Sooner or later we all have to recognize what is no longer possible and seek alternatives. Years ago, body mechanics forced me to give up tennis and ice skating and now strenuous gardening. I continue to do 10-mile bike rides several times a week in good weather, but two-week cycling trips up and down hills are now history.
A dear friend is my role model in the 90s and serves as a reality check. When I asked if she would accompany me on a trip abroad, she said, “Thanks, but I’m no longer up to the level of activity that’s involved.”
I swore to stop talking to anyone who would hear about my aches, pains and ailments, which Mr. Petro called “organ resettlement”. It doesn’t provide relief—in fact, it can make the pain worse. Instead of generating sympathy, the prospect of “organ playing” turns off most people, especially young people.
And I cherish those young friends of mine who keep me young and focused on issues important to my children and grandchildren and the world they have inherited. In return, they say they value the information and knowledge I can provide.
I also make an effort to say something flattering or even cheerful to a stranger every day. It brightens up the lives of both of us and helps me focus on the beauty around me. But my most valuable advice: Live every day as if it’s your last, with an eye on the future if not more, a lesson I learned as a teenager when my mother died of cancer at the age of 49. happened. His death caused a devastating loss to me, which I handle better than little ones.
The most sticky going forward will be wicket driving. When I was in my mid 70s, my sons started urging me to stop driving based on my age. I had no or nearly no accidents or got a ticket for a moving violation. Still, they increased my liability insurance (well, I said, if it makes you feel better). And, to get them off my back, I left my 10-year-old minivan and I replaced it with a Subaru Outback, one of the safest cars on the road.
Like many other cars on the market now, the Subaru has a number of protective bells and whistles that compensate for diminished senses and slow responses with age. When I am coming back from the parking lot it alerts me that there is a car, bicycle or pedestrian approaching. When something suddenly appears before me or stops, it stops dying. If I turn my head to look at something, it flashes “Keep eyes on the road.”