I took a trip home to visit my ninety year old mom this past weekend. My older sister, met me at my brother’s house where we spent the night on Friday. Our plan was to leave our brother’s house early Saturday and go visit our mother for the weekend.
We all had a blast Friday night drinking wine and reliving our youth with stories of the past.
We got up early Saturday morning and headed to the small town in south Georgia where we grew up. Although there was at one time a grocery store, hardware store, drug store and dry cleaner, only the post office remains open. It brought back so many memories of walking to the small downtown area as teenagers to get the mail and buy treats with our allowances.
It felt so strange as my sister and I walked into the post office, forty years later to see our old mail box. My mom still uses it to this day. We laughed as we tried to remember the combination but alas too many years had passed. So many memories in this small little town I used to call home.
Here’s a pic of us present day on the left and forty years ago on the right as teenagers – pretending to be models 🙂
We decided to visit the old Baptist church where we spent a lot of our childhood. We walked into the service on Sunday and was shocked to see the church still had the same olive-green carpet forty years later. It was sad to see only 25 members in church that day; our church was thriving when we attended in our youth. It was another sign of how many small towns wither away over time. Our small downtown area now looked almost like a ghost town.
As the preacher began his sermon I felt like I had stepped into a time machine and returned back to the 1970’s. We were in the back pew where we always sat in our youth. There were few people we recognized, mostly parents of classmates and friends we knew as children; now in their seventies and eighties. At the end of the service we were welcomed with open arms and we had a blast catching up after so many years.
My sister and I quietly walked home after the service, like we had so many days in our youth, feeling emotional and nostalgic.
As we walked in the door of my childhood home, I began to think more about my own aging and the cycle of life.
Where did all the time go? How could I be fifty-seven years of age and my sister sixty? It seemed only yesterday we were teenagers in this house listening to the “top forty” on the radio, discussing our dates, and fighting over clothes and boyfriends.
As we walked in the back door, I saw my sweet ninety year old mother lying on the couch. She looked so sad and weak. I struggled to understand why a large part of the elderly population end up alone and with such a poor quality of life. This once lively home filled with children and laughter was now quiet, dark, and somber.
It makes me contemplate the life cycle and think more about where I am in the aging process. As I grow older, time seems to go by faster. What will my quality of life be like when I’m older? No one wants to think about declining health and becoming dependent on others. But If you want some control over how you’re going to live your golden years, you obviously have to develop a plan of action. I have no desire to leave it to chance.
I found this article that compares the aging process to the Stages Of Grief Applied To Aging :
Where do you think you might be today?
Denial – how can I be getting old? Just yesterday I was graduating college with the world at my feet, nothing too impossible, dreams just waiting to be realized. Sure some years have passed since then but old? Not me. It just doesn’t make any sense. It cannot be – I won’t let it!
Anger – screw this! I don’t deserve to have to endure the weight of the years, the aches and pains, the challenges faced in what were once basic, simple endeavors. It’s not fair and I am mad as heck.
Bargaining – I am going to work out four days a week and eat only healthy food. I am going to get my rest, avoid stress, see my doctor on a regular basis, and give up drinking. I am willing to do all of this in the hopes that I can delay my aging. Okay? Will that work? I am committed to doing whatever it takes. Surely I can beat this thing.
Depression – there is no avoiding it, there is nothing I can do, I am doomed.
Acceptance – although I am aging with potential physical and mental challenges waiting around every corner, I am still alive. I can experience a good quality of life living within my limitations. So I will no longer be the fastest on the tennis court or able to bench press twice my body weight – I accept that. What I can do is live my life as it is to the fullest possible extent. I have learned wisdom with age and will gladly share my worldly knowledge with those seeking my advice. I appreciate the beauty of a song, can revel in the wonder of a sunset, marvel at the excitement a baby shows experiencing life’s moments for the first time, genuinely share the pain felt in the loss of a loved one, and appreciate my spouse for each and every detail, quirk, and habit that have been such a vital part of my life. I accept me for who I am. Old age – bring it on!
“Getting old is not for sissies. But we are not the first nor will we be the last to negotiate the journey. Knowing that we are in a particular stage in a progression may give us hope as surviving each elevates us to the next, eventually ending with our acceptance of life as it is.”
I feel like I’m in between the bargaining and acceptance stage. I’m starting to accept the fact that although I’m in good shape for my age and work as a fitness and yoga instructor; I still have limitations. However, I take pride in leading a healthy lifestyle and promoting the importance of diet and exercise. My background in health and fitness has helped me to understand the impact of lifestyle on how we age.
I admire my mother so much for the qualities she instilled in me and still has to this day. She has always been strong and had the attitude to “never give up.” She continues to fight for what little bit of independence she has left although her health has significantly declined. I noticed after my dad passed away that she gradually became less active and developed a poor appetite. Her weight loss and inactivity left her weak, leading to more health issues, additional meds, and more side effects.
As I contemplate the cycle of aging; I’ve begun to understand the need to optimize your health as you age. The old saying “if you don’t use it, you lose it” is so true. Life should be lived to it’s fullest, enjoying the simple things, cherishing those you love, and living a healthy lifestyle. That’s the key to moving into the acceptance phase of the aging process. I plan to make sure I reach the end of this life cycle with no regrets!