Friday, July 16, 2010

Ninety—The New 70!

The older I get, the younger the older get—get it? When I hit 50, it was the new 40. When I hit 60, it was the new 50—and so on. But NOW, this form of thinking has fast-forwarded to those who are as mobile and agile as a 70 year-old…but who are twenty years older!

I know people in their 90s, and I meet new ones nearly every day. They don’t own a walker, they live independently, and they are busy enjoying life! My neighbor down the street turned 90 about eight months ago and the rest of us are still not over it. She has a cute figure, is a fashionable dresser, and she recently booked onto a cruise from Finland to St. Petersburg, Russia—she leaves next week. My guy’s stepmom will be 92 in February, and although she has had a heart problem for years (ten years ago she got a pacemaker) she still takes classes at the local college and plays bridge—not only with two local bridge groups but also internationally, online. She and her husband, who will be 89 in January, take local trips—their favorite is Las Vegas. Her sister-in-law celebrated her 93rd birthday last month, flying across the country to a convention in North Carolina. When she’s at home—between similar trips to Texas, Utah, etc.—she is a docent at a well-known museum about half an hour’s drive away. Oh, and did I tell you all of these people are still driving—having recently renewed their licenses? I will add, however, that I make certain I don’t ride with them—no amount of vitality guarantees life-saving reaction time behind the wheel of a car when you are 90 and beyond.

On my recent trip to Napa, in the shuttle bus from the Oakland Airport to Napa—the best scenic drive for the money around—I got acquainted with a 94 year-old woman on her way home after a week in Oklahoma. She flew alone round-trip. Now, she did have a walker—but she confided to me that she only uses it when she travels. Of all the 90+ people I either know or have met, she is the only one so far who lives in retirement home. However, this is the Veterans’ Home in Yountville—also known as the mansion on the hill. To get into this retirement home (which now reportedly has a waiting list longer than Route 29, which passes by it) you have to have served your country in the military—the only other people they will consider are the spouses of veterans. She said she had the smarts to enlist in the Army during World War II. After she got out, she got her teaching credential and taught for about 35 years, eventually outliving her husband and then had the smarts to sign up to live in this Veterans’ Home which overlooks the Napa Valley. If you have been to Napa Valley, you know what I am talking about—gentle, rolling hills covered with vineyards, and wineries along the road which winds through the city of Napa all the way up to Calistoga, past St. Helena. It is just a big chunk of Paradise in my opinion. I didn’t ask her, but I’ll bet the residents get a glass of wine with each meal.

All of the 90-somethings I know are not necessarily healthy, but they are all positive thinkers and they’ve got something going on all the time. They have obviously had to modify any exercise regime, but they walk whenever and as far as they can. They have lost sons or daughters, spouses and other loved ones. They all have every reason to be bitter or depressed—I mean, it is easy to pick just one thing sad or tragic out of each of their life experiences—but they have chosen not to be. They do NOT say things like “I am only marking time,” “This life sucks,” or “I wish I could (fill in the blank) like I used to.” No, they are too busy DOING things! Each day spreads in front of them—a gift. They are survivors, fighters—tough, yet nice & friendly. They exercise their minds and they think about others.

I want to be like them when I grow up. I think if they could hear me say that, they would immediately comment, “Then start NOW.”