Earlier this week, I watched three buses from an elder housing community pull out of the parking lot near a theater where we had just seen a play. Ah, so that explained the presence of so many eighty-somethings in the audience.
It was an easy leap at that moment to imagining a time when I will have less control over my life, just as this older crowd seemed to. Will I ever live in a facility like theirs, have to be chauffeured to entertainment with others who live in the same setting, and build my social life and group activities around them? Would I still see old friends who weren’t residents there or would my life center around “The Home.” (A group of friends and I joke that we’re going to establish our own version of “The Home”.)
Everyone I know wants to live independently forever. But watching the older adults as they exited the theater and boarded their buses, I became very aware that aging takes different forms.
What people need are older role models. I’m serious. What better way to learn about next stages in life than from those who are living them? The fastest growing population in the county where I live is the eighty-five and older group.There must be plenty of people to look up to and model myself after right now. I have good friends aging along with me and a few older ones. It’s time to ask them what they’re thinking about as they age and what changes they’re experiencing, no matter how subtle.
My best — though atypical — guide to the future is Eleanor at ninety-six. She has as much spark and energy as she probably had when she was forty. Something about her high level of activity and involvement in many projects tells me she’s not yet concerning herself with what will happen next. She’s decided she wants to live to 101 and I’m confident she’ll make it at least that far. I hope she lives longer.
March 20 Addendum: I can’t believe I forgot to bring up another role model, my 85-year-old yoga teacher, Joyce. I will never have hamstrings as limber as hers. Some of my classmates have been studying with her for more than twenty years. Now that’s loyalty and proof that she’s a good teacher. She’s studied with some of the best and never pushes. “You’re in charge of your body,” she says. “If it hurts, don’t do it.”