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Day 16: Ageing with elan

Glass frames or insect collection?

“Are you really that old?” asked my 9 year old niece, Elena, after I responded to her question asking me my age.

I was laughing at the shocked look on her face as I told her I was 51. She continued to look at me perplexed.

“But you don’t look that old,” continued Elena, “You are so cool.”

It appeared being older and being cool were not synonymous in her mind, even though they were in mine. According to Elena’s classification system I had to be old if I was 51 but in that moment she realised she didn’t see me in that light. I was her Teta (Croatian word for aunty) Marica and she thought I was great the way I was.

I put my arms around her and held her tight while internally I was jumping for joy. I was so flattered to be described as being cool by a 9 year old but what about the old part?

Ageing is such an interesting process – there are parts of it I really love and other aspects, well, to be truthful I could do without.

Ageing is the biological deterioration of a human or animal that takes place over the sequential passage of time … it is a natural process that is characterized by a decline in the resilience of the body’s organs, that some scientists refer to as biological entropy.

Off course, people start growing older from the day they are born. But, it’s not until a person reaches their mid-twenties that age-related changes begin to compound normal stresses on the body. Once a person has reached the peak of biological growth and development, the body no longer has quite as much endurance.

The signs and symptoms of ageing don’t usually surface overnight. They can develop gradually and almost imperceptibly. There are a great diversity of signs and symptoms. No two people experience the aging process in quite the same way.

Source: Theory of ageing

I recently read on the World Health Organisation web site that ageing was a priviledge and a societal achievement. I have never thought of it quite in this way. We have more time on earth as we live longer. This is true. Do we necessarily make better use of this time or do we squander it, even take it for granted? Does society actually view ageing as an achievement or as a burden? Do we celebrate the older people in our lives? They have lived through times unknown to us. It is through their hard work that we are benefiting as a society yet we label older people and most people do not recognise their continued contribution to our lives and our world.

I look at my parents and they suddenly seem older. I look at my children and I am amazed at the wonderful people they are. They seem so mature – they are older and even more interesting than they were before. We are such close friends. Yet, I forget as everyone around me is getting older, and most of them are well into the ageing process themselves, time isn’t standing still for me either. I too am getting older! What am I doing with this time? Am I making the most of my days, my weeks, the years that are fast accumulating? Am I doing what I want to be doing?

Deep within I am aware of all this. I believe this is why I feel an intense need to not waste time and to get on with living. I have a lot of living I want to do and a lot of things I want to experience and achieve. Some days I feel like time is against me but when I seek solace in the statistics, all being well, I am misguided in my perception.

  • In 2000, there were 600 million people aged 60 and over; there will be 1.2 billion by 2025 and 2 billion by 2050
  • Today, about two thirds of all older people are living in the developing world; by 2025, it will be 75%
  • In the developed world, the very old (age 80+) is the fastest growing population group
  • Women outlive men in virtually all societies; consequently in very old age, the ratio of women/men is 2:1

Source: The world is fast ageing – have we noticed? World Health Organisation

Interestingly, the 2006 New Zealand Census recorded 537 people celebrating their 100th birthday and this figure is up from 399 in the 2001 Census. Statistics New Zealand has estimated that 12,000 people in our country will celebrate their 100th birthday in 2051 and this is attributed to the longevity of baby boomers.

In reality I am only an up and coming oldie!

Now back to the reason I am writing this post …

Vision is often impacted with age. 42% of people experience presbyopia, which means a decline in the ability to focus their eyes on things that are close up.
Source: Theory of ageing

A combination of age and spending too much time in front of a computer has meant that my current glasses needed to be upgraded for a newer and improved model. As I looked at the selection of frames at the optician I made a decision to continue my cool image because I didn’t want to disappoint Elena. I had so much trying on all sorts of unusual but wonderful glass frames. The voice in my head started talking to me: “Marica you can’t afford these”, “Marica what would you wear with these?”, “Marica be sensible!”

I left the optician with a box containing five pairs of glass frames from which I would make my final selection. The theory is that you take the frames away to look at them in the natural light, to reflect on how you look in them, to try them on with different outfits, and to seek the opinion of your family and friends. I tried the glass frames on in the car as we were driving home. I looked in the small mirror hidden behind the sun visor in front of me. I tried on each pair and looked, as my husband drove the car. I made my decision then and there but I still went through the motions that evening. My new glasses are going to be different but not quite as outrageous as I would have liked. I had to choose a pair I could live with for a reasonable length of time. Also I have to ease everybody in to this new older Marica aka the real ME! Or do I? In reality she has been emerging for quite some time only I didn’t recognise it. The irony is I am the last person to realise this; even my 9 year old niece knew it.

When I Am an Old Woman I Shall Wear PurpleWarning
Jenny Joseph

When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.

I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.

I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick the flowers in other peoples’ gardens
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickles for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practise a little now?

So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

Source: Warning: When I Am An Old Woman, I Shall Wear Purple. First viewed on Inspiration Line

My mission is to perfect this cool me over the coming years. If that ultimately means starting to wear purple then so be it.

What are you doing about getting in touch with the authentic you? Have you spent any time with him or her lately? Don’t wait – get started now!

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