“My face carries all my memories. Why would I erase them?” -Diane Von Fursternberg
“The Perks of Growing Older” is a saying that most of us chuckle when we hear it spoken. Sure, the “perks” of being forgetful… harder of hearing… cataract surgery… replacements of body parts… things no longer working in tip-top shape… losing our hair… and yes, a real perk is being a survivor of what hasn’t killed you, both physically as well as emotionally.
Joke all we want, the truth of the matter is that growing older isn’t for sissies. You have to be able to adapt to life coming at you from all different directions, don’t you? You could be starting over again, alone this time. Your health declines, you or your family gets really sick, and some pass away. These are the facts of growing older that aren’t for the faint of heart.
“As soon as you feel too old do a thing, do it.” -Margaret Deland
You have to be resilient, you have to be courageous – and even if you think you’re not because you can’t handle yet another devastation – you have NO choice in the matter. You know the show must go on, so that’s what you do. One foot in front of the other.
But I wanted to celebrate some of the things to look forward to as we age and decided to ask the same group of people over the age of 75 to give us their take on the “perks of growing older.” This is what they had to say.
Advice to your Younger Self
Ed, 75 originally from Latvia said, “Don’t rush into marriage. Avoid addiction of any type. Retire long before you think you can.”
Pat, 76 from Kansas, USA said, “Finish my college degree. Be more confident of my abilities. Follow my dreams and the man of my dreams. I would also add, become financially independent.”
Helen, 76 ½ from New Zealand said, “Don’t be impulsive, think before you leap! Don’t fall in love so easily! Have more confidence in yourself!”
My neighbor from back in the day, Mardene, 80 from New York, USA had to say, “Don’t sweat the small stuff. Let go and let God. Never put your key to happiness in someone else’s pocket.”
Andrea, 76 presently, from Ontario, Canada said, “Have more fun. Travel more. Be more present each moment.”
Auntie Judi, 77 from New Jersey, USA said, “Put more money away for your retirement while you are still young. Don’t believe every word you hear is the God’s honest truth. Don’t get married so young.”
Gail, 80 who is from Ontario, Canada says, “Follow your passion and you will never “work.” Learn early to be quiet (I’m still working on that one). Friends and family are what matters, the rest is gravy or poop.”
I totally wish I lived closer to Gail.
From New York, USA, Diane 75 says, “Just do it! Relax and enjoy life.”
“Have a goal in view. Work towards it. Do the best you can, there will be rewards.” Joan, 82 from Australia.
Carol, 75 years young, from New York, USA said, “Everything doesn’t always have to be perfect. Negativity is exhausting, so don’t waste your time worrying. Think positive.”
I know Carol. I have known her about 18 years. She is exactly what she says above. However, and I don’t know HOW she does it, her hair is ALWAYS PERFECT. She can sleep on it and wake up looking as perfectly as she did before she went to bed. It blows me away every time I see her.
Faye who is 77 almost 78, from Canada said, “Develop some self-esteem so that you don’t become a doormat to others. Believe that you have some value and worth in your world. Learn to gracefully, but firmly say NO!”
Diane, 78 from Ontario, Canada offered pieces of advice to her younger self — “Don’t try to grow up so fast; Do not replace bad choices with even more bad choices; and not to feel that because of those bad choices I felt the need to be perfect in all other parts of my life.”
And Olwyn-Ann, 75 originally from the UK, but now living in Australia would tell her younger self, “Get as good an education as you can; take advice if it’s offered; and be kind to all.”
I asked them all the question if they could go back and relive a time in their lives, not as a do-over, but just to relive it – they answered pretty much right down the middle. Half would want to relive, and the other half had no desire.
Almost everyone had some regrets.
When I asked if there were any items left on their bucket list. Some had never had a bucket list, yet others had lots left on their lists, and only one said they had completed everything on theirs.
“The longer I live, the more beautiful life becomes.” -Frank Lloyd Wright
Was there anything that they really liked at this stage in their lives?
Ed said that he, “loves the free time to do what I want, but hates the physical restrictions that come with age.”
Joelle said, “what I like about this time in my life is that it is completely MINE.”
Andrea says, “I deeply appreciate the times of solitude and silence… and my friends.”
Jo shared this, “I feel serene and deeply content. I did a huge move three years ago from my country Tasmania to Melbourne. I feel as if I’ve found my village. I’ve made lots of friends, do some volunteering. Have dinner parties… My life is very full… I am in pretty good health for which I am extremely grateful.”
Joan has, “great appreciation of my home, health, the calmness of my days and the beauty around me, family and friends.”
Gail said, “until recently I still wanted to travel. I would live out of a suitcase if I won the lottery. Not going to happen now so I’ll have to settle for travelogues. All good, likely better.”
Auntie Judi loves that she, “doesn’t have to go to work; has no time for garbage; and is enjoying a pain-free life.”
Mardene, 80 from New York, USA says about this time in her life, “I love being retired and taking the time to enjoy all my blessings.”
Diane actually answered for her friends that were older than herself. She said, “I have friends who are really enjoying this time of their lives and are older than I. They are totally free to do what they want without having to be concerned with another person in their lives (spouse/partner).”
Vicki was pretty funny, she said “not likely, but you can make your own perks! You can eat whatever you want, go wherever you please, do the things that make you happy, live for yourself provided it does not hurt anyone else!”
Mardene said of perks, “being able to steer my own ship my own way; independence personified, and enjoying our increasing family members.”
Gail said there weren’t many perks of growing older but she did say that she lived in a wonderful compassionate country (Canada). “Services are available and I’m warm, comfortable, fed and basically independent. What more can you ask for? Life is good. I would add only, love to learn. Learn, always learn something new every single day.”
Joan offered, “A perk, I would say is that you don’t, can’t run around like a headless chicken, tiring yourself out helping everyone. Time to be kind to yourself and say No. Relax with your days and not feel guilty.”
Diane added, “perhaps the feeling of not being responsible for anyone but myself; sleeping in.”
Faye says, “yes, the freedom to look back on my life – see what I may have missed correcting and attempt to rectify those things. Give and receive forgiveness wherever I neglected to do so. Give and receive love and understanding wherever I neglected to do so.”
Olwyn-Ann says there are a few perks to growing older. “No rushing off to work so you have time to smell the roses, catch up with friends, and eat what you want when you want!”
Andrea said there is one perk to growing older, “Having time just to ‘be’ with less focus on ‘doing.’”
Joelle had to think about her answer, “Hmmm. Being smarter and wiser, being able to look ahead and see the results of what you are doing, not having to work at a JOB, being enough company for myself that I can spend time alone….”
Ed said there were no perks to growing older. “You’re not getting older, you’re getting better is pure crap!”
Helen said, “Relaxed. Less stress, loving life with wonderful partner, travel, more communication with grandchildren, happy reflections on past life and experiences and definitely more self-confidence.”
“Enjoying family and friends. Thankful for every day. Peace of mind. Stopping to take the time to smell the roses,” Carol shared.
Pat was cute, “if you count the senior discounts… there are perks!” She went to say, “At this point, I no long worry about what others think of me. I’m stronger in standing up for myself and my feelings. Being retired means no work schedule unless I decide to set one for myself. I have time for my family and grandchildren. I think at this point in life we learn what is truly important and it’s not material things. Peace of mind, good health, good friends and family are at the top of the list. Sometimes it takes a long time to learn that.”
Finally, Jo, who said, “Plenty of perks with aging…. Senior discounts. People actually offer me a seat on public transport. Being able to talk to everyone, deep and involved conversations. Also, the feeling that time is running out and there’s nothing to lose. Someone said to me, about something I was embarking on, but isn’t that dangerous… My answer, the bottom line is, I don’t want to die in a nursing home.”
Freedom to come and go as you please. Very little in the way of responsibilities, other than to yourself, and really being present in the moment are the Perks of Growing Older. As David Bowie once said, “Aging is an extraordinary process where you become the person you always should have been.”