10 TIPS TO LOOKING AND FEELING REALLY OLD

unhappyoldcouple

  1. Pay cold, hard, cash to look like anyone but yourself: dye your hair, get a hairpiece, inject Botox, have plastic surgery—the works. Then take a good look in the mirror.
  2. When you wake up in the morning, pay attention to every single ache and pain—then proceed to medicate.
  3. At all costs, do NOT exercise. Why shake things up? Things are already shaky.
  4. Don’t clean the house, do laundry or clean out the car. What’s the point? No one’s coming over and you aren’t going anywhere.
  5. Whatever you do, don’t strike up conversations with strangers or smile at people you pass on the street. It might lead to something.
  6. Don’t shake hands with anyone at anytime. You might get germs.
  7. Do not play Jeopardy, work the crosswords, put together a puzzle or anything remotely connected to stimulating your brain.
  8. Absolutely refuse to get or use a computer. They are full of viruses.
  9. Do not listen to music, particularly the new stuff. It’s mostly ‘noise’ anyway and there is no reason to keep up with young people.
  10. Spend your entire day watching TV and if you do talk to someone, be certain to complain about something.

That should do it.

 

LIVE TO TELL

 

man with flag

I had a BLAST being young. At 18, flying north on the Black Canyon Freeway headed out of Phoenix I remember the rush when I floored the car to 100 mph. It was thrilling and scary but once I hit 100 I eased off the gas. I wanted to live to tell about it. Still do.

Frankly I don’t ‘get’ this bucket list thing. Why wait until you’re old to do all the things you wanted to do? By the time you’re my age, they’re all gonna be harder to do. I went skydiving in my 20’s but you couldn’t get me in a plane with no door and push me out with a parachute now. My knees couldn’t take it, let alone my failing heart.

That’s why TODAY is so important. You will never be this young again. If you want to climb Kilimanjaro or go “Dancing With the Stars,” go now. If you want to change careers, change NOW. There is absolutely, unequivocally nothing to lose; nothing, of course, but time. And we all know who IT waits for: NO ONE!

I love that I took chances when I was young. Sometimes they were teeny ones like asking a boy to dance. Others were done out of mere curiosity, like that weekend at the nudist colony. But each little risk grows you and gives you more confidence. They add up day-by-day, year-by-year until you have this crazy, wonderful sense of ‘been there, done that’ in your bones. It is unshakeable and freeing!

Being older is a blast, too!  It means that I can walk into Starbucks and tell the barista he’s cute. Or flat hang up on that caller who tells me, “I’m not selling you anything.” It means I can show up at a gala event sans makeup and wear white when summer is long over. At my age, there is simply no one I care to impress—except me.

Right now, I have a friend who wants to buy a van and drive across country, hitting all the sweet spots at just the right season. I told him, “Do it. No time like the present.” Better to die with your flag unfurled than live at half-mast. Live so you have something to TELL about later.  Oh, and if he takes my advice?  I’ll post some pictures because that ‘friend’ happens to be my own husband!

A SHOT IN THE DARK!

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At midnight, as I was heading to bed, I heard the sound of rifles popping from the backyard. A mans’ voice shouted outside. As I moved towards the window to look out, everything went dark, suddenly—and fast. The dog barked and bolted. I groped my way towards a flashlight in the kitchen. On the way, I banged my head on the bookshelf, cracked my knee into a wall and hit the edge of a table with my hip. Amazing how the lack of light, even in familiar surroundings can throw you off. All this, despite the fact I have a flashlight in EVERY room!!

So what gives? Aging. In my 20’s I only needed ONE flashlight and I never panicked when the lights went out as my eyes adjusted to darkness pretty well. By my 40’s, I bought a few more flashlights—just in case. However, now that I am in my 60’s it may well be that I need to attach something LED around my neck.

This aging stuff creeps up on you pretty slowly. Good thing. Can you imagine being 20 something and suddenly waking up one morning to a wrinkled face and gray hair?? That’s Kafka-esque enough to induce a stroke. Fortunately, our faculties disintegrate with a subtle slowness. So slow that we are lulled into a complacency of illusion; the illusion that things are as they once were.

But alas, they are not and all the wisdom in the world cannot make up for one, wrong stumble in the dark. So what do we do? Plant a flashlight every few feet. Unless you have hypermnesia, you might also want to light the way to them with night-lights. (Of course, those don’t help one bit when the power goes out!) This is an easy fix. Illuminating the mind is much trickier because it just plays tricks on you.

Those ‘shots’ in the dark that I heard? Turns out they were the snap, crackle pop of our transformer blowing out across the street.   The mans’ voice? My neighbor yelling that his tree was on fire. A large limb from it had fallen hard onto the power lines. As my neighbors stumbled out into the blackness, amidst the blue, flashing lights of police cars and screaming sirens, one, older lady, wearing a bathrobe emerged holding a single, flickering candle. No, not me. . .yet.         

 

 

 

FOOTLOOSE

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I love these feet—all ten toes of them. In fact, if I could reach them I would give each a big KISS! They used to run 6 miles a day barefooted on the beach. Not anymore but I still love them for all the places they’ve taken me. What’s more, it occurs to me how I have ignored them for years, yet they keep marching forward, still taking me on new adventures. Why just yesterday, they took me to my first Zumba class!

See, here’s the thing. Yesterday I woke up with an aching back. Actually, it’s been aching for about a week now. So, I did what any self-respecting person would do at my age. . .I reached for my tennis shoes. Then I drove to the YMCA and headed for that class I’ve been hearing about for years.

The rap music was pumping as I arrived and suddenly a roomful of about 50 girls started shaking their booty—and I mean shaking it. I maneuvered to the back and tried to keep up. The girl in front of me was shaking her butt so fast I don’t know how it stayed attached. Not only did she shake it about 6 times per second, but she did so while bending her knees and going side to side.

Well, I can’t bend my knees anymore so first I got my butt going. Then I tried to keep it going while moving side to side. Next thing I know my head’s going too. However, once my head started going, my butt stopped. So I stopped my head, got my butt going again and started over. Problem was, everytime I got to the point where I was actually following the instructor, she did something different.

But bless my feet. They never stopped. Crazy thing is when it was all over my back pain was gone! When I woke up this morning, the ONLY thing that hurt were my feet. So, I walked them out onto the grass and took their picture. Since I’ve never even given them a pedicure, it was the least I could do. They have kickstarted my motorcycles, pranced in high heels, shuffled off to buffalo and plied too many times to count. . .and I am grateful they still stand on this side of the grass.

 

Funny Business

Aviano USO Tour

He was like a playful boy on stage. His demeanor implied that he was getting away with something and we were in his ‘little escapade’ together. And, oh, what a ride he gave us!  I was lucky enough to see Robin Williams in the late 70’s at the Greek Theater in LA. He was opening for some musical act whose name I’ve long forgotten but I remembered Robin. Remembered how he walked out onto that big, empty stage, sat down on a huge speaker and just began talking. He was funny, frenetic and ADD in every sense of the word. He made me laugh and think and laugh again.   He also made it look easy; so easy, that a few weeks later, I decided to try out my own funniness at Open Mic night at The Comedy Store. How hard could it be? People had always told me that I was funny.

Well they were WRONG. Do you know what kind of courage it takes to stand alone on a stage and try to make a room full of strangers laugh? To hear your name called and walk out under a hot spotlight to dead silence? To hold nothing in your hands but sweat and to suddenly realize that you can’t remember what you were going to say because your heart is so LOUD in your chest that you are conscious of nothing else? It was terrifying and humbling and I bombed. Badly.

That night, as the laughs did NOT come, I made one last, desperate plea to my stony, silent crowd: “Well, who would you like me to imitate?” I asked. One man in the back yelled, “The Invisible Woman!” “I can do that,” I replied. I quickly whispered to the lighting technician to, “Turn the lights down.” Then I crouched down on my hands and knees and crawled off the stage. As I fled behind the curtain, I received my first and only smattering of applause.

I get it. I get him. I get all those people who can face millions of strangers but not themselves; the ones who are so thin-skinned they touch us but not thick-skinned enough to protect themselves.  When the rains of Time begin to fall, and the drops slowly start to blur and erase the YOU that you used to know; the one that so defined you. I understand what it feels like to no longer have the strength to open the umbrella. We stood under Robin’s once . . .now he is standing under God’s.

Who Knows Where The Time Goes???

 

I don’t. It has sifted through my own hands like so much dust. Just as it did for Sandy Denny, this folksinger from the 60’s who wrote and sang this song which Judy Collins later made famous. Sandy never lived to see the fruition of her life’s work. She died at 31, simply falling down a flight of stairs. Listen and remember the young girl who sang with so much hope and heart. Be grateful you are here. I am.

FALL WELL

Boomers and Teens Hit the Segways!

When Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon, war broke out. When I crossed mine, I merely landed flat on my back, upside down under a clump of trees. The Segway I had been riding just a few seconds earlier continued motoring backwards, back down the hill, off the side of the road and only stopped because it was hopelessly ensnarled in bushes.

I laid still for a moment, just long enough to realize two things: I was not hurt and the mosquitoes found my bare legs and arms irresistibly delicious. Just as I realized the latter, my husband began yelling, “Don’t move! Stay right there!” No way. I gathered myself upright, madly brushed leaves, twigs and bugs away and grinned. “Don’t worry,” I assured him. “Nothing’s broken. I fell really, really well.”

In fact, during the 4 seconds or so that I knew for certain that I was going to fall, I aimed for the dirt, heaved myself off backwards and to the right, while shoving the 100 lb machine away from me and to the left. And, when I hit the ground, I rolled to absorb the impact, just like they taught me in skydiving school 40 years ago!! Boy, was I proud of myself.

The Segway tour had been my idea. What better way to keep up with two teenagers than to have equal horsepower? Our guide had given us a brief lesson on how to ride the machines before we started. “Lean forward to go forward and lean gently back to stop.” The idea was to stay balanced so that you never had to come to a complete stop. Seemed easy enough and at first it was. We whipped around corners, sped down sidewalks, across streets, and giddily waved at passersby. Then we hit the park. The paths began to turn sharply and I lost a bit of steam and fell behind. Then came that long, steep hill.

Now I often advise my aging boomers to, “try something new,” “get out of your comfort zone,” and “stay active.” But after this week’s experience, let me add this: “If you’re gonna fall–aim for something soft,” “When you hit–roll” and “When it’s over–be grateful if nothing is broken.”

 

P. S. While researching Segways for this blog, I learned that I am not the only one to have taken a tumble.  Presidents Obama and Bush have both fallen, and the owner of Segway was killed a few years ago when the one he was riding plummeted off of a cliff. 

YOU’RE OLD. I’M NOT.

 

 

 

aging-well

In the middle of a heated discussion on gender equality this evening, my 21 year-old, exasperated with my stance, suddenly said, “Well, you’re in a state of cognitive decline. I’m not.” I thought about that for a moment but said nothing. Technically, she is right. The interesting counterpoint, however, is that I STILL have 40 years experience on her and that is a HUGE difference—in MY favor.

Granted my neurons don’t ‘fire’ as quickly as they used to but I have a whole lot more embers to choose from than a kid who has yet to graduate from college and live on her own yet. That alone is a game changer. She’s never paid rent let alone a utility bill. Her first one will be a shocker: I won’t be running around after her turning off lights and raising the AC temp! And a box of raspberries in the fridge will no longer be a quick snack waiting to be scarfed up. It will someday be for her, what it is now for me: a luxury.

Isn’t it strange how ‘old’ and ‘grown up’ we feel when we are young and how ‘young’ we think we are even when our hair is gray? Apparently idealism isn’t just the bastion of the young. A recent AARP study found that 85% of people over 50 don’t think they are ‘old’ yet and half of them believe that their peers are clearly ‘older.’ Translation: You’re old. I’m not. My favorite finding is that almost half those over 70 think it’s fine to “make jokes about old people.” Only 25% of 40 year-old’s agree. Translation: age also makes you less uptight.

Which brings me back to tonight. I love that my daughter has strong opinions and voices them. I admire her passion and zeal. I also know that one day both will dissipate with time and experience. 40 years from now, I hope that she, too, will quietly smile if some youngster refers to her ‘cognitive decline’. She will know better by then of course, because she is my daughter!

**Helen Hudson speaks around the country on Aging and all things Alzheimer’s.  Visit her website at http://www.helen-hudson.com for upcoming events.

YOU HAVE AN AMAZING BODY

amazing bodies“You have an amazing body,” a complete stranger said to me last night as I sat in our local bookstore listening to an author give a reading. Okay, I did have a moment of schoolgirl giddiness to hear an opening line I haven’t heard since I was in my 20’s. However, my response was curt: “Thank you,” I replied sounding strangely like a PE instructor, “I work at it every, single day.” “Well, it sure shows,” he gushed, as he stared long and hard at the full length of my anatomy.

As I sat there trying to keep my attention on the speaker, I wondered what on earth about me had caused him to say that. I wasn’t wearing anything provocative, simply Bermuda shorts and a T-shirt. Truth is, I didn’t even have an ‘amazing body’ in my 20’s. I had then what I do now: a small-headed, long-necked, flat-chested, short-waisted, knock-kneed and pigeon-toed one. The only difference is that all of it has now shifted a bit south and gone surreptitiously slack.

Of course, it has had 40 years to get the way and I have put it through labyrinthian gyrations in the process. I suppose it began with those awkward gymnastic stunts in high school like doing the splits on the balance beam. Then there were hours of wild dancing and limbo contests in night clubs. This would later segue into dirt races on my motorcycle and culminate with a series of sky diving escapades in college. Oops. I almost forgot the broken collarbone in that car crash, a series of sprained ankles and now arthritic knees which doctors say I still need to replace.

After two pregnancies and 6 solid years of nursing things toned down a bit. Although there was a spate of 6-mile a day jogging, ridiculous step-classes done to pumping music and that time I was thrown off a gym treadmill backwards and stuck against a wall while the moving belt continued to lacerate my knees. I’m sure that I am leaving something out here but you get the picture.

These days I can still do a cartwheel, handstands against a wall, hot yoga, swim and play doubles with gals my age—but not all in one day! Come to think of it, I DO have an amazing body! It still gets me around. I’m still breathing and above all, I am grateful to still be in it!!!

 

FIVE THINGS YOU DON’T DO OVER 50

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1. Fluff your hair and reapply lipstick when the cop pulls you over for speeding. (You’re desperately trying to remember where you put the registration).
2. Cut in line. Anywhere at any time. (At your age it just looks bad).
3. Laugh out loud at something on your cell phone while intimately seated in the company of others at a restaurant. (The light’s too dim to read your screen.)
4. Imagine your life 50 years from now. (You know you won’t be here.)
5. Take nude selfies on your Snapchat. (You don’t have a Snapchat.)

Five things you might do:

1. Fluff your hair and reapply lipstick after you get a citation. (You’re stalling so the cop will pull away first.)
2. Move ahead in line when the youngster in front of you is distracted by their cell phone. (If they do notice, you’re old enough to pretend you didn’t see them.)
3. Laugh out loud when someone else does while they are reading something on their cell phone. (If they notice that you laughed, too, they’ll wonder how you saw their message from that far away).
4. Remember moments of your life over the last 50 years. (Ah. . .there are so many.)
5. Sign up for a Snapchat. (If only to remind your kids you’re still HERE!)