When I’m 84!


If I am lucky enough to live 20 more years (OMG, that’s a short amount of time), I do not want to:

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  • Shuffle when I walk, with my feet never leaving the ground
  • Have an impossible time rising out of a low chair without gripping onto a stationary structure
  • Wear clothes with food stains
  • Have a hunched back
  • Eat dinner at 4:30
  • Have three hairs on my head and no desire to do anything about it.
  • Have a crotchety disposition
  • Wear makeup that looks like a two-year old applied it
  • Have a tummy that makes me look like I’m the oldest living pregnant woman in the history of the world
  • Stand at a supermarket, drug store, or any other checkout counter and keep the whole line waiting while I figure out where my money is
  • Lose complete interest in what’s happening in the world
  • Dread walking up and down steps
  • Smell old
  • Feel old
  • Think old

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I see far too many people in their 80s who have one or more of these characteristics or behaviors and I’m stymied what’s happened to them. Did they stop caring because their minds are dull? Do they move so slowly because they didn’t do a thing to keep their muscles strong and their cores centered as they aged? Do they lack mental energy because they stopped challenging themselves decades ago?

Will a woman who is energetic her whole life be more likely to stay energetic than a low-energy woman? Will a woman who cared how she looked when she was 20, 30, 40, 50 and 60 care as much how she looks when she’s 80?

I sometimes reflect back to the way I looked and acted when I was 40, and although I had more hair in my head, more spring in my step and more cellulite, I still believe I am a vibrant 65 year old. I don’t look nearly as gorgeous as I did back then (just kidding), but I don’t look or behave like a geezer, either.

If I ever do, someone please tell me!

73 Responses to “When I’m 84!”

  1. Rachel says:

    I have one more to add to your list.

    I hope I don’t discuss my bowel habits with my children as if that is as normal as discussing the weather.

    REPLY
    • Geri says:

      Hi Rachel,

      I don’t know whether to laugh or cry by your comment. So I’ve decided to laugh. I completely agree. I hope I don’t either, although knowing my kids, they won’t listen for long 🙂

      G

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  2. Simone says:

    What a great post. However, the couple in the photo look like they’re in their late 90’s.

    My Mother just turned 87, and sadly suffered from a stroke last year and now lives (hopefully temporarily) in a nursing home. The stroke has left her half paralyzed and only able to speak a few words.
    We can’t control what happened to her, and we’re doing our best to get her better.
    But let me tell you what she looks like:
    There’s a beatuy salon on the premises and she has her hair done weekly, and her roots done monthly, so she’s a gorgeous brunette.
    I do her nails, and bring her polish choices.
    We go shopping at the mall and she picks out pretty clothes. The only time she wears sneakers is for therapy. Other times, she’s in rubber soled loafers in beautiful metallic colors – chic and casual.
    For obvious reasons, she’s not wearing her good jewelry, but we buy her some fun costume jewelry so she has earrings and necklaces to match her outfits.
    She wears gorgeous gold rimmed eyeglasses studded w/ crystals daily.
    She wears red lipstick, and makes sure her thinning eyebrows are filled in.
    She gets crazy if her aid puts socks on her that don’t match her outfit.
    Everyone thinks she’s in her 70’s, and I saw a guy in his 80’s flirting with her during her physical therapy session.
    Her posture is perfect when she’s helped out of her wheelchair.
    She laughs at jokes, and smiles at everyone.

    Before her stroke, at 86, she:
    Played golf, went to the gym, went to parties & out to dinner about 3 times a week.
    Drove her car.
    Had her hair done weekly.
    Was in a book club.
    Wore Manolo Blahnick heels, and Prada loafers.
    Wore Tahari pants and tops, St, John Suits, carried Louis Vuitton and Prada handbags.
    Didn’t go out without some makeup and perfume.
    Came with me to Paris once a year.Went on a cruise w/ me 3 months before the stroke and stayed out with me dancing at the disco until 1:00AM.
    Had perfect posture.
    People thought she was in her late 60’s.
    She never had any plastic surgery.

    Unless illness and/or physical limitations come about, I think people who act old acted old at a young age. I’m 58, and last week someone thought I was in my mid 30’s.

    REPLY
    • Geri says:

      Hi Simone (my daughter’s name is Simone)

      Bless your mother. I love her!

      And I love your last two lines.

      Geri

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  3. pia says:

    My mother disliked fat people. She hated sloppiness. Well she never became fat but she did have a small tummy that was the bane of her existence. She had one of the earliest known cases of macular degeneration despite her having eaten right, didn’t smoke, barely drank, was very sociable–worked most of her life because she wanted to.

    When my sister or I would visit her we would have to inspect her clothes for stains. Spent hours doing something beyond boring when we could have been enjoying each others company. Sometimes you have to go with the stain

    I didn’t find your post humorous. We all joke about nursing homes and aging–I’m actually a geriatric social worker turned writer. But each point you picked is something somebody somewhere is very ashamed of

    It became harder and harder for my mother to go out for meals–and we were a meet in restaurants kind of family because she didn’t want people to see her perhaps missing her mouth and hitting her clothes

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    • Geri says:

      Hello Pia,

      I didn’t write my post to be funny, or judgmental, so I’m glad you didn’t find it funny. I simply want to avoid some of the more unpleasant characteristics of old age IF I CAN. Of course, I may not be able to avoid them, in which case, I’ll probably be just like your mother.

      I think you and your sister did a nice thing to spend time “inspecting” your mom’s clothes. She didn’t want to accept the stain, which was her right. She probably wouldn’t have enjoyed your company if she thought she was untidy.

      Best,
      Geri

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  4. Linda says:

    I came back to this particular blog to read comments added since I posted mine. I totally got what you were going for in your blog and it was humorous. It didn’t really seem “mean-spirited” until I read posts stating that point of view. A girlfriend of mine tells me that when she ends up in the “home” she’s gonna have Jazzy races up and down the halls with the other residents. The reality is most likely that will never happen, even if she does end up there. But it’s all in the spirit of fun. She is almost 68 and considering retiring later this year. She does have some medical problems that might compromise her aging but her spirit is very young. Her 33 yr old son says what surprises him most is when she does something that is age-appropriate, since she really does act and think much younger than one might imagine. If one is fortunate to be healthy and kicking at 80, bless you. My dad (finally) retired at 80… going on 86 he’s wishing he never left.

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  5. Geri says:

    Hello Dee,

    Again, I’m sorry you thought I was accusing people with disabilities, victims of stokes or cancer patients of not taking care of themselves as they should. My blog had nothing to do with that. Some took care of themselves, some did not, but that wasn’t even remotely the point of my blog.

    By the way, my aunt who had cancer NEVER went to a doctor and DIDN’T take care of herself. I encouraged her to have a colonoscopy when she was 81 and the only reason she did was because she thought something could be wrong. It was too late. If she had had the test a few years before, they would have discovered the cancer in her rectum and she’d probably be alive today. I never understood why she didn’t ever go to the doctor.

    Of course, I can’t know the reason why some older people are hunched over, crotchety or shuffling. My point was that I want to take care of myself THE BEST WAY I KNOW HOW and HOPE that it will help me grow older ELEGANTLY. I’m not foolish enough to believe that all people who take care of themselves when they’re younger are lucky enough to avoid bad things when they age.

    And if I am beset by problems I can’t help, I will deal with them.

    Again, I wasn’t judging anyone. However, you’ve clearly judged me.

    Geri

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    • Linda says:

      I came back to this particular blog to read comments added since I posted mine. I totally got what you were going for in your blog and it was humorous. It didn’t really seem “mean-spirited” until I read posts stating that point of view. A girlfriend of mine tells me that when she ends up in the “home” she’s gonna have Jazzy races up and down the halls with the other residents. The reality is most likely that will never happen, even if she does end up there. But it’s all in the spirit of fun. She is almost 68 and considering retiring later this year. She does have some medical problems that might compromise her aging but her spirit is very young. Her 33 yr old son says what surprises him most is when she does something that is age-appropriate, since she really does act and think much younger than one might imagine. If one is fortunate to be healthy and kicking at 80, bless you. My dad (finally) retired at 80… going on 86 he’s wishing he never left.

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  6. Rosie says:

    Interesting discussion. I live right outside of Manhattan and 4 months of the year in a condo on the West Coast of Fl. Florida has a lot of senior citizens & I have some observations about what makes some seem so cranky & old. For the record I am 65.

    Many seniors here look great & seem to take care of themselves (with help from plastic surgeons and dermatologists). A good percentage are not overweight (particularly the women) It is their attitude – they are not open to anything new, its the same restaurants they frequent (yes they eat early & like to leave the restaurants by about 8pm. Adventourous food is considered French or Italian – I once mentioned Viet Namese or Thai as a dining possiblity & you thought I suggested something bizarre. They schedule their lives – 2 – 3x a week golf(always the same golfing buddies) Dinner at 6:30 – cocktails at 5:30. Travel in May or
    Sept.. Its always the same week – over & over again.

    We have a really good venue for live stage shows & a great orchestra & I cannot tell you how many times people (always senior seniors) get up before the performance is done to run to their cars to beat what they consider traffic. So rude I cannot stand it. I will not go to the Naples Philharmonic any longer for that reason. They drive int he dark in the Winter to get to the Philharmonic, so its not about leaving before its gets dark & their ability to see at night.

    Most of our fender-benders (we have many) & worse here, are not during the pm but during the day. That is a whole other issue & discussion for another time.

    Most have travelled but when I ask where- it is usually a Mediterranean Cruise or Tauck tours. And they were done when they were in their 50’s, 60’s & 70’s.

    My son who is 37 lives in Brooklyn & is a vegetarian. Vegetarianism is looked up as weird, here.
    My future son-in-law who works at a presitgious university in NYC has couple of degrees &a couple of tattoos on his arm – you should have heard the comments about the tatoos (they saw him swimming in the condo pool).

    Diversity in anything is a challenge to many of them. It may be that the baby boomers were brought up so differently, our aging will be easier (I sincerely hope so).

    Our four best FL friends are two couples who are about 75 and act at least 10 – 20 years younger – it is their young attitude & open minds that make them seem so much younger & sense of adventure & trying new things.

    I think it also helps to surround yourself with younger people – its leads to very interesting conversations – of course you have to keep abreast of what they are reading, watching & listenting to.

    Like I said I am generalizing about some.healthy senior seniors who even though they look pretty good; act so old & annoying by their attitude & their unwillingness to look at things from a different point of view. They like the same old same old.

    We still keep the condo in Fl. because it was bought so long ago & we do enjoy getting away from the harsh NY winters. We love the beach & are boaters, so we try to find people that are fun to be with & make us not afraid of getting older. And yes there are lots of them.

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  7. Kate Petersen says:

    Oh dear! I am only 76 and every now and again I have been all those unfavourable things plus I forget my teeth! Being old is not a worse situation than being young. People are definitely kinder to me than when I was beautiful and quick. They look at me in a gentler more forgiving way and this despite the fact that I still am opinionated, very loud when necessary and technologically moronic. And stubborn (they say) yet everyone I smile at smiles back and I have time to make “newbestfriends” at bus stops. Mostly I pretty my face and search for harmony in my clothes before I go out; but it is such a relief not to be weighed down by beauty and the best part is, Everyone else is beautiful now because they are younger and it’s such a pleasure to look at them

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  8. Deborah Shirley says:

    Geri,

    I understand what you are trying to relate to us, because I was becoming one of the people you do not want to ever be, and I began to realize I had to change. I was actually younger than 60 when I became that old person; but I had already gone through so much that my “Real Life” real age was 117.

    I was widowed at 40, with three sad, angry, willful daughters aged 11, 9, and 8, to raise. My parents and only brother were deceased. Our only extended family was my in-laws who blamed me for my husband’s suicide; and were angry I would not move my family to a different state to live by them, so they threatened to break my family apart.I was constantly fighting off their hateful words and meanness.

    At 49 I had my first heart attack, followed by breast cancer at 52 and a tumor in my head at 53. I had 16 stents placed in my right coronary artery, that eventually completely blocked, so I had to have quadruple bypass at 58, when I was also diagnosed a diabetic. The bypass arteries also blocked entirely, but my body grew a corollary artery; and that, along with medication, help me continue to live.

    Arthritis is at home in several areas of my body; and I needed a knee replacement over five years ago, but my heart doctor would not allow it.

    In pain and feeling fatigued, I became more and more unhappy, lazy, overweight, cranky, opinionated, negative and alone. I had become a hermit with food stains on her clothes. I did not even like to be with myself.

    I recognized I had to change as much about myself as I possibly could. I wanted to help myself have as quality a life as possible; and to be more welcome in the company of others.

    I had quit smoking in 2008; and now I had to quit eating, and I needed to get rid of other bad habits. I was hooked on Cokes, but I quit drinking them; I began counting, and regulating, my carbohydrate intake. I also got on a better sleep schedule, started walking and participating in water aerobics, at a local gym.

    I got out a little more; and even though I still lived on a restricted income, I would just window-shop or people watch, or go to the library or bookstore and read awhile. I am writing and reading more now; and I feel purpose once again.

    After I lost 48 pounds, I felt better physically and mentally; and people I care about saw a pleasant change in me.

    Now I am a sixty three year old happier person, who possesses an amazing view of something I had not seen in quite a while: a future.

    I do not want to be that old person again, no matter how long I am blessed to live. I will do all I can to keep from acting as old as I may get; I applaud you for doing your best to participate in life your way; and I pray if either of us do stumble from our desired course, we will be forgiven because we have done our best.

    REPLY
    • Geri says:

      Deborah,

      You must send me your photo so I can post your story on my blog!

      ox Geri

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    • Norma Byrd says:

      Where to begin with the applause? I can’t tell you how much I do congratulate you for not just the physical changes, but for the mental changes. You’ve overcome SO MUCH and have done such a generous thing in sharing your experience. For those of us who think we’ve got problems, just reading what you’ve been through should make us jump up and down for joy, even if the up isn’t very far and the down has to hurt somewhere. Thank you, thank you, and keep up the great work.

      Norma

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      • Deborah Shirley says:

        Dear Norma,

        Thank you for your kind words of approval and encouragement! So often the acts of showing approval and encouragement are withheld from people; and I find them as important to our attitudes and growth, as breathing in fresh air. I am so thankful to be a happier, more pleasant lady; and I wish this for all who are growing older like me.

        You sound so pleasant and happy; and I pray you always will be!

        Debbie

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    • Lori Miller says:

      Dear Norma,

      GOOD FOR YOU! What an inspiration you are and stand proud that you’ve overcome so much. God only gives us as much as we can handle so you must be a very special individual in His eyes. I read your story today as I sit with a wrenched neck and moaning how I’m ‘getting old’ – and realized it was just negative energy that had invaded me.

      Thank you!

      Lori

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      • Lori Miller says:

        This was to Debra!!! My bad! (I liked your posting too Norma, just meant to address my response to Debra.)

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        • Deborah Shirley says:

          Dear Lori,

          I am sorry to hear you are in pain with a wrenched neck. I sincerely appreciate your uplifting and thoughtful words to me! I do hope in my older, more mature years, I will be kinder; a better mother, grandmother, and friend; and a more positive inspiration to others. May you have more days of positive energy than negative; and I hope you feel better soon.

          Deborah

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  9. Joan says:

    The trouble with e-mails and articles like yours is that we can only see the written words – not the body language and the little smile upon your face.
    If we don’t all take a humorous look at what is to come and how can we make the best of a difficult situation. I am 69 and very active but I count calories every day and push myself to walk 5 times a week. I do not intend to grow old gracefully. I will fight it every step of the way. A good attitude, attention to your personal care, proactive about your health and a sense of humor is essential to a healthy growth and age. I am currently the sole care giver for my 94 year old mother that takes 24 hour attention. If she had not had a series of strokes she would still be living alone, dressing up to go shopping and out to lunch and handling all her own affairs as an independent strong women.
    Thank you for your insightful article.

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  10. Veronica says:

    Perhaps some people don’t have the income to worry about their hair or go to a doctor and get all the relief they need. Or perhaps they are already on so many meds that they don’t want to take any more. I would have loved to have my mother in her eighties being crotchety, looking old and feeling old. I probably won’t live till my eighties but it’s okay because I am already crotchety and dread walking up steps after spending thirty years working on my feet all day – in a few nursing homes and hospitals!

    REPLY
    • Geri says:

      Hi Veronica,

      A few thoughts in response to your comment:

      I agree about the income, but I wasn’t covering all the world in the blog. I don’t like the look of thinning hair, so if i couldn’t afford a wig, I would wear a scarf.

      Katherine Hepburn could afford surgery, but she chose instead to wear turtlenecks to hide her sagging neck.

      Vogue writes about clothes and doesn’t address homeless people who have no clothes.

      Geri

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      • Robin Meyers says:

        Gerri,

        Your blog is humorous and I can relate–I am 56 with an unwanted accessory–defibrillator/pacemaker. Still I hope to do the best I can with what I’ve got, in other words I make an effort to look good inside and out.

        I think what people are responding to is your response to their response. Unfortunately, I live in Miami, so turtlenecks are not an option.

        To those who misunderstood you, I would quickly acknowledge they have a point without the pedantic need to be right. I don’t know much about you, but needing to justify yourself over and over is “old lady like.” Generosity of spirit is needed in this dialogue.

        P.S. my mom is 78 and is fabulous and would agree with all that you hope not to be.

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  11. Barbara Greene says:

    Geri’s article on reaching age 84, I found rather distastful and judgmental. Totally lacking is understanding and compassion of elders. What goes around comes around something for Geri to think about for her future.

    Disappointed in Geri’s rather harsh tone and view.

    REPLY
    • Geri says:

      Hi Barbara,

      I’m sorry you read the column this way, which was not at all how it was intended. I surely do not put those with disabilities into the equation, and don’t believe I implied otherwise. I have compassion and understanding for people who cannot help themselves, whether they are young, old or in between. I don’t have it for people who can help themselves and don’t.

      I think Connie’s views echo my own well.

      I am not wishing harm on anyone.

      Geri

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  12. Connie says:

    Geri,
    I’m glad you addressed the negavtive comments towards you. I orginally read this yesterday before the comments were added and didn’t misunderstand at all! I knew what you were saying and agreed with you 100%. It’s possible that it struck a cord with me because I just came back from 3 days visiting my inlaws who are 82 and 87. It is unpleasant to spend time with them because they are exactly what you describe. Even though I’m 64, I’ve only been in the family for 11 years, so I didn’t know them when they were younger. Yes, my mother-in-law was diagnosed with a pain condition several years ago, but there are drugs and treatments that will help and she has chosen not to do any of the things her doctors have advised. She would rather fight with the doctors and suffer and complain. She is difficult, cranky and combative and doesn’t find anything nice to say about anything. My impression is that she is bitter and angry about something; maybe from the past. She and my father-in-law bicker and fight constantly. There’s so much more to say since I just returned, but not enough room here. Oh, and there’s no Dementia…they are still mentally sharp. Anyway, I only spend time with them because they are my husband’s parents. I would not be friends with them otherwise and I do have older friends who are quite different and I love spending time with them. Especially in this second half of my life, I want to spend my time with positive and enjoyable people. I don’t believe I’m judging, only stating facts. I’m also qualified to comment on some of this since my background is in Psychology, pharmaceuticals and now as a Certified Life Coach working with those over the age of 50. Anyway, my inlaws are my role models for how I DO NOT want to age.

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  13. celeste says:

    Wow. I am shocked at how commenters are attacking you. With judgment and vitriol, the same thing they accuse you of! Calm down people. The blog post didn’t judge anyone or have anything to do with whether older people are “nice” or deserve compassion. It’s about observing people around us and making decisions about how we want to live our own lives.

    I agree with everything in the list, which is why I exercise, cook at home and watch my calories. Many others do not, and it is no surprise that here in my late 40s, I have peers who can barely get around now. Who knows what their mobility will be like when we hit 80? Much of this, you CAN do something about.

    I will add to the list. I will use a hearing aid if I need one. I will stop driving when I am no longer a safe driver, and no trying to fool myself. I will use a cane or a walker if I need one, no stubborn denials.

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    • Geri says:

      Hi Celeste,

      So well said. Brilliant!!!!! I appreciate it. I’m baffled why some women became so angry when I didn’t have an ounce of anger towards anyone when I wrote the column.

      This has to do with MY life, for sure. I may develop a disability that prevents me from walking, talking, seeing or some other god awful thing. But I would not let any of it DEFINE my life. If I was going to do that, I’d rather end my life.

      Geri

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      • Dee S says:

        I felt anger in your column. You wrote it with a ‘blame-the-victim mentality’ and I thought it was quite disdainful. And, Celeste, how can you say that the blog post didn’t judge anyone? It judged ALL those people who may suffer from those maladies. And if you use a walker or a cane when you are older, Geri would probably judge you as to why you did not do more quad exercises in your youth. Even though you may be using that cane because a stroke left you partially paralyzed when you are 84.

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      • Judi says:

        WOW just stumbled on this site,,,,was so excited to see one devoted to women over 50, but think I’ll pass on this. Everyone seems so bitter. One more annoying thing about getting old, I guess:)

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  14. Dee S says:

    I think this was a cruel and judgmental article. The fact of the matter is that life can and does throw many people curveballs. Heart attacks, stroke, cancer and other serious illnesses and diseases can and do happen to people who are healthy and vital and take good care of themselves.

    If the time comes that you are in your 80s and visit a grocery store after you have been left partially paralyzed by a stroke and I (who will be in my 60s at that time) happen to be standing behind you in line, I will not judge you because of your hunched back and your tummy bulge. Nor will I become angry that it is taking you some time to find your money to pay the cashier. In fact, if I see you holding onto the grocery cart to steady yourself while you shuffle your feet to exit the store, I will help you to your car. Because I have compassion. And understanding. Apparently, you never will and that is very sad.

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    • Geri says:

      Hi Dee,

      Of course I’ll have compassion. I wasn’t talking about people who have heart attacks, strokes, cancer or otherwise. My aunt had Stage 4 colorectal cancer for three years and I was her primary caregiver and helped her live those three years gracefully and as happy as she could be. She didn’t want to be looked at as a victim of cancer and neither would I.

      If I am partially paralyzed when I’m 84, I will deal with it as gracefully as I can and won’t fiddle for my money and leave you waiting in line behind me. I will go to the store when there is no one in line.

      I help people who WANT my help. There are blind people who get angry when you ask to help them because they want to be considered independent. That’s how I hope I’ll be. If I cannot be independent, I will decide the best way to live my life without imposing on anyone.

      Geri

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      • Dee S says:

        It seems as if you have it all figured out, Geri, including going to the market in the middle of the night when nobody is there (I hope you will have great eyesight in your 80s and live in a very safe neighborhood!) and even though you wrote an article stating that you would never be all those things at 84, not once did you state in the article that you understand that there are things beyond our control that can and do happen that can make a person like the person you described. It seems that others are giving anecdotal evidence, so I guess I will follow suit. My mother was the epitome of wonderful health until she got breast cancer in both breasts at 82. She has always been thin, exercised, took wonderful care of herself and never ate any junk food. I have never even seen her eat a potato chip. But, once she became ill and went through chemo and three surgeries, well, she became more like the person on your list. My father, who was another health nut, was a lifeguard and died of a brain aneurysm at 54. If he had lived, he would have been rendered paralyzed or partially paralyzed. And the idea that someone like you may have looked at both of them, thinking, why can’t they get up and down out of their chair easily? Did they not pay any attention to their core when they younger?, is really illogical and mean-spirited. You said you took care of your aunt who had cancer. I am assuming that she was not in beautifully glowing health during that time. Did you think to yourself that if she had only taken better care of herself she would not have had cancer? I am only going by what you wrote. If, as a writer, you did not chose to clarify yourself better about such a hot-button topic, you should not lay the blame on the way some of us are perceiving what you wrote. I find it interesting that I am in my 40s and yet I seem to have more compassion and understanding about growing older than many of the women in their 60s who are championing what you wrote. The fact of the matter is that many people have wonderful health until their 80s and 90s. And the reason that they no longer have good health may not have anything at all to do with how they took care of themselves when they were younger. Cancer, strokes and heart disease regularly happen to people who are lean, fit, exercise, eat healthfully and have never smoked or drank. It happened to my mother as it happens to millions of other people. I would venture to say that most elderly people go through a few years of poor health and may suffer through some of the problems on your list before they die. Nobody gets out of here alive, you know. And to coin a Yogi Berra-like phrase; everything is great, until it isn’t.

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  15. Karen Cunningham says:

    I read somewhere that Tolstoy once said, “Old age is the biggest surprise of a man’s life.” I think we can add, of a woman’s, too. Your article lacks compassion. .Part of the surprise is that the most unexpected things start to happen to us. I try to exercise and eat sensibly, but can’t control genetics or past accidents and illnesses. Nature will have the last word.

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    • Geri says:

      Hi Karen,

      I was talking about myself. No one else. As I said in one of my other responses, I have compassion for people who cannot help themselves. If someone is in a wheel chair and acts like a monster, I don’t have compassion just because they’re in a wheelchair.
      If someone is blind and gets mad at me if I want to help them across the street (that happens in NY all the time), I actually understand how they feel.

      Unexpected things surely happen, like having a harder time rising from low chairs. That disturbed me but I did not and will not give into it. I am taking Pilates and can rise more easily than I was able to one year ago. Do I have compassion for someone who can’t rise from a low seat and needs my help getting up? I do. I just don’t want to be that person if I can help it.

      It is interesting to me how one group of women interpreted the column so wildly different than another group.

      Best,
      Geri

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  16. Susan Proffitt says:

    I am surprised that you actually published this. The level of vitriol cruelly apparent thinly conceals a huge self-dissatisfaction, and one reason many of us FOF’s vist this site is for the sense of self-validation and value that we feel, regardless of our perceived age. Nice people come in all sorts of packages. Additionally, things happen, such as herniated discs and spinal stenosis, to fashionable, intellectually-curious people too. Geri, reread your post a couple of times, visit your mother/aunt/beloved neighbor, and write an addendum.

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    • Geri says:

      Hi Susan,

      Please read my response to Dee. I can’t visit my mother or aunt, because they’re gone, but I’d like to tell you about a former neighbor, Esther, who lived alone and was 93 when she died. She was my friend.

      She was elegant, well-groomed, articulate, independent, intelligent, a great mother and grandmother. If I can live to 93 and be like Esther, I’ll be thrilled.

      I wasn’t writing about people who can’t be like Ester for any number of reasons. I was writing about people who CAN be like Esther and saying that I will strive for that.

      I have no vitriol whatever for people who don’t help themselves but can. I just don’t want to be like them.

      Some great looking, healthy “old” people are mean as hornets and some disabled older people are saints. My blog had nothing to do with that. Self-validation, as far as I’m concerned, has nothing to do with age, size, thin hair or herniated discs. My blog wasn’t about niceness v meanness.

      I’m sorry you perceived all these evil things about me.

      Geri

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  17. Anne says:

    Wow, do you judge much?

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  18. Soledad says:

    There’s no reason to think you will not be vibrant into your 80s unless something drastic happens. I worked at a nursing home for 6.5 years and have studied gerontology. People typically do not change much as they age. If a person did not take care of themselves when they were younger, then of course there will be consequences to that. If you have always been physically active, have good social support, etc. it’s unlikely that would change much. Just to give you an example. We had a woman in our facility who was in her 80s who was still active before she came to us. She used to ride her bike every day, etc. She wound up getting hit by a car while cycling one day and after her hospital stay came to us for rehab. Unfortunately, she did not really improve much; never able to go back home and be independent again. That’s one example of a drastic change. But it was something beyond her control. Just keep yourself active, take care of your body, and have a good social support system. There are no guarantees, but there is plenty you can do to ensure a healthier old age than others you have seen. So I pretty much agree with Linda’s post. Be well!

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  19. Linda says:

    By the virtue of some disability and illness, some folks are not able to be up and about at 84. Some folks won’t make it to 84 alive. But, to the best of our ability we need to realize that all things being equal we need to treat ourselves right, eat right, stay mentally and physically active, no smoking… you know the drill. I work as a non-medical person with an office in the local emergency room. I noticed the other night out of 16 rooms/patients, only four were older than me. I am 61. There but for the grace of God go I. I think I have a slight advantage… I KNOW I have osteoporosis, so I do what I can for that, and will do what I can to avoid a fall… even hanging on to the railings on stairways (I love it when they have ’em on both sides). I have a genetic history of a long healthy life… I’ll try to keep up. Whatever my physical condition may be, I want to be the best that I can be. That’s all any of us can do.

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  20. Jane says:

    My mother turned 84 last April. At 83, she was mowing the lawn and planting perennials, painting fences, sewing quilts, walking 3 miles a day and always wearing belts to show off her cute figure. She bought only fresh fruits and vegetables and made salmon at least once a week. She needed no medication. Never missed a birthday card to any of her grand and great grandchildren. She also cared 24/7 for my dad, who has Parkinsons. and a weak heart. Within a year, she has become exactly what you describe, minus the makeup application, because she can no longer apply it. She was diagnosed with Parkinsons and even with medication needs a walker. I am astounded at your article’s assumption that people with disabilities in old age haven’t taken care of themselves and deserve the consequences.

    REPLY
    • Geri says:

      Hi Jane,

      you are certainly right. i wasn’t at all thinking of people with disabilities, but about people who give in and give up to old age.

      i am sorry if my blog implied that to you and I wish your mom well.

      Geri

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      • Dee S says:

        I’m really surprised that you were not thinking of people with disabilities and illnesses when you wrote the article. Perhaps writing another article in response to this would help clarify your point.

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  21. Marsha Calhoun says:

    I try to strike a happy medium between resisting the aging process with all my might, kicking and screaming and struggling, and giving up caring about how I look and resisting the practices that will probably keep me feeling better longer.

    There is something pathetic about some of my friends who are terrified of aging and will do whatever it takes to disguise it (by the way, they aren’t succeeding in any reasonable proportion to the amount of money they are spending in this effort).

    There is also something pathetic about other friends who just shrug and assume that age inevitably brings pain and ugliness (it might, but I know there is a lot I can do preemptively to head these things off, if I take the time and trouble to do so).

    I like the idea of accepting my age, and then defining what that age is in my own way – I’ll never again look like I did at 21, and it would be weird if I did, but that doesn’t mean I can’t find something else to like about how I look now (not my neck, though – I really don’t like that). And there is more to life than looks – which I know better now that I am older.

    I like your focus on health, and I also like your willingness to say what many of us only think. It’s refreshing.

    REPLY
    • Norma Byrd says:

      Marsha, I love what you’ve said and how you said it! I especially like your attitude on being the age you are (but knowing that age is a mental condition as much as physical or chronological!) A long time ago I learned about the art of positive self programming, and found that it goes a long way toward protecting me from the ravages of disease and age. When I first read that over 80% of all illnesses are psychosomatic I started inputting positive mental statements about my health being excellent. OF COURSE, there are some things we can’t ignore and among those are that our old parts take a lot of beating over a lifetime and some simply start to wear out (see my earlier comment). No one disparages those of us who have experienced some of those breakdowns. But let’s all try to keep an upbeat attitude and be happy with what we have and make the best of the time we have to use it.

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  22. belindabg says:

    Wow, this article really hurt my feelings. I’m only 51, but with a herniated disc in L5-S1 and sciatica all the way down my right leg into my foot (and told my insurance won’t cover the surgery needed to fix it), along with a temporarily torn meniscus in my left knee, I’m moving pretty slowly these days and it’s because I HURT.
    I think this article was terribly insensitive, we don’t move slowly or ‘shuffle’ because we want to or because we don’t care about how we look – but there are so many people in SO MUCH PAIN, it’s a major effort just getting out of bed, getting dressed, and greeting the day, regardless of how much hair we are blessed to have ‘left’ on our heads or how well we are able to navigate up and down steps!!
    I currently take several medications for pain, none of which work very well, and find it IMPOSSIBLE to locate a compassionate OLDER Doctor with some EMPATHY for my condition – all I get is young medical students from foreign countries on this ‘health’ plan from my Employer – who is also insensitive to the condition of our older, bodily ‘compromised’ co-workers.
    If you honestly think it’s a person’s ‘choice’ to live in the ways in which you described, you should spend some time speaking with those folks and getting to know them ‘up close and personal’, Geri. I’ll bet your opinions would CHANGE.
    – Still hurting and insulted in Arizona

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  23. Robin McGann says:

    Geri,
    No one actually WANTS to become old and decrepit but illness and injury can take such a toll on one’s body and mind that one can fall into that pit quite easily. Your eyesight fails so you can’t SEE the food stains, you’ve broken a bone so that stairs are a problem, a host of diseases assail you that no amount of prior exercise or healthy diet can abate. Alzheimer’s takes your mind and your brain, Arthritis takes your movement, etc. I watched my mom and dad fail due to miserable diseases and I’m working like heck to do what I can do avoid those pitfalls. As for crotchety?? Pain makes one crotchety, but so does the modern “me first” world where common decency and courtesy are being replaced by a pervading self-centered rudeness.

    And dinner at 4:40? Bring it on! If you are up early, you eat dinner early. As I live in California but work on New York time, I’ve been ready for the early-bird specials my entire career!

    A lot of it is just plain luck-of-the-draw.

    REPLY
    • Geri says:

      Hi Robin,

      How right–and articulate–you are!

      Geri

      REPLY
      • Robin Meyers says:

        Thank you for your response–Here’s to looking as good as we can! As I tell my daughters, “Let me get my makeup on, I don’t want to frighten small children.”

        I am going to ignore what, I believe, is a big dose of sarcasm.

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  24. Hallie says:

    When I turned 60 I realized (happily) that I could easily have another 60 years left to live, what with my good genes and the advancements in medical science over the next 60 years. The only thing that will take me down will be not looking both ways when I cross the street! Yippee!

    To relaunch the 2nd 1/2 of my life, I have trained with Team in Training and walked 2 marathons, started my Leg Luxury designer tights business, am a new grandmother and birth coach for my single mom daughter, and am helping my disabled brother learn to talk more understandably (and have him in new hearing aids and in speech classes at the local university). I’ve stopped worrying about prepaid cremation and long term care. But then, I’m just a “toddler” and loving the adventure that life is!

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  25. Norma Byrd says:

    I don’t see Geri’s comments as mean! Rather I know she’s trying to nudge us into realizing that what we do (or don’t do) now is going to affect us in ten or twenty or thirty years. One thing I’ve come to realize is that the original Engineer of the human body did excellent R&D and produced a perfect plan, however, for some reason He cheaped out on the parts. I believe He was provided inferior and rebuilt elements (probably came from a union shop) and that’s why they just don’t last, so we really need to keep the machinery well-oiled and in good repair to get the mileage we hope for. There’s one good point though—at least some of the parts are recyclable if you’ve got that little sticker on the back of your driver’s license that says you’re an organ donor! God bless us all, and thanks Geri.

    REPLY
    • Geri says:

      Thank you so much, Norma. I certainly did not intend to be mean spirited at all. To the contrary, I look at some older people and it saddens me. I am closer to death than to birth and I’d like to look and live as vibrantly as possible till my last breath.

      I know there are many things we can’t control, no matter how much we may want to. It’s those things we can that I’m addressing.

      ox G

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  26. Debra S says:

    We do have to FIGHT mother nature with all our knowledge and strength of will, I agree!!! We must do what we can to stay healthy, so we CAN keep moving at 84. My father is a great example of what 84 can look like. He can even go and do DisneyWorld with some of the grandkids yet. Sure, he likes to sit down a bit more than us younger stuff does, and after dinner- he wants to rest, BUT SO DO I. LOL And I’m not yet 60!

    Dad does light weight training, stretches, and he walks a LOT each day. Tells us we best do the same!

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  27. Chris says:

    I think the article is a great wakeup call for those of us 50+; I just turned 6o this summer and I look very youthful for my age (good genetics and sunscreen!); however, I’m ‘stepping it up’ and knocking off 30 pounds, and reinvigorating my gym routine and ‘making plans’ – ie thinking about how I want the next few decades to play out. I’ve just recently run into 4 different women in their late 80s who are vibrant, travel all over the world, and are engaged in life….that’s a choice we can all make for ourselves; our health is predominately determined by how we live our younger years – exercise, eating right, and caring enough to not go the ‘mom jean’ route. It gets harder the older we get, but it’s all a choice.

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  28. Debra @ Blue Raven Wellness says:

    I can see Elizabeth’s point, but I also think it’s important to consciously strive for health and vibrant energy as we age, to whatever extent that’s possible. And I believe it is possible to a greater degree than most people think. Aging does NOT automatically mean arthritis, high blood pressure, fatigue, overweight, dementia, or any of a host of other maladies. These are a direct result of the way we’ve taken care of our bodies throughout our lives, especially the way we eat. My goal for myself, my family and my clients is to help them start at whatever age they are now on the road to aging beautifully and painlessly. It can be done!

    REPLY
    • Susan S. says:

      My mother was way ahead of her time, or more accurately, didn’t keep up with the times, in that she grew most of her own food, what she didn’t personally grow she bought from local farm stands, she only ate meat 3 times per week, never ate packaged foods (she was too ‘cheap’ haha)she walked everywhere (she never learned to drive), and she read voraciously … yet she still got Alzheimers.

      One can do all the ‘right things’ and still lose the battle. There are no guarantees. One can certainly lay a good foundation for health, but there is no way to predict the outcome of something that is half our behavior and half just the luck of our gene pool.

      REPLY
    • Dee S says:

      Debra, if you believe that all of the ailments you listed are “a direct result of the way we’ve taken care of our bodies throughout our lives, especially the way we eat”, you are sadly mistaken and need to do some basic research.

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  29. Elizabeth Eichstaedt says:

    I was a little taken aback at the tone of this article. I felt it was mean spirited. Not everyone can be like Betty White! Not all of the elderly enjoy good health. For the rest of the posters whos realatives are vibrant, God Bless them. My own Mother, who is 84 maybe be guilty of some of things listed, but I thank God she is alive.While I think that this was meant to be a hummorus look at aging, it missed its mark with me.

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  30. Eddy says:

    At 62, I have three of the characteristics you wish to avoid. Why? Osteoporosis leaves your back hunched, your stomach protruding, and your walk the one of someone who is terrified of a fall. I’ve always eaten properly (including plenty of calcium), exercised vigorously, and had the confident stride of a dancer. Neither weight nor poor muscle tone have anything to do with the hunched back and large waistline, but when you lose six inches of height, internal organs are displaced to the only area available. The greatest fear of someone with osteoporosis is a fall; better to have an awkward gait, than to be less than completely grounded.

    There is no surefire method for avoiding this disease, which can be caused by genetics, or even side effects of medication. There is no cure, only treatments to slow its progression. I certainly hope that neither you nor your readers ever suffer from it. However, it’s obvious that you suffer from a judgemental attitude toward the disabled, which could use a dose of humility.

    I’m truly disappointed in you.

    REPLY
    • Barbara says:

      Hmmm………..this blog was recommended to me, but if this is the general tone, well, Im pretty disappointed. there may have been humor involved, but I’m missing it.

      I’m sixty and I live a very full life. I cannot get out of a low chair and occasionally use a cane. Arthritis does what it does. As for the hair, I have my hair cut as close to the head and possible and would have it cut closer, so a few wispy hairs will not bother me. I often cannot find the change at the bottom of my puse in a timely fashion (so I use a card). I get up early and am often eating dinner by five. I do not go up or down stairs-I make occasional exceptions for travel or sightseeing but other than that, no way. I am in no way old.

      On the other hand my parents are no longer living and i would be more than happy to see my mom shuffle along. My inlaws are bright, interesting people living full lives in their ownhome. They have wispy hair, shuffle, and sometimes need a walker to get up out of their chairs. This simply means that they are who they are, and theyve reached the age that they have. They also travel around the world, still drive themselves and are lovely people to be around

      Since Ive never been here before, I’m giving some credit and assuming this comes out of your own fear and you dont delibertely mean to be judgemental.

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  31. Maggie says:

    My mom is 87, and thankfully none of these are true for her either. She volunteers at her church 2-3 times a week doing computer data entry, she serves as the designated driver for her friends, and she comes over to my house to do the laundry because her 59-year-old daughter is working FT and in grad school! I know we are hugely blessed to have her, but it’s a reminder that much of aging is about faith, a positive attitude and serving others. That’s what keeps my mom young. She focuses on others’ needs and not her own.

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  32. Barbara says:

    Geri-sounds great. I don’t want to do any of those things. Like you, I’m sixty-five. Feel great, dance, look darn good, keep up with everything, have a great man and lots of juicy sex. However- boom, out of nowhere, arthritis has hit and reminded me of my age Hips, knees…I go to Physical Therapy, swim, manage my weight…do everything I can…but this is something that I can’t control any more than I have. So – I’m the one that can’t get out the chair without the right technique and moves a little more deliberately. Sometimes, no matter what, we can’t control what comes our way. We can manage it the best we can, but some of these things are not choices. I’ll stay as hip and cool as I possibly can, but don’t lay a guilt trip on me if I can’t move as I used to. And Lord willing, you’ll be spared.

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  33. ZB WonderWoman says:

    Genetics — curse ’em — have a lot to do with our lovely selves. (Not to be confused with inheriting a gimlet eye and an Attitude from Hell, but I digress…) The short list:

    1. Not relinquishing the frivolous desire to turn the pool boy into the pool man

    2. Outliving Project Runway (should be No. 1, but…teeheehee)

    3. Seeing the writing project thru to the end

    Not a lot, mind you, but not bad either. Fashion? Cool so long as a pair of well-fitting jeans, a blazing white shirt with rolled up sleeves, European-made shoes, well-cut blazers/jackets and my collection of Native American-Mexican heavy silver jewelry continue to be as fashionably correct as they were when I spent summers on family ranches. High dress drag has its place, but comfort? Comfort coupled with a healthy dash of style Is All!

    ZB

    REPLY
    • CJ says:

      All hail, ZB! I adore your goals!
      Mine are:
      1. Dance barefoot
      2. Always smile
      3. Seduce my husband on a regular basis
      4. Laugh until tears run down my face
      5. Listen to current music (and like it!)
      6. Live as full and as fun as I can ’cause time is finite
      7. Love recklessly
      8. Eat chocolate0

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  34. Sophia says:

    I have a Mom that is 85, she was never any of these Things, she walked good, knew and still knows where her money is! Does her hair, no food stains, but age finally took over when she fell and broke her hip! Now she is in constant pain and had to go live in a Nursing home! But before this last year she took care of my 90 year old bedriden Dad who has Parkinson’s
    I have intention to stay young as long as I can, I fly to Europa every year and just turned 62! I garden and have a 17 year old son at home yet! Keeps me busy, also I plan on working a good while yet!

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  35. Sheila says:

    It is NOT inevitable. We make choices based on what we eat, if we do yoga, or other forms of exercise, my grandparents were vibrant into their 80s and beyond and I plan to be the same. Its that mind set that we have no choice that needs to change. You will get older each year, but you have a choice in HOW you age. Do research, keep going, never give up.

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  36. Blue Bear says:

    None of these things are inevitable! My 88 year old Aunt goes everywhere on her own. She flies the friendly skies without help and she walks so briskly that it’s hard for the rest of us to keep up with her. She just came back from NYC where she practically ran up and down the stairs at Yankee Stadium. She was never into fitness, she just keeps busy and she looks fantastic. She is super chic on a minimal income too! She comes from a generation that believes you have hard times and you just get on with it without complaining. She lost her husband and then her home of 60 years to Hurricane Ike. She just picked herself up and moved to an apartment where she delights in using all her crystal and her china on an everyday basis. She realized she couldn’t figure out why the hell she was saving it for special occasions when SHE was the one who bought it all to enjoy it!

    I also know an 85 year old English lady who flies internationally to see her family in Australia and the U.S. She too is hale and hardy and none of the above aging problems applies to her either.

    I adamantly believe that aging is 90% a state of mind. Your actual age doesn’t limit you or pigeonhole you in any way unless you allow it. I’m 67 and I had heart surgery in March. I am perfectly fine now and can do anything I choose to do. I am eager to zip-line in September and I’m doing it just because I want to do it. You are limited solely by your own desires and imagination. It’s the 21st century, ladies! Just do it!

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  37. Lyn says:

    My mother’s 78 and she’s still doing the following regularly:
    Painting in her art studio
    Riding the tractor to mow
    Taking care of 3 dogs, 2 horses, multiple cats& a pigeon coop
    Dressing stylishly
    Wearing make-up, and it looks like a grown-up applied it
    Shooting a gun
    Driving 2+ hours to her weekend home
    Putting up with my dad!

    I fully intend to follow her example!

    REPLY
    • Geri Brin says:

      Hi Lyn,

      So happy for your mom–and you!

      Fondly,
      Geri

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  38. Judi says:

    I really agree that many of us are on the quest to be the very best we can be at any age. At 61 the challenges are much different than when I was in my 30s with small children. I have to say
    I wish many of us could befriend a senior who is living out these things and bring some joy into their life, instead of impatiently waiting behind them in line while they find their money and shuffle away. I agree with the previous message there are a couple of these things I could live with, but hopefully won’t have to.

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  39. Joni says:

    Well, I hate to say it but, isn’t it inevitable? At least a few of the things on the list anyway. I wish we could just choose the ones we’d be willing to go through instead of it being the crap-shoot that it is. If I had to choose three they would be:
    2 year old applied make-up
    dinner at 4:30
    wearing clothing with food stains

    Those seem to be the easiest to bear 😉

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