Hello, “blog” friends. Welcome to Fine Art of Aging.
By way of introduction, let me make a confession: I have a secret weapon in writing this blog. My mother, Mary, and friend, Nancy, are perfect examples of the fine art of aging well. They take steps to remain healthy, graciously accept support when it’s needed, and, above all, love life.
Mom is a lifelong, accomplished singer; when her rich alto voice began to lose volume, she bought a piano and is learning to play. Since retiring to Etna, Mom has rediscovered a passion for poetry, both reading and writing it. Her family and friends are regular recipients of the hand-embroidered or quilted creations she makes. In her 80’s, Mom’s creativity seems to know no bounds.
Nancy loves the outdoors, and now that the weather is warming, I see her recommitting to her daily discipline of taking long walks. She lives on her son’s beautiful cattle ranch, and receives daily visits from the dogs, chickens, and wild birds who feast on the treats she gives them. Nancy may not be camping in a tent on some mountaintop these days, but she finds ways to fulfill that part of herself. She is an avid reader, interested in ideas of all sorts. Nancy is an adventurous spirit, actively curious about the world.
Like most elders, Mom and Nancy have encountered obstacles posed by aging, but they meet them with good humor and look for ways to stay healthy. They avoid the pitfall of negativity, having just one rule in their friendship: no “organ recital” (complaint about health) can last more than five minutes! They stay social, too, going to holiday parades, art gallery openings, and concerts. Far from disregarding history, Mom and Nancy are genuinely interested in one another’s life stories. They share photographs, mementos, and reminiscences about the past.
Gosh, you might think, if they are so perfect, how do they inspire a blog? There are two reasons. First, Nancy and Mom have some things to say to young people about dealing with their aging parents. They’ve seen the mistakes and their consequences on elders. But, watching the aging process in their friends and relatives has also taught them that they don’t know everything. They have never been old before! When a new mother has a baby, family and friends begin to gather around and, for the next 18 years, share their acquired wisdom; but when a person retires, no one throws an “elder shower” to kick off the process of teaching him how to age. Many elders do an amazing job of navigating the life changes that aging brings about, but even they sometimes need information and support.
The “Fine Art of Aging” is aimed at helping seniors to stay healthy, mentally and physically, to get support when they need it, and to enjoy being alive. Some of the information comes from my background as an elder advocate and legal consultant to victims of nursing-home neglect. Some of it comes from my doctoral training in psychology and work as a medical school professor. But, truth be told, most of the good stuff probably comes from Mom and Nancy.
My goal in writing “Fine Art of Aging” is to help us all learn to age better and more healthily by sharing information about the perils and gifts of aging.