Her death left me with catastrophic losses that I handle better than the little ones.
The stickiest wicket in the future is going to run. When I was in my 70s, my sons started pushing me to stop driving simply because of my age. I hadn’t had any accidents, near misses, or received a parking ticket for a moving violation. Still, they topped up my liability insurance (OK, I said, if you’re better). And to get them off my back, I gave up my 10-year-old minivan and replaced it with one of the safest cars on the road, a Subaru Outback.
Like many other cars in the market now, the Subaru has several protective bells and whistles that compensate for the fading senses and slower responses that come with aging. It warns me if a car, bicycle or pedestrian is approaching when I pull out of a parking space. It stops when something suddenly shows up or stops before me. If I should turn my head to see something, it will blink “Keep Eyes on Road”.