How to Handle This Age Issue

The woman who was interviewing me asked my age. She was apologetic. “My boss wants me to get ages.”

I was ready for her.

“I am 76,” I said. “Not a problem to ask. I think it’s good that folks realize that older people can still be productive.”

“That’s one way to handle it,” she said, flatly.

Handle what, I wondered? But I didn’t ask just in case she would think I was being snarky and end our conversation. She was a columnist from a newspaper published in my old home town, calling to conduct an interview about me and my first book, a memoir.

Quite a few years ago, when I was dipping my toe into the writing life, I heard a local cookbook author being interviewed on a radio program. When the interviewer asked the author her age, she said, “I never tell my age. There are too many ageist readers out there.” I was floored. How would ageist beliefs disappear if those who are successful and of a certain age don’t sing their own praises? I wanted to reach into the radio and shake this woman. Since then I had been on a mission to tell my age. That was the way I was handling the age issue.

Once I stopped into a Weight Watcher’s storefront to get help in dropping the ten pounds that I have habitually lost and gained over the years. The helpful clerk was promoting the additional support one could find on the internet. “There is a Weight Watchers’ Blog,” she said, eyeing me before she continued. “Do you know what a Blog is?”

I immediately assumed she thought that I was too old to know what a Blog was. Since I had just recently set up my own Blog following advice on how to promote my future book, I huffed and puffed and said rather haughtily, that I have my own Blog, thank you, then turned and marched out the door. Only later did I recognize that was the wrong way to educate the clerk. Now she knew I was not only older but super sensitive. I should have just laughed and told her I had a Blog as if it were no big deal. Then she would be impressed by my age and my poise.

Since it is obvious that I am older, my new tack is to just be me and disregard any real or imagined mannerisms of others that are demeaning. While I don’t shy away from confrontation, and in some instances enjoy the battle, I would have to make an extra attempt to be cordial. Why call attention to my age? Let my actions and accomplishments speak for themselves. Yet another way to handle the age issue.

Now you can see that I am conflicted. Tell my age or not call attention to my age?

A week ago, a woman contacted me via email. She had seen my memoir on the publisher’s website. Could she talk with me about the indie publisher I had chosen? She finished her first memoir and now was exploring options. The memoir was about her grandmother who had sold alcohol during prohibition to support her family. The woman told me that she had written a few professional books and self-published a fiction story. We spent almost an hour discussing the pros and cons of self-publishing versus using my indie publisher.

During our conversation, we never mentioned age. Afterwards, looking over her website, I discovered that she was 82. I was impressed with her vitality, and enthusiasm to get her memoir published and promoted. Oh, to be so cavalier about one’s age! I now know how I will  handle this age issue.

Just ignore it.

 

decisionsright

We Agers Are Experts On Our Own Aging Experience

A fellow nurse clued me into Doris Carnevali’s blog. Here is what a Seattle news station, K5News, wrote about her. Her blog follows.

A retired nurse is helping explain what happens when we grow old. Some of it might surprise you.
Author: Ted Land
Published: 7:10 PM PDT June 5, 2019
Updated: 7:25 PM PDT June 5, 2019
SEATTLE — A 97-year-old blogger is helping explain what happens when we grow old. Some of it might surprise you.
Each morning, Doris Carnevali sits at a desk in her West Seattle home and starts writing.
“The ideas are bubbling in my head between the time I’m asleep and awake,” she said.
She has plenty to say about what it’s like to age and she’s sharing it all on her blog, Engaging With Aging.
“Sure, there are times when I am down, and the 14th thing I drop in a day makes me frustrated as all get out. But on the whole, it is so much more exciting than I ever thought it was going to be,” Carnevali said.
She is retired from the UW School of Nursing and has written medical textbooks. Then at the age of 95, she picked up a new hobby: blogging.
“I had been ranting about the fact that I thought aging had gotten a rotten deal. That it was much more pleasant, exciting, and challenging than I had been led to believe,” she said.
After hearing that rant, the dean of the UW School of Nursing urged her to publish her thoughts. So Carnevali’s granddaughter created a blog account and the words flowed.
Today, she’s written dozens of passages on what she calls age-related changes.
“My hands don’t pick up things the way I used to, do I say I’m losing my hands? No, I’m changing how I use them and that way I don’t get down in the dumps,” Carnevali said.
Engaging With Aging isn’t a how-to advice blog. It’s more of a diary about what she’s going through. If her readers extract lessons, great. If not, the exercise keeps Carnevali sharp.
“I’m still growing, I’m green, I’m inept, I’m clumsy, I’m learning every day, but I’m green, and I’m growing,” she said. “I thought of aging as being grey, no, it’s green.”
She does not shy away from the fact that there will come a day when her hobby is no longer possible.
“When it happens, it happens, and it would be nice if it didn’t, but I’m too busy doing other things to worry about it right now,” she said.

Engaging With Aging

With that expertise come responsibilities

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Many of the people who study old people, theorize and write about us, take care of us, or relate to us are not “old’ themselves. They experience old age second handedly. Earlier in my life as a nurse I often had older patients. As a daughter I shared my parents’ aging. In my 50’s I blithely participated in three editions of a nursing book about caring for the elderly without taking note of myself as the “outsider.”

Now I feel as If I had been a pilot flying over the city of aging, assuming I knew how the residents lived. What an illusion!   It’s not that what I knew, used or wrote about elderly people was inaccurate. But it paid only narrow attention to the significant ways normal aging was changing agers’ capacities to manage their ever-present tasks and relationships. I had looked at them…

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We don’t give a rip what anybody thinks.

I talked to my friend Lois the other day. She was telling me how she is orchestrating a skit for Talent Night at her church. “It’s silly,” she said. “It’s a skit that I have done years ago with my family.” 

What caught my attention was the fact that Lois is selling this idea to a group of similar older folks by asking, “Who can get down on their knees?” Only two out of 10 said they could get down on their knees (and, I suppose could get up again). Well, that was all Lois needed because the skit calls for two folks to be animals. She also told her church group that she is not telling them what the skit is about because they have to be “spontaneous.” On top of that, Lois is working on what the “Choir” will sing. I have the inside scoop that Lois is writing alternative rhymes to common ditties, such as Old MacDonald had a Farm.  

Now think about this, here is a group of elder church members who are willing to participate in a skit when they have no idea what it is about, agree to be spontaneous, get down on their knees in order to be animals, and sing farcical words to familiar melodies in front of the church congregation! 

Lois made the point that at a certain age it no longer bothers us old timers to join in comical entertainment. Why should we care how we are perceived at this late stage of our lives? 

So, when I read Tim Hoyt’s, latest story, Playing with Young Minds, under his weekday missive, Story with Morning Coffee, I thought of Lois and her giddy church group. Tim’s story is silly, too, but underneath the seemingly simplistic premise is a profound lesson about growing older.  

 

Stories for Morning Coffee and No Eggs

 

by Tim Hoyt

~Playing with Young Minds~

“Age is just a number.”  I hear that all the time, mostly from men and women who are doing pretty well in spite of knees that don’t think about running a mile any longer and chests that keep on pumping in and out figuring, with proper attitude, they’ve got plenty more good days.  

“Yeah, and it’s a big number,” I say back to anyone who implies that being eighty-six is anything like being forty-six.  Sometimes, I devise devilish mind experiments with them in giant glass test tubes.   

I understand attitude. Attitude is everything when you’re eighty-six.

I’m Samuel if you want to call me something.  Samuel Perkins.  There are a number of things I like about being old.  I like the respect I get from most young people.  They call me “sir.”  That’s kinda sweet.  In my twisted mind, which is short on synapses and long on memories, “sir” translates to “Yikes-a-geezer.”  But they mean well.  They offer to carry my groceries.  I let them sometimes. Occasionally, when one of their tribe is particularly obsequious, like they’re trying to earn a merit badge or something, I’ll hand them five dollars and say, “Here’s five dollars.  Go turn it into ten dollars.”  Everyone my age got that story beat into them in Sunday School. Youngsters under forty haven’t a clue.  But they leave me alone.  “Yikes-a-geezer” is in a foul mood today, they think, and they walk quickly away, probably rethinking the merit inherent in Social Security and Medicare programs.  

So, what do I want to happen today?  Today, being typical of most days.  I want most days to be atypical.  I want life to jump up and smack my behind and surprise the daylights out of me.  

This past Easter, Patrick, my buddy for so long, we forget how we met (not really – that’s just something we tell the Yikes-a-Geezer crowd) and I walked down Central Street holding hands.  Patrick wore his bunny suit.  He skipped and carried a basket of candy which he passed out to gawking little kids.  I was his handler. Patrick-the-Easter-Bunny, obviously, didn’t talk.   I would say, “Now, now, Easter Bunny, we must visit all the children before midnight.  Dad’s laughed.  Mothers just stared at us with pity.  Kids were delighted. 

Why on earth do we do things like this?  Because we don’t give a rip what anybody thinks.  That’s not entirely true, but it is pretty true.  Patrick and I made our marks.  Each of us got an education, made a good living, married, raised a family, paid the mortgage, volunteered for fund-raisers, and a lot more.  We contributed.

At eighty-four and eighty-six,  Patrick and I are secure in who we are.  The self-doubt boat docks in a younger neighborhood now.  

Now, we can be Easter Bunnies (I wore the suit last year). A few months ago, I was roaming through a re-sale store and spotted an old guitar missing some strings, and a damaged ukulele. Patrick and I put on a street concert.  Our sign said, “Lessons Available, Cheap.”  Such fun.  And no self-consciousness whatsoever.  That ship sailed long ago, too.

Patrick asked me if I would like join him and ride our bicycles in the Naked Pride Parade this year. He’s making that up and he knows I know he’s making it up, but I say, “Sure, what should I not wear?” 

A Long Overdue Thank You

I had finally decided to clean out my office closet. I started with the stuffed cardboard Unknownfile box. The first thing I reached for was a frayed manila envelope. The stack of typed pages spilled out onto the floor. After I read the first two sheets—an early attempt at documenting my nursing life—I knew I was doomed to sit on that floor by the open closet door until I had scrutinized every page. One story especially held a surprise.

In the early 70s, after my husband completed his degree at the University of Chicago, we moved to the far south suburbs where housing costs fit our tight budget. My first job was at a community hospital. Soon after I started, I found out that my salary was the same as a new graduate nurse who had never even done a simple urinary catherization. I, on the other hand, was an experienced ICU nurse. I wrote a letter of complaint and while the Director of Nursing of the hospital commiserated with me, I wasn’t offered a raise. I quit.

I decided to apply for a job at a close-by nursing home in spite of the fact that I thought I was overqualified and working at a nursing home felt demeaning to my young arrogant self. I eventually learned differently.

I wrote about this experience in my memoir:

 

. . .I had worked in a nursing home—a well-run home

with low staff turnover—for a short period of time, but long enough

to savor the slow pace after being an intensive-care nurse for years

before. The residents bestowed many hugs and an occasional slobbery

kiss as I passed out medications on the evening shift.

I had forgotten that experience the day my academic advisor and

I talked about a master’s thesis. In 1979, like most of my classmates, I

wanted to study women—women of child-bearing age. Why did she

think she had to ask me again: “What group do you REALLY enjoy

caring for?” That’s when I remembered the hugs in the nursing home.

At the end of the version of the story about working in a nursing home that had sat in the manila envelope for over 15 years, there was an added comment about Eva Harrison that I hadn’t remembered writing.

Eva Harrison, the nursing home DON, had offered me a salary higher than the one I received from the hospital. She ran a warm and caring facility, valuing her staff and residents alike. I know she felt sad when I left after only six months but a new clinic opened. At the time, I believed that this new job was more prestigious than that of pill pusher in a nursing home.

What I had written was that I wished I had gone back to tell Eva Harrison that my time at her nursing home had so influenced me that when I graduated as a nurse practitioner a few years later, I had declared geriatrics my specialty. Working in a nursing home, Eva Harrison’s nursing home, set me on a career path that would both challenge and reward me.

Thanks, Eva.

 Bedbugs and Friendships

My husband and I went to Charleston last week and came home with bed bugs—maybe. A lovely city, we have been there many times joining friends at the same hotel. This time, after a hiatus of a couple of years, the hotel was looking a bit rough around the edges. Our first room was quite dirty and we had 30 minutes of dumpster noise at 3:00 a.m. We asked for another room.

The next morning my husband came out of the shower complaining of a terrible itch.

“Stop taking daily showers,” I told him. Our usual battle over dry skin and aging.

The next two mornings, after his shower, he had the same rash and extreme itch. During the day both would subside. While driving home, he showed me the “hives.” What was he allergic to?

I had been too preoccupied with my friend’s behavior to be concerned about my husband’s “allergy.” Her short-term memory loss had side tracked my delight in sharing our mini-vacation with our two longtime friends. Sue, I will call her, and I met while working at the same hospital before either of us married. Over the years we shared family vacations, grew older and retired but continued seeing each other at least once a year. Infrequent phone conversations didn’t reveal her problem. However, at dinner that first night, after Sue asked me for the third time if I had heard from a mutual friend, and then forgot where we were going to dinner the following evening after she accompanied me to that restaurant to make the reservation, I became worried.

Conflicted as how to proceed, addressing or not addressing, Sue’s memory issues, my husband and I spent the late evening hours weighing appropriate responses. I had to call attention to my concerns. How could I ignore symptoms that maybe could be reversible?  Sue’s husband seemed untroubled. The last day, Sue didn’t join us to visit the Magnolia Plantation and Gardens due to the unseasonably cold weather. While walking with her husband past the flowering azaleas, I learned how worried he was about his wife. The short-term memory loss started just six months ago. Any concern expressed by him was met with denial and anger from Sue. Would I speak with her? He was grateful.

silhouette-two-elderly-women-who-450w-464229824That last night after dinner, I took Sue’s arm in mine and we navigated the narrow cobblestone sidewalk toward the hotel. “I’m concerned,” I said, pulling her close and looking into her eyes. How often had I had to discuss uncomfortable topics with my patients over the years; how to talk of hopeless scenarios while still giving hope? But this was not a patient-nurse interaction. Would Sue lash out at me for saying she had memory issues, deny any problems or sever our friendship? My words bypassed any resistance. Sue agreed to see her primary provider when she arrived home. If her primary dismissed her concerns, Sue would seek help from a geriatrician who knew to look for changes not necessarily related to aging.

With hugs and tears, we said our good-byes at the end of the evening after I repeated my suggestions to both Sue and her husband. They had to leave earlier than we did the following morning.

After congratulating myself on my successful intervention, I slept soundly.

My daughter came to visit the day we came home. After she listened to her father’s story of his “allergies” and “rash,” she said, “Sounds like bed bugs.”

Yippes. We immediately went into action: suitcases packed in plastic bags and put it the garage, clothes washed in hot water, emailing a friend who I knew had a recent exposure to bed bugs.

I found out that a dirty environment does not always have to be part of the bed bug scenario. They are bugs of opportunity and settle in upholstery like beds and sofas and rugs and chairs.

And the “rash” that still pops up on my husband’s arms and legs can be residual of the first exposure. It can take up to a week for the sites to subside. In the meantime, I have been spared. I am on the lookout for telltale signs of infestation: blood droplets and brown spots on the bed sheets.

I texted Sue to alert her of the bedbugs. When she didn’t respond, I called her. Her voice flat, and her words curt, she cut me off before I was finished with my story.

I sat for a long time with the silent phone in my hand.

From Disengagement to Balance: The Journey to Positive Aging

 

Many of you reading this are not old enough to remember the disengagement theory. When I started out in gerontology in the 80s this was one of three theories of aging I learned about, and the most depressing.

The disengagement theory of aging states that “aging is an inevitable, mutual withdrawal or disengagement, resulting in decreased interaction between the aging person and others in the social system he belongs to”.[1]The theory claims that it is natural and acceptable for older adults to withdraw from society.[2]. . .

Disengagement theory was formulated by Cumming and Henry in 1961 in the book Growing Old, and it was the first theory of aging that social scientists developed.[5]Thus, this theory has historical significance in gerontology. Since then, it has faced strong criticism since the theory was proposed as innate, universal, and unidirectional.[6](Wikipedia)

Thank goodness there were two other theories that challenged disengagement theory: the activity theory and the continuity theory.

I mention the disengagement theory to show how negative attitudes surrounded the elderly from the inception of geriatrics as a medical specialty and how far we have come in understanding the aging process, which, of course, is not a-one-size-fits-all.

It’s been over 50 years since the disengagement theory first described aging. I am witness to the evolution of a more realistic description of the multifaceted components of growing old. I try to blog about uplifting examples of the latter stages of our lives.

Two weeks ago, I spoke about one of my favorite TV shows, Grace and Frankie,women in their 70s (at least when the show started), who are depicted in a positive light. Both are strong, independent, smart, creative and refuse to wear the stereotypical label of “old woman.” The show’s popularity delights me because I can envision an audience that not only enjoys the antics of the women but perhaps is learning that the inevitable losses of growing older are intertwined with pleasurable gains.

Then last week I re-blogged my friend Lois’ post about turning 77 after her husband’s recent death. Another positive take on aging even in the face of loss and grief. She closes her post with this observation: “I thank God for the countless blessings I experienced during this first birthday week of my solo life; there’s more fun to share . . .”

With this week’s post, I’m including a New York Times article about women in their 70s. Is it just me or have you also noticed that older women are getting more positive exposure?

Mary Pipher writes, “We (women in their 70s) can be kinder to ourselves as well as more honest and authentic. Our people-pleasing selves soften their voices and our true selves speak more loudly and more often. We don’t need to pretend to ourselves and others that we don’t have needs. We can say no to anything we don’t want to do. We can listen to our hearts and act in our own best interest. We are less angst-filled and more content, less driven and more able to live in the moment with all its lovely possibilities.” Mary Pipher, “The Joy of Being a Woman in Her 70s,”New York Times, 13 January. 2019: 10.

Pipher’s book, “Women Rowing North: Navigating Life’s Currents and Flourishing as We Age.” is now out in print. I intended to buy a copy.

 

 

 

Growing Older – On Turning 77

My friend, Lois, turns 77 and shares her thoughts on celebrating her birthday without her husband, Marv, and cooking a dinner for her family.

Write Along with Me

“Can I help you?“ a butcher yelled from a packaged meat display.

A few feet away, I was standing, clueless, in front of an impressive array of glass-encased chunks of red meat. “Yes, I guess,” I bellowed back. When he was situated across from me, I asked, “How many pounds of a chuck roast do I need to serve six adults?”

“About three and a half.”

“How long would I have to bake it in the oven?”

After he outlined exact hours and temperatures, I gushed my thanks. “It will be the first roast I’ve made in forty-seven years; I want to impress my family.” After no response, I added, “I’ll take about four pounds; I’ll want left overs.”

As excited as I was to purchase this $25.00 piece of thick, marbled and bladed meat, his bland facial expression told me he was not interested in why it was the…

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Netflix Show Gets Aging Right

I am reblogging this post because Grace and Frankie are coming back this Friday on Netflix with the fifth season. You can bet I will be sitting on my sofa in the TV room ready to laugh, cry and thoroughly enjoy these two older women breaking down the stereotypes of aging. My only problem is how to make Season Five last a really long time.

Nursing Stories

I am thrilled that the third season of Netflix’s Grace and Frankie is finally here. As one of the first gerontological nurse practitioners to be certified by the ANA back in the 60s and now a 70-something woman, I am depressed that the very same stereotyping and dismissal of the aged I first encountered is still happening.

I came across this article by Ann Brenoff who says, “Season 3 of the Netflix series gets a lot right—and it’s funny.”

Read what Brenoff says about the series and how Grace and Frankie attack the entrenched biases that are reflected by laws, business opportunities and interpersonal relationships in our social networks, including family.

Grace and Frankie

LIFESTYLE 

03/30/2017 03:37 pm ET

‘Grace And Frankie’ Totally Nails What It Means To Be Getting Older

Season 3 of the Netflix series gets a lot right — and it’s funny.

By Ann Brenoff

The Netflix

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Nursing Truths for a New Era: Author Interview with Marianna Crane

A serendipitous meeting with Michele Berger reminded me of the long road I traveled conceptualizing, creating, and finally completing my book. Many folks that I met along the way inspired and supported my efforts. Most I never had the chance to thank. Fortunately, now I can tell Michele that her creativity workshop and follow-up coaching encouraged me to stay on track.

Thank you, Michele.

Below is Michele Berger’s recent post spotlighting me and my book.

The Practice of Creativity

Happy new year, everyone! It feels especially poignant to begin the first post of the year with a special Author Q&A. More than a decade ago, before I formally began my coaching practice, I taught creativity workshops at UNC-Chapel Hill’s The Friday Center. They had a thriving adult enrichment program. My classes were popular and I met and coached people from all backgrounds. It is always a delight to run into people many years later and hear about their creative adventures.

Two months ago at the North Carolina Writers’ Conference, out the corner of my I saw a distinguished-looking woman. Her face looked familiar, but I only caught a glimpse before moving on to my next panel. To my great delight and surprise, this same woman came up to me at the reception. We immediately recognized each other. She had taken one of my classes at the Friday Center and…

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SOB SISTERS

Originally posted on April 4, 2012.

Nursing Stories

Thanks to my friend Lois Roelofs and her post “Growing Older In “Style,” I found Ari Seth Cohen, a twenty-eight-year-old who is spotlighting “stylish senior citizens.” Love it. Older women—and men—who ignore the old adage: “dress your age.”

looking good

How come a twenty-eight-year-old man finds older people so fascinating? Well, I was sure there had to be an older role model in his life. And indeed there was—a grandmother. Aha!

Back in the 80s at my first job as a gernotological nurse practitioner, Betty, a social worker, and I conducted monthly orientation sessions about geriatrics for new nursing staff. Geriatrics was a new medical specialty at the time and Betty and I wanted to sensitize the group to aging issues.

Betty had the nurses imagine themselves at different stages of life. Invariably, someone would object to the exercise, not surprisingly, when Betty had them imagine looking at themselves…

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