On getting older: my top tips

HopeA year ago, almost to the day, our 85 year old aunt lost both her two much loved children; a son of 53 and a daughter of 61.  They died within 36 hours of each other.  Aunty J was already a widow.  Her life, in her words, is now without purpose or meaning despite having one very close friend. She says she has aged 10 years in the last year and I don’t disagree.

Since this life changing event Aunty J has been severely depressed but also very lonely.  She seems unable to spend any time on her own at home.  It’s been hard to keep her occupied and have any sense of purpose.  I have become her main carer.

But this blog isn’t really about Aunty J; it’s about the things I have learnt that I think I need to apply to my life.  These are some of the things I have learnt:

  1. Work as long as you can; this doesn’t necessarily mean do what you do now but find something purposeful to do and do it for as long as you can. It could be paid work but equally it could be volunteering.
  2. Keep as wide a circle of friends as possible, don’t rely on one close friendship.
  3. Have lots of hobbies but critically things you do with other people but also things that you can find joy in alone, at home.
  4. Always be flexible and don’t fall into the trap of having a rigid routine where you do the same thing at the same time every day.
  5. Read widely and extensively.
  6. Keep in touch with church (or whatever this means for you) as there are always people there.
  7. Eat well, eat a variety of food and enjoy different things (see also link to 4 above).
  8. Embrace change and try new things in as many aspects of your life as you can.
  9. Always wear clothes that are stylish and represent who you are – ignore fashion if it pleases you.
  10. Grow things and enjoy the cycle of nature.
  11. Move about – keep active – walk every day.
  12. Learn how to use public transport –  don’t get trapped at home by an inability to drive.
  13. Cats make good companions and looking after them gives you purpose.
  14. Hug people – physical human contact is very important

Leeds-Portrait-PhotographyPlease if you have any tips do share by leaving a comment below:

I know not everyone will be able to do these things but nearly everyone will be able to do some.  Aunty J, as you may have guessed, hasn’t, and her life at 85 is less for it but we are making progress in building some sort of new life for her.

29 thoughts on “On getting older: my top tips

  1. Great blog Anne
    I’d add something about having people in your life who help you feel brave to do things that feel scary or try things you think not right for your age but interest you. Also try to make a contribution in some way as i think it gives one’s life a different purpose as well as help keep connected to others. I hope i manage some of your tips at least

  2. Loneliness for older people is horrid, advancing years often coupled with illness is sad to watch and despite what you do doesn’t seem to offer any sense of hope. You describe many of the observations I see in my aging aging family, who whilst broadly healthy and despite having family close by the feeling of loneliness is still evident.

    The one small thing I can do is spend as much time as possible with them, creating and having special moments, taking lots of pictures and building memories together.

    A lovely blog post Annie

  3. A touching and useful blog! I have a similar situation in my life at the moment. In addition to very good tips in your post from my experience I would add:

    * plan ahead with your finances
    * live somewhere with good access to public transport, services, people and activities you like getting involved with
    * everyday do something a little differently even if it is just getting out of bed on the other side and notice your thoughts and feelings
    * keep learning

  4. Lovely blog. Great tips for all of us as we age. Social engagement and learning so important.

  5. Very useful blog. I would echo others’ thoughts and try to do as much as you can whilst you can. Get out of your comfort zone..it will make you strong. Since retirement I have become a naturist and also a Life Model. Very difficult at first but if you can do that you can do anything. Be contented and appreciate all the good things about your life.Yes, a mixture of social and non social activities. Have hobbies for inside and outside. Try to keep up friendships new and old. Be near a bus route but keep the car going as long as poss.Fresh air and exercise.
    set yourself challenges eg Decided to walk marathon Sarcen Trail (Avebury to Stonehenge) 26 miles when I became 70.
    No idea on advice for being ill and old. That is not a good thought. Be positive and look forward.Try to maintain your health as long as poss. Live a healthy life.
    Be grateful.

  6. Lovely blog Annie.

    Difficult to add to, but maybe- never say “im to old to do that” the mental barrier we put in place can be a real driver for self doubt and separation from others.

    Hopeful wishes to to you and Aunty J!

  7. Everything spot on
    Would add – Think about where you live and the type of accommodation – don’t get trapped in an unsuitable home. Think ahead. My parents have downsized from rurality to an apartment in town where it’s easier if either lose mobility or function. My 92 year old Next door neighbour moved herself into local Residential home to be with friends as she felt trapped despite constant visitors – she’d lost confidence after a fall. Had lived in the same house sine she was 17

  8. An excellent list, I would add: Embrace technology. Get a laptop/tablet/ smartphone. Then you can keep in touch with people when phone calls become difficult because of hearing loss. Family can send you photos (hardly anyone gets prints now). You can keep in touch with young family members using their preferred method of communication.,If you are familiar with technology you will be able to use it to continue to read if your eyesight starts to fail. Don’t reject it just because your generation ‘managed perfectly well’ without it.

  9. So very true we lost my Dad almost 2 years ago, he did everything for Mum and although she has us we all work full time and she is in the same position as Aunty J. I have tried so hard to get to become involved in group etc. but she just hasn’t got the confidence to do so

  10. So agree with these aims. Really felt for your aunt’s situation.

    Also adding – keep up with the fun of digital inclusion. Be the one to make approaches to younger generation, send them photos, be funny. Don’t get frumpy, which includes shoes, they are the worst giveaway to feeling old. Be inquisitive, wonder WHY, use google to get different views and answers, eat icecream 🍦🍦without feeling guilty, count the potential days you would like to have left and match them with your wish list.

  11. Love this …would add:
    communicating how you want to continue to live well to those that are in your life…and importantly how you want to die well in relation to your wishes…. the little things matter.
    Someone has suggested sorting finance…again….who will you trust with passwords etc so those who are close no where to find stuff if you can’t tell them.
    Laugh lots and enjoy gin😊

  12. My Nanna died aged 95. She much preferred to do her food shopping at M&S than anywhere else and that frustrated her daughter somewhat but I believe you should be able to eat and drink the things you want to at that age, take enjoyment in those small things that make you happy.
    Also don’t be afraid to ask for help, don’t feel that you are being a nuisance, recognise that you still have much to give in terms of knowledge, wisdom and experience.

  13. Thank you so much to everyone who has been kind enough to add comments. I am very grateful. You enrich my simple ideas.

    If you are visiting for the first time please feel free to add your ideas too!

    Many thanks Anne 💐

  14. HI Anne, great life learning. My learning would be to focus on and acknowledge what you have got or can do. The more you focus on those things the easier it is seems to enhance them or add further things that are positive. Maybe that relates to confidence? There is also something in there about receiving feedback from others about the things you can do/have got to avoid taking them for granted in the usual routine of things. Thanks for making me think xx

  15. My Grandma volunteered in a charity shop until she was 80, so I definitely agree with that advice – it gave her a sense of purpose.

    I remember vividly how she’d complain that her friends could no longer climb her steps to come and play scrabble so she’d have to travel to them – but it’s obviously important that older people have somewhere they can gather that suits all physical capabilities.

  16. Really empowering Anne, I think of my dad and understand the differences these made to him after my mum died. My lovely dads tip is to not be afraid of technology as scary as it may appear. Small steps (frequently repeated 🙂 ) makes the world a bigger place.

  17. Remember to Treat yourself, this could be having your nails or hair done every couple of weeks or a massage. A show, a concert, or even the cinema. All those things you didn’t do in your thirties.

  18. Thank you for this list 🙂 I wonder if some entries on it would be more tricky for people who are introverts? And would there be an alternative set of suggestions for them? Would be intrigued to know what someone like Susan Cain would say.

  19. What a wonderful question although I’m not so sure that all are aimed at extroverts (eating well, attitude to change etc) but let’s see what people think 🙂

  20. Annie, enjoyed the blog and the list thank you – since moving to my new role the thing that has struck me most is willingness to do things, try things, be involved. Occasionally those around you have limiting beliefs and it’s easy to fall into that belief cycle – our residents have shown us differently – last year they were power boating and bike riding, this year some will take up sailing – yes, I did say sailing. TBH I’m not sure how that will go, but damm tooting our residents will show me – scratch that from my limiting belief reservoir.

    Lesson for me – don’t limit people’s options because I don’t know how it will go: ask them you may very well be surprised.

  21. Great Blog anniecoops.
    I great list and a good way to start to make lifestyle changes when you are younger.
    I would add a few.
    Travel far and wide when you are fit. It broadens the mind and gives you great stories to tell others when older.
    Also money, whilst someone else talked about sorting your money, my advice is spend it!, you can’t take it with you. Spend it on yourself or your loved ones so that you can watch them enjoy it.
    Hope Aunt is moving in the right direction.

  22. I’m on starters blocks…my youngest 18year old twins about to go to uni…then I can stop worrying about doing their washing and having meals ready! I’m going to enjoy these next years as much as I can…..hopefully and in good health and with my other half.

  23. • Listen to the radio – it keeps you in touch with the world and you can do it while walking about.
    • Don’t worry about being invisible – take the opportunity to get on with your life in private.
    • Don’t apologise.

  24. Thanks Anne for this post, what a great list! I tried to think of something to add & the only thing I might put on there is something about ‘forgive & move on’.

  25. All very good ideas. Erma Bombeck also made such a list. It’s fabulous and can be found on-line and in her final book. I should go find that book and get a refresher.

  26. I agree. My 89 year old mother was hesitant at first to try technology but we kept showing her things on Facebook and suggested she might enjoy an IPad and her own Facebook account. Well, she needed some help for the first few months but now we call her Techno Granny as she fills us in on the latest gossip and news and about the funny animal videos she sees. It brightens her day. More fun than reading a newspaper, that’s for certain.

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