Being A Successful Senior

Successful Senior

What does it mean to be a successful senior? For one thing, I hope you have gotten your finances in order. I hope you started young enough to have enough to live on right now at today’s prices. (Did you think about inflation?).

Successful seniors plan ahead for retirement. Earlier in life, they are in many different planning stages. As newlyweds, they plan to buy a house and furnish it, to have children, send them to school, and raise them well. In middle age, there is the run for the roses. They have to catch up if they did not put away enough in savings. They want to travel but it takes extra cash they may or may not have. As the approach old age (and it is a relative term these days), they better have not had all their eggs in one basket. If they thought their house was a great investment, think again. Prices have barely come back from the 2008 freefall. If they opted for mutual funds, they paid huge amounts of commission that lowered their return. If they left their money in the bank or money market funds, well they are in a sorry state of no profit.

So…the moral here is that successful seniors had it figured out long before they took that gold watch and said their corporate goodbyes. Money isn’t the answer to everything, but when you don’t have enough, it becomes the center of your life. If you were a conservative investor in your younger days, you probably did pretty well, as well as most others. You can’t get rich quick and you can’t earn more than the averages. It means taking risk and losing your valuable security blanket. But if you listened to advice and didn’t go in for stock trading or hedge funds, chances are you are all right. After all, in the long run, give or take a few years, the market has done pretty well. In addition, you now have a pension or a government program depending upon where you live. If you are successful, it means you are living well.

Statistics show that affluent people are really the middle class, not the rich. They are super affluent. If you can afford your life style and have a bit leftover for those odd expenses, you are affluent. If you feel secure that your retirement portfolio won’t run out of money if you live a few extra years, then you are affluent. It is a comfortable financial state and it sure beats the thousands upon thousands of people who are below the poverty line.

Successful seniors have good family relationships and great friends. They say that this is what keeps you young at heart and helps you live longer. Loneliness is the companion of an early death. Seniors in homes, in spite of the stereotypes, enjoy companionship and conversation. If you get it at home, so much the better, as long as you get it.

Successful seniors eat well and are fit. They are not overweight or even obese. They do not have diabetes, heart disease, or cancer because they had regular checkups with their personal physician and took care of problems early on.

Successful seniors are mentally alert because they read often, do puzzles and games, and stimulate their minds. They attend plays, concerts, art gallery showings, and lectures. They want to learn new things and absorb new stimuli. They take classes to learn about current events or a new language. They make friends and discuss ideas and the news.

Successful seniors feel alive and they look forward to more years on this planet. Their glass is half full, not half empty. They are not depressed or forlorn. They are energetic and spry. They look young for their age and they are up to date on the latest technology. They can use a computer with the best of them.

Finally, a word has to be said about one’s spiritual life. Successful seniors enjoy a religious affiliation and it is not restricted to any particular type. They enjoy the communal experience it affords and the belief system that enriches their minds. They embrace what others think with an open mind while sticking with their own preference. They are willing to share what they know about the divine and its place in one’s life.

Grow Old Gracefully or Grow Old Gratefully

Grow Old Gratefully 2

Ah, we should all grow old as gracefully as Jane Fonda or Sophia Loren. We should also grow old gratefully like Donald Trump or Warren Buffett. I will take either one, but preferably both. It would be a rarity indeed, but I don’t mind testing the odds.

Let’s start with grace. It means moving in a smooth and attractive way, and having a pleasing shape or style. Not many oldsters fit this description so we can modify it a bid. Growing old gracefully means that you look and feel your best and not a day older. It means taking care of yourself physically through diet and exercise, and dressing as nicely as you can: be it casual or elegant. It means not sending shivers down other people’s spines when they catch a glimpse in the grocery store or on the street. It means not wearing rags and forgetting there is drool on your chin.

Growing old gracefully can be an art and it is quite difficult for those who let themselves go. You have to get rid of that paunch, stand up straight, pull your shoulders back, and face the world head on. You have to set a good example of how great the elder years can be. You have to make people believe it and change perceptions once and for all.

And it isn’t just about appearance and health, although they count for a lot. You have to keep your wits about you and your mind sharp to grow old gracefully. No apologies for losing one’s marbles or having senior moments. It shouldn’t be an oddity that people remark about how much a senior has their mind intact as if it were all that unusual. Of course, we have our minds! Where on earth would they go?

Growing old gratefully is an entirely different matter. To me it has to do with success and the thanks one feels at having more than one’s fair share of it. You are grateful to be alive at ninety, of course, and to have many grandchildren. You are grateful to be able to live where you want and to stay active and vibrant. But more than anything, you are grateful for the financial freedom that prevents you from running out of income too soon and facing senior poverty.

Gracefulness and gratefulness: may you be blessed with both in short order. May you represent Hemingway’s saying that “living well is the best revenge” and that “life is a moveable feast.” May you find fulfillment of all the promise you felt was your life’s calling. If you will it, it can happen. You can age elegantly and eloquently; you can mature with mastery; and you can face senility and conquer it. We are as strong and vibrant as we want to be in our hearts and minds, and if we work hard at it, people will not be surprised as more and more of us show just how wonderful the senior years can actually be.

The Benefits of Age?

Ask a young person this question. Then ask an older one. You will get a vastly different answer, which is no surprise. It is all a matter of perspective. So just what are the benefits of age from the point of view of a young person and an oldie.

Young person

  1. You get a discount at the movies
  2. Medicare pays for your doctor bills
  3. You don’t have to buy any more new clothes to be in style. You are permanently out.
  4. You get an income from your pension or investments.
  5. You have the free time to travel.
  6. Your kids are grown and out of the house. Hurrah!
  7. You can dote on the grandkids who love you to death.
  8. You have the wisdom of age.

Oldie

  1. You don’t care if other men flirt with your wife.
  2. You get the early bird special at the diner.
  3. Your house is paid off.
  4. Your car is paid off, even if it is ten years old.
  5. Your big expenses for furniture and fixtures is out of the way.
  6. Travel. Travel. One more ocean cruise!
  7. People think you have wisdom, and you do compared to them.
  8. Your socks don’t have to match.

Now ask about the reverse. What are the disadvantages of age?

Young person

  1. Your wrinkle cream has stopped working.
  2. You have to live on a fixed income.
  3. Medicare doesn’t pay all your medical bills.
  4. You are too old to go backpacking.
  5. No one cares if you are on trend.
  6. Your glasses are really thick…and then there are those trifocals!
  7. You have to buy a lot of gifts.
  8. Your senses are diminished. (Grandma pours on the salt)

Oldie

  1. Your wrinkle cream has stopped working.
  2. You have lost an inch or two of height.
  3. You have lost more than a few teeth.
  4. You have gained an inch or two around the waist.
  5. You don’t want to upgrade your cell phone every two years.
  6. All your recreational activities seem to be bus trips.
  7. You get “senior moments.”
  8. Sometimes you feel invisible.

So where do you stand? Does any of this ring a bell? It’s all in fun, but there is a kernel of truth if you read between the lines!

An Unfortunate Footnote – Toenail Fungus

toenail-fungusSeniors have their ailments, the usual ravages of age. Most are inconsequential and don’t threaten life or limb. Serious problems are the major concern and it behooves us all to seek medical help on a regular basis. Prevention is a lost art, however, and more and more people need to address this neglect. Apart from your major screening tests for the colon, the lungs, and the heart, there are times when you need to look at the hands and the feet. The fingernails and toenails can tell a story about what is going on deep inside. If they are discolored or have ridges it means something is wrong. Yikes!

Now what about the feet. Other than bunions, and God knows we have them, what else is there to worry about? Don’t we have enough on our minds? Apparently not, because according to the latest TV ads, toenail fungus is a major crisis. “Seriously,” says the announcer, “you have to fight it with… something (I forgot the name).” And pow, you see a mighty boxing glove do its job. Since there is a miracle cure out there, I guess we can ignore the yellow mess under the big toenail for now and later slather it with this solution. I had to go searching online to find it, but I found this page for the treatment. Who knows what potent potion is in there, but it is said to work. Fungus be gone. There should be no fungus among us.

All kidding aside, nail fungus is tough resilient stuff. It won’t kill you, but then again it won’t ever go away. It is unsightly and embarrassing. There was a time we had to suffer its curse in silence. Now the minute you see discoloration, especially that yellowish motley hue, you are ready with an advanced medical weapon. So you see, seniors, you have a remedy for everything, even the slightest ailment. Although this age group is not targeted specifically, it does have its fair share of fungus. So…don’t be an unfortunate footnote in the history of the disease. Get relief however you can.

New Starts For Old Farts

I hate to admit it, but the words old fart have once in a while escaped my lips. It is derogatory for good reason, and there is more than a kernel of truth in there. With the best intentions, and plenty of humor, I say that there can be new starts for old farts. Yes, old dogs can certainly do more than one new trick.

I know of people at ninety who run major corporations and go to work every day. I know firemen in their sixties and lawmen much beyond that. There are senior chefs and advanced age shop girls; there are aging movie stars and young-at-heart comedians. There are oldsters in every walk of life, and for many, it is a second career. It is surprising on one level, but not so uncommon another.

There is no reason why an older citizen cannot work as long as he or she is able. If a new job is available, then why not. It is never too late to change one’s life path. It does take an open-minded employer.  We sometimes find that we have gone as far as we could and need a new challenge. We want to turn a corner and walk in a new direction, albeit with a cane sometimes. We want the world to trust that we have what it takes to pursue innovation and creative thinking.

The same goes for human relationships. More than one senior has remarried and secured a new family. Divorce and widowhood do not stand in the way of those bold enough to really start afresh. They say it is harder to do this when you are “old” and that the young have a corner on the self-improvement market. Not so, my friend, not so. Take Jeremy and his new wife Susan who found each other some years ago. He was 76 and she was 52: a December/May romance. He is a widower and she is divorced, both for over ten years. Reticence made them wait fairly long to “hook up.” After a whirlwind romance that caught them both by surprise (ever see a sexy movie with seniors in it? No!), they decided to marry. The respective families balked at the prospect. They didn’t recommend it. It would wreak havoc on the wills and family finance. It would hurt them personally.

Did no one consider their happiness? They were called selfish by their heirs to be and inconsiderate. Did no one notice the love? It took a lot of courage for them to tie the knot in the midst of all the frenzy—and from all sides.

The couple has gone on to enjoy the remainder of their life together and it no doubt will turn out to be long and prosperous. We wish them well. We won’t go into what will happen when they die when the money has to be divvied up. Let’s just say that some seniors have to sacrifice some relationships for others that are stronger and more meaningful. It takes the wisdom of age to get through this unscathed.

As people come to understand what happens later in life, they will become more tolerant of these new directions in work or one’s personal life. They will let people find their own way to happiness even if it is a radically different path than was originally intended. But for now, the script is unwritten and the cards have not been dealt.

Water Recreation, A Salvation

Ever visit a senior center, the day kind where people come and go as they please, looking for adventure. Ever visit the pool. You will find classes in progress – oldies love the water. In fact, water recreation is one of the more popular and appealing choices of activity at most facilities. People are lined up dutifully along the edge of the pool performing exercises to the accompaniment of verbal instruction. They are laughing and talking gaily, having a wonderful time.

It is all about physical fitness of course. It is not just a pastime. Swimming and water recreation is great for the entire body and it is not hard on the back or delicate aging joints. But it is also equally about socializing and making new friends. From both points of view, it is a real personal salvation, and one too valuable to ignore.

It is so important to seniors that many try to live within walking distance to a public pool if they do not have one in their apartment building. Oddly enough, many retirement homes and assisted living facilities do not have them. Rehab centers, however, often do. It is assumed, I think, that later in life one is too weak to enjoy the water. This is patently not true. You would be surprised to see rapid progress in muscle tone and strength after weeks of swimming therapy. More facilities definitely need to include pool exercise in their programs.

The movie Cocoon had great pool scenes and I am sure there are many others that feature senior recreation. They don’t all just square dance. Swimming gives you stamina and tone, yes, but it also gives a lean body. Didn’t anyone see 60 plus year old Diana Nyad swimming to Cuba? It was a joy to behold in spite of the difficulties she incurred with jellyfish and other ailments.

4-prayer-boston-legal-09_19_38Or, why not enjoy some of the other treats that the water has to offer? Denny Crane from the popular TV show “Boston Legal” always seemed to enjoy Fly Fishing – I’m sure he had no qualms about spending excessively on getting the best fly fishing rod, when he was seen helicoptering in to a fishing site.

If you are a senior, get with a swimming program in your area and enjoy a new challenge that could change your life. It is as if the water were a magic potion. Try to live in an area that will address your needs on a daily basis. Many senior citizens move to California, Arizona, or Florida where it is sunny year round and they can enjoy water recreation any time. If not, there are always indoor pools in colder climates.

More than one golden ager has overcome depression and loneliness through swimming and the companionship it brings. It seem to be the perfect panacea for what ails us young and old. We swim when we are tots to play and learn the basic strokes. We paddle about for amusement. Later we learn to race and control our motions. We look at it as a necessity in life in case we are in a boat on a lake or in the ocean or to save someone’s life. Now we can add the social element water recreation brings to every age.

So get those flip flops on, don your best swimsuit, buy some goggles if you like, and join a group at the pool. You will enjoy every minute of the camaraderie and healthful benefits. Yes, water creation is indeed a kind of salvation.

Living Life to the Fullest

Living Life to the Fullest

It is a gift to know how to live life to the fullest, and if you don’t have it, you can hope that it will be a present from others. What should we do to get the most of life? If you don’t already know, there are all kinds of sayings and stories, and I have read them with an open mind. I want to know this deep dark secret. I think I can recognize it. You see people who are exuberant and happy and they exude something special that attracts other people. They seem to go places and see things and experience joy all at the same time. Wow! It is one great way to live.

You can learn to do it better and it can’t be done all the time. If you can do it half the time, you are in a pretty good spot. If you can do it three-quarters of the time, you are in an even better position, and if you can top 80% you are on your way to a rich and rewarding existence.

I will take what I can get. I enjoy good food and a tasty treat now and then. I adore animals and know they make great companions, sometimes better than people. I love kids and the wonder they bring to the world. We can learn to look at things with fresh eyes. I see glory in the ordinary and promise in the dull and ordinary. I think all this qualifies somewhat as living life to the fullest.

I admire nature and take the time to notice simple visual things like white clouds in a blue sky and bright green grass laden with wild flowers. I hike to catch a glimpse of mountain vistas that spread out for miles. I will take a trip anytime to the sea to witness what it means to see forever. I think all this qualifies as living life to the fullest.

I think that I am very lucky indeed to have what I have and to look forward to more. I won’t stop here. I know that living life to the fullest means you continue to grow as a person and fulfill the youthful dreams that never stop. You need an open mind and heart they say, and I know this to be true. People envy you when you show evidence of a welcoming attitude toward the world, and don’t shut yourself off from experience. It means taking chances sometimes and trying new things. It means becoming a new person from time to time, like shedding your skin and growing a new, tougher one. It means being inured to pain but not to feeling.

I think it would be a different world if we all tried to live life to the fullest and stopped worrying about our possessions and territories and problems and manias. We focus so much on ideology and belief and what is right for everyone. But we are not all alike. The only thing man has in common is the desire to live life to the fullest.

I think it would be helpful to teach others how to do this and how to make it a priority. Happiness is magical, but we don’t know how to suspend our judgments to attain it. We worry and fret and fume, and don’t live life to the fullest. So take this blog as your call to action so you can apply what I have said and make it your own. Compare your own thoughts on the subject to see if we concur. Happiness is such an expansive concept and can encompass so many things: something different for everyone, but surely a lot in common.

Some people look back to the past with regret, but I believe it isn’t too late to start now to live life to the fullest. You can make up for lost time. Just look in your grandchildren’s eyes, or your dog’s sweet little face. Pick some roses from your garden and put them in a vase. Little things mean a lot (I learned that from an old song). You can start changing your perspective and try to live in the moment, not in the past. The future is okay, too, but it is yet to come.

I dare you to come out of your shell of convenience and life a new life, yes at your age. Think of the people you know who live well and know how to embrace happiness. If you have done it before, you can do it again, and even more so than ever. Isn’t it wonderful! Living life to the fullest.