Age is number, but old is a state of mind…

April 6, 2017

I seldom think about aging, although I am now more often reminded by a new ache or pain, about the fact that it is happening to me. I really like a couple of quotes that appeared not too long ago in the Jack’s Winning Words blog –

“Whenever I complain that things aren’t what they used to be, I always forget to include myself.”  (George Burns)

“Winter is on my head, but eternal spring is in my heart.”  (Victor Hugo)

Victor HugoVictor Hugo was before my time, but I have fond memories of watching George Burns and Gracie Allen on TV when I was younger. I don’t spend much time complaining about how things aren’t what they used to be. For the most part things are better. Our modern conveniences would have been unimaginable in the “good ole days”; and life is generally better for them. Perhaps, of the two quotes, Hugo’s is most applicable to me.  While good genes have prevented a complete white out on my head, my age does show a bit there. Fortunately, I am able to experience eternal spring in my heart because I still find day-to-day life to be so interesting and way too much fun to let age slow me down.

The main thing that I find so much joy in is meeting and interacting with new people.handshake There is so much to learn from everyone that we meet that is it a shame when some people allow age to trap them into isolation. For some it is not their desire to be isolated but their physical disabilities that prevents them from getting out and interacting with others. There are many people trapped in their own homes or in care facilities who thirst for human interactions. That is why I have recommended in the past that people volunteer for jobs like Meals on Wheels or to visit care facilities and just talk to people. Drivers for Meals on Wheels will tell you that many of the people they serve are as happy to be able to talk to someone as they are about getting the food.

Back on topic; I’ve written here before about trying not to lose the ability to play ( see my post – Reclaim your ability to play) ; to get lost in the wonder of something; to be young at heart. It is that ability that Hugo was writing about. The story Peter Pan was about that same thing; how we lose our childhood ability to fly (if only in our minds) and live with Peter Pan in Neverland. It is something that is actually stolen from us by those older than us who have already lost it themselves. It is the need to “grow up” and “act like a man”. Childlike wonder at life and the ability to enjoy it without reservations is never really lost; but we are taught that we need to suppress those things; that it is not acceptable to behave like a child anymore. Life, after all, is serious stuff.

I’ve also written here about not losing that ability to sneak back into that childlike mode of pure fun from time to time or as needed. I called that post “Put a Little humor in your life” but it was really about being able to get back to that childlike state of mind that can allow you to laugh at yourself and at life by making a funny face in the mirror in the smiling dogmorning. Sure, real life is serious stuff; but, that doesn’t mean that you have to be serious about living it every single moment – you’ll serious yourself into old age and death that way.

In addition to keeping your ability to let go of seriousness every now and then and just playing (if only in your mind); the other thing that can keep getting old at bay is to never stop learning. I read recently in BusinessWeek that a recent trend is for retirees to go back to school to learn a new skill or even a new trade. It is apparently a big thing with people retiring who have risen to important positions in their business life and now face the prospect of life without the challenges that they so enjoyed in that success. Many chose to take their business skills and apply them in non-profit or charitable organizations, but a growing number chose to change directions completely and head off into a second career in fields like health care or education – field where they can be of service to others. For them it is a way to avoid getting old, no matter what their age. Henry Ford understood this concept years ago when he said, “Anyone who brain mapstops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.”

So, never stop learning and never lose the ability to play, to have fun in your mind. Age is just a state of mind; and, as Mark Twain said – “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”

Have a great day and stay young – make a funny face in your mirror this morning.

They can’t take that away from you…

April 8, 2015

My real estate career often crosses the paths of elderly people, either alone or perhaps still as a couple. In many cases I get involved at the point in their lives where they have made the decision to move into an assisted living environment and need to sell their family home. old cooupleSometimes that is solely their decision and sometimes at the advice and urging of their children. In any case there is usually great anxiety caused by this move.  For some there is concern about a loss of control and privacy and dignity.

My advice to them is to accept that they are a time in their lives where they must relinquish some control of things that they are really not able to control for themselves any longer. Even the sharpest of minds eventually finds that it is trapped in a body that no longer is capable of doing its bidding. Things begin to fail, whether it is eyesight or hearing or strength and flexibility. I have found that latter part to be particularly true in my visits to the gym. At 71, I no longer have the flexibility or range of motion to do certain thingscaregiver and exercises that I could easily do in past years.  There is also an inherent loss of privacy that goes along with some of the physical help that may be needed. It is impossible to remain private while someone bathes you. Your dignity, however, is something you you can maintain and something that only you can choose to lose; they can’t take that away from you.

What is dignity?

The dictionary puts it this way –




– the state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect.

Usage – “a man of dignity and unbending principle”

– a sense of pride in oneself; self-respect.

Usage – “it was beneath his dignity to shout”

synonyms: self-respect, pride, self-esteem, self-worth

Usage – “he had lost his dignity”

So your dignity is all inside you; it’s all about you and how you comport yourself. Can you still have dignity while someone is performing very person care functions for you? Of course you can. No one can take that away from you. Does anyone think that Stephen Hawking is not a man of great dignity, just because his physical body cannot sustain him by itself? Do people think he is not a man worthy of honor and respect; a man of great pride and self-esteem, based upon the great things that he has accomplished in the world of astrophysics? So why would someone think you to be less dignified just because you may need assistance in some of your daily routine? There is no shame in needing assistance and it’s only you who shames yourself and takes away your dignity. Only you can make that decision to become less dignified; they can’t take that away from you.

Grace is a trait that is often associated with the word dignity. My favorite definition for grace, especially as used in this context is – a controlled, polite, and pleasant way of behaving. It is often used in sentences such as, “he was a man of great dignity and grace.” When you meet someone with dignity and grace it is an enjoyable happenstance. If dignity is an internal state of a person, then grace is its external manifestation and they can’t take that away from you.

The anxieties and fears of taking those first steps into a new stage in life are normal. How well you deal with them may helping old ladywell depend on how well you maintain your dignity and the gracefulness with which you deal with the new world around you. One really positive way to look at this change and turn it around to your favor is to realize that you no longer have to expend so much time and energy (both decreasing commodities at this stage) just trying to do the day-to-day things of life that have become so hard for you. You have help, now, with those things; so, you can turn more of your attention and energy onto the things that still interest you and those things that you can still do. You still have your dignity and they can’t take that away from you.

Maybe you’ll have more time to enjoy a hobby or watch a ball game or read. If you’re still with your life mate, you have increased time to appreciate one another’s company and companionship, without having to shift the burden of your infirmities onto them or onto family. Perhaps you’ll even find time to write and start your own blog. Thesunday walk great thing is that you have stories that no one else can tell, because no one else had the same experiences that you’ve had. Writing down your thoughts and sharing your story will reinforce your pride and self-worth and increase your self-esteem – it adds to your dignity and they can’t take that away from you.

It’s not the end when you have to go into assisted living; it’s just the start of the next chapter of your life. Make it the best chapter yet. Do it with dignity and grace. Be the one at the facility that everyone else there (staff and other residents) enjoys seeing and getting to know. Find out their stories, too. Exchanging stories of things that only people of similar age have been through is a great way to make friends and preserve memories. Taking a positive and upbeat approach to life as it is at this stage is the most dignified thing that you can do; and no matter what; they can’t take that away from you.

The mind doesn’t age…

June 22, 2014

Even though our bodies sometimes remind us of how long we’ve been alive, the human mind has the wonderful ability to stay young and vibrant forever. Well, maybe the young part is a misnomer, since the mind also is the portal to our storehouse of wisdom, most of it gained out of the experiences of our years. But the mind does not exhibit the same signs of aging as does the body. Sadly some minds fall prey to the thief Alzheimer’s Disease and while it doesn’t grow older, it loses the ability to reason, sometimes leaving the person is a child-like state.

Why do I care or write about this? Well, this past week, I turned 70, an age at which I once thought I would be very old, but which I now see as just a number (sort of like the Axerion ads on TV). It’s just a number – 70 – there I said it. I find that in my mind I don’t feel that much different than I did when I hit other numbers 30-40-50 and 60. Yes, I can feel it more in my body; more aches and pains, a little stiffness here and a little less limberness there.  I’m OK with all of that, so long as I still feel alive and creative in my mind. I enjoy writing now, probably more than I ever really enjoyed many of the more physical activities of my younger years.

So, what keeps my mind young? I think it is the constant desire to keep learning. I’ve always liked tinkering with things, taking them apart to see how they work (although I’ll admit that I’ve never been all that great at getting them put back together) or trying new things, meeting new people and seeing new places. For most humans I think that is a key to staying young mentally – never stop exploring and learning. For many reading is a passion that serves them well in that respect. I fear that the younger generations have become too enamored of Tweets and posts on Facebook and other very short bursts of information or communication and haven’t developed the habit or appreciation of reading a good book.

But, I digress. Back to the topic of the mind not recognizing age – I note as I look at the profiles of the people who follow this blog, or those who post comments to it, that most are also physically young (at least a lot younger than me). I think that is great. I’ve visited most of your sites or blogs and can recognize in many of your posts a lot of the same things in my life as I think back to that time. All of us spend time in our youth searching for our identities. Many go well along in years still using the phrase “when I grow up”. I stopped using that phrase out loud some time back because I realized that I had already grown up and had made choices that defined the roles that I must play – husband, father, home owner, career guy, etc. Inside there was still that little voice that I’ve written about here before saying “can I come out and play” and “when I grow up”.

I’m happy that little voice never went away inside me. It is the human mind that refuses to age. So, if you see me, you might think “look at that old dude”; but I’ll be thinking “what an interesting young person, I wonder what I could learn from them?” Looking at some of your blogs, all of you are very interesting people with lives that look like fun. You’ve already taken an important step to never growing old too – you are all writers, sharing your lives with others. For those who are searching; you will find yourself someday (or discover that you were never really lost, just without direction). For those who have fond themselves, the fact that you have also fond blogging as a means of expressing yourself is important. Don’t get hung up on whether what you have to say is important enough for someone else to read or care. As they say in the Nike commercials – Just do it.

Remind me in 2024  to write about what turning 80 feels like. Damn, I may be an old dude by then!