In your most private moments, what do you think about aging? Does advancing seniority fill you with distaste, or with relief? Apprehension or contentment? Are you grinning or grimacing?
What image of aging first pops into your mind’s eye? More memory-making with the grandkids? More midnight shuffles to the bathroom? A lengthening shelf of unpronounceable pills? A closet-full of business attire dry-cleaned for schlepping to Goodwill?
Have you dreams deferred or nagging irritations? A Danube cruise? Elusive words on the tip of your tongue? Performing with the Community Players? Being nibbled to death by ducks?
Like most of my peers, I’m aware the aging glass is both half-empty and half-full. We have to take the sour with the sweet. But it’s my impression that we tend to over-emphasize seniority’s downsides. If that’s correct, this reflexive pessimism exacts a high price. Not only can it impair our mental and emotional health. It can also neglect and undervalue seniority’s rich offsetting opportunities, passions and pleasures. This blog is dedicated to helping rebalance the scales. I want to make the case for a positive approach to growing old.
COVID surges had twice forced Nancy and me to cancel a bucket-list road trip to California’s southeastern deserts. First in 2020, again in 2021. Now lessening pandemic severity gave us hope that we could finally reach there for my April birthday. With luck, winter rains would stimulate the parched landscape’s fabled wildflower blooms.
Simultaneously, my brother Doug’s long-declining health entered a steep slide. We’d visited him two weeks before as he began home-hospice care. [See my March 31 post, “DOWN MEMORY LANES.”] Now we agreed with Doug and his wife Lu that we’d come by to see them again en route to the desert.
The actual journey that emerged from these plans bore limited resemblance to our expectations. My trip journal records stops and starts, twists and turns, sorrows and smiles. Like so much of senior living these days, for better and for worse.
Russell Sunshine worked for 40 years in 40 countries as an international development lawyer and independent policy advisor to foreign governments. Now retired back in America, he’s writing non-fiction and practicing agile aging on California’s Central Coast. Russell’s memoir, Far & Away: True Tales from an International Life, is available on Amazon. Click Here