This Is What 80 Looks Like

Elders from Turkey
They're those caps! Image via Wikipedia

It might be the worst taboo of all — old age. Not middle age, the final decade(s.)

I moved into an apartment building at 30 where everyone — who knew? — was 20 to 30 years older than I. It’s a nice spot, atop a hill, with no steps or stairs anywhere, perfect for people with mobility issues, (aka canes, walkers, even crutches.)

Since I developed early and bad arthritis in my left hip, I get it!

What I like most are the 80-year-olds here who are so stylish, funny and well-dressed. Marie, on my floor, has bouffant hair, great clothes and a booming laugh you can hear down the hallway. Even heading out to a doctor’s appointment, she looks terrific.

When she told me her age,  I laughed — I figured her 20 years younger. This has happened so many times in the elevator when I’ve spoken to white-haired women, (and it’s usually the women who are rocking it out) and found them fun, funny, engaging.

Old? Meh!

My Dad is 81, blessed with tremendous energy and health, and recently started making a documentary, his former career, working with scientists he introduced himself to. His partner is 74, slim, lovely, smart and has lived a life filled with adventure.

There are days I fear old age and there are days I look at the men and women I know who’ve blasted past the worst marker — 65 (if you make it that far, you’re good for a while, stats show) — and are still, healthy and solvent, enjoying the hell out of their lives.

They have surgery, they take meds, some walk slowly. But they’re in it.

I don’t look to the anorexic 15 year-olds in Vogue for inspiration, not that I ever did.

I look at Marie and women (and men) like her.

Do you have a fab elder in your life?

11 thoughts on “This Is What 80 Looks Like

  1. I love this post! I was raised with both parents working in Assisted Living communities, and joined them there for my part time job in high school. Even at 16, I noticed a common theme of “older but still kicking arse”, people generally in love with life regardless of the walker or cane in their way.

  2. My grandma’s 92 (will be 93 in August), and still as feisty as ever. I am around her and her friends a lot, and am constantly amazed at how resilient they are. Just the other night, I was the “designated driver” for my grandma’s Bridge group–a lively bunch of 80-90 year olds.
    Your post reminds me of that quote “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?”

  3. Deborah the Closet Monster

    I often remember thinking, “Holy cow, 60 is old!” just 10-15 years ago. This perspective changed sometime when I was in law school, as a lot of my friends’ parents approached 60. Also helpful? Seeing that one of the ladies who came in before me in the 2004 L.A. Marathon was 82. I started seeing things a little differently.

    My “second mom” is in her mid-60s now. She’s lively, enthusiastic and busy with all kinds of endeavors. I look at her now and think, “How did I ever think this was old?” She has a slow-moving kind of leukemia, but I’ll hopefully have another decade or so of her love and support to look forward to. 🙂

    After that? I mean to be a 80-year-old marathoner someday!

  4. I recently told a friend that the day I start saying “I am not celebrating such-and-such, it’s just another day” it is time to put me down. After working in elder health care for years, I learned that the fiesty ones are the ones who live best.

  5. My Dad died when he was 65 yrs old. I was 25 yrs old, when he died. I remember thinking how young he was – too young to die. But, his life of smoking many cigarettes took its toll.

    Fortunately, at 78 yrs of age, my Mom is doing fine. Two years ago, she received her first prescribed medicine for a hyper thyroid. The doctors have always been amazed that she was never on any medication prior to the thyroid medicine. She is a mover and a shaker, and she continues to drive from GA to Nova Scotia every summer. At the demand of her kids, she no longer does the drive alone. Last year she had two of my nephews join her – they are joining her again this year.

    I believe in celebrating every birthday and claiming each and every year. The alternative? Yep. My point exactly.

  6. I recently did a documentary for a PBS special… One day, as we were waiting for the next shot to be set-up, the director, costume designer, main actor, and I got into a very interesting discussion about aging naturally. We all admitted that we looked forward to the aging process; the people we all looked up to were much older and had such a fun style, such a great outlook on life.

    Hope I can live up to the precedent set by the “older” people around me.

  7. jacquelincangro

    Just goes to prove that age is all in your mind. I love meeting vibrant people in their 70s and 80s. It lets me know that when I get to that age, I don’t have to succumb to the rocking chair and television because that’s what’s “expected.”

  8. Interesting post, and a very interesting question to tempt us commentors. Personally, I get happier as I age – I seem to know myself and the world much better, and care much less about what everyone else thinks.

    As to an elder I look up to? I recently met Australia’s most famous pop artist, Martin Sharp, who’s in his 70s now. He’s still thinking, creating, making great art. Obviously he’s not the sort of person I could ring up and say, hey, there’s something on my mind. But I do very much admire Sharp’s life-long commitment to art. And if that doesn’t make him an elder, I don’t know what does!

  9. Cheryl

    I’m nudging that make-it-or-break-it age of 65. Soon, too soon! My fab elder just is about to turn 81, Noreen. She and her older husband, Jim, spend their summer’s on a cottage on an island north of here. They are my neighbours on that island, and they take all the inconvenience of island living in stride, while I grumble about all the extra work it entails. Simple tasks, like grocery shopping, involve climing into the boat – boating to the marina – into the car – shop – pack the car – transfer everything to the boat – boat to the cottage – unpack the boat loading every into the box at the bottom of the rail system to get it up the rock face – unpack at the top, THEN put it all away in the cottage cupboards. One indelible memory? Noreen dragging saplings up the long, steep hill behind my cottage, cane in one hand, sapling in the other, all because I wanted to clear a little space to sit and view the lake. Jim, wearing a back brace, using the chainsaw to drop the saplings. When I grow up I wanna be just like them!

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