Growing older is a mixed bag Growing older is a mixed bag PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 02 March 2012 15:29
Joy and jubilance, heartache and loss

Tema GouseTema Gouse

Our attitudes about the aging process change as we have more and more birthdays. The number of candles on one’s birthday cake may alter our feelings about what constitutes being elderly. Notwithstanding excessive complaining about the changes that accompany one’s advancing years, we regard getting old as something that happens to others, not to ourselves.

Oh, we give lip service to feeling different, but facing mortality is something we apply to others, rarely to ourselves.  But life has subtle ways of reminding us of our own mortality.

The calendar is a remarkable tool in helping us face changes. Many of us keep a calendar posted on the kitchen wall. It reminds us of when birthdays occur and how many weeks there are until the High Holy Days. But the more important calendar is the one in the den or the bedroom on which we keep track of all nature of appointments – lunch dates, bridge games, when certain bills are due and, most important, doctors’ appointments.

There is probably nothing more symbolic of the aging process than the number of doctors we see and the frequency of our visits to them. Isn’t it sad that growing old may make us wiser but does not make us heartier?

Growing old has both benefits and drawbacks, which I’ll address first. I think that nothing is worse than the loss of friends and family, some younger, some older.  For some survivors, these deaths remind them of their own mortality; for me, they are irreplaceable losses.

My husband and I were both the youngest children in our respective families and we have outlived all our siblings. Although we are still blessed with many friends, we dearly miss the friends and relatives we have lost.

As for the benefits of growing older, there are many. We see our children grow and settle into their lives independent of us.  We enjoy the blessing of grandchildren and witnessing their struggles and joys. And, relieved of the demands of our younger years, we mostly do what we are capable of and what we choose to do.

As a young woman, shopping was high on my list of pleasures.  Now it requires more energy than I have.  My television tastes have changed and I now watch more news and documentaries, and fewer dramas and mysteries.  And most pleasurable of all is curling up with a good book – something I’ve loved to do since I was a young girl.

Some things do not change or, at most, only modify slightly.  For me, that holds true regarding politics, biases and tastes in food and dress.  It never gets easier to lose loved ones, nor do I change my grandiose hopes and dreams for my grandchildren.

Older people still have dreams and fantasies – they may be physical or financial or political. Older drivers hope that their old cars will last as long as they do. Older people hope that their children will enjoy their own old age. And they hope for the day when Israel is no longer threatened by its neighbors.

On rare occasions, senior citizens count their blessings for simple things, such as the ability to enjoy good music, good food or good health. Instead of swearing about the things they cannot remember, they can laugh about the memory that occasionally revives itself.

If we had a scale to weigh our lives, believe it or not, we would find the good has outweighed the  bad. If our lives’ good relationships outnumbered the bad ones, we are truly fortunate.

These are the ruminations of a very lucky old lady and her husband who together have outlived many good friends and relatives. It would be the end of a great marriage of nearly 64 years if I were to disclose our exact ages!

Tema Gouse, a Cranston resident, is a retired social worker. Contact her at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


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