There was a time (long ago!) when I thought sixty was old. Turning sixty myself I moved this figure up by ten years. At 70 I decided to make a five year plan until 80, and after that it would be a one year plan.
I am now turning 80 and have decided to go for another five year plan, and thereafter opt for one year plans. ‘Plans’ in this case relate largely to where I shall live as I get really old (I now see this as being 90 !). For me the dilemma is realizing that I need to think ahead, to have plans or solutions to potential problems, but on the other hand I do not want to give up what I have (my way of life) at the moment while I am thoroughly enjoying it and maybe the problems I envisage never materialize. Why am I determined to make the most of each day? Because I am so conscious of the fact that the day I am ill – or were any of my family to be taken seriously ill – any problem I had had before that time would pale into insignificance. Perhaps it is because I have been so lucky to be healthy all my life that I have a ‘secret’ fear (i.e. I don’t broadcast this - until now!) of being ill, of doctors, hospitals and dentists. Particularly dentists, call it a phobia!
I am always so aware that Floris (my husband) had never been ill until he got a lump and six months later he died (now 17 years ago). Here today and gone tomorrow. Well today, and ill tomorrow. Yes, it is almost a complex with me since that time, and as a result I am particularly uncomfortable when people say ‘but you are so well, you’ll live to be 100’. It is meant well, it is meant to boost morale, but to me it does the reverse; it instils anxiety. I will leave it to my tortoise to live to be 100 years.
I also find old age in general particularly unattractive, however well anyone is said to ‘age’. Unless you are lucky enough to be a really ‘serene–English-rose ‘type, with a skin to match the anti-ageing advertisements (note – these anti-ageing creams are advertised for the over 40’s), it becomes ever more difficult to ‘make something of yourself’ however long you take before the mirror.
You become so very vulnerable as you get older. For much of life, any minor complaints will heal with some tender loving care (as a child, Mama could ‘kiss it better’ ). As you get older you lose the confidence that aches and pains will go away entirely. It is a delightful surprise when they do thanks to something as simple as, for example, ibuprofen cream or the luxury of a massage. Talking about aches and pains is the ultimate in boredom – but there are moments when you need to ‘share’ – be it pains or anxieties. KISS usually stands for Keep It Simple, Stupid. In this case, Keep It Short, Senior.
There is only so much you can do to preserve good health. Personally, I am convinced that sleep and exercise in the fresh air and a purpose in life go a long way to maintaining a stress-free existence, and stress-free is definitely beneficial to health. I also believe you have to consistently put yourself first, recognize your limitations, do not do things you do not want to do or over-stretch yourself. You have to learn to say NO ! You have to learn to pace yourself. You are no good to anybody if you are tired or irritable, not to your children or your friends. A dutiful grandmother is only of real help to the next generation if she maintains her own health and independence as long as possible. I like to think I can create an environment where others will feel relaxed and ‘at home’ and where they are welcome at any time – but preferably with prior notice!
I love to lead an active life, I love having my family and my friends around me, I still enjoy travelling and it doesn’t have to be in luxury, but it does have to meet my requirements as to charm, beauty (of scenery) and sufficient comfort (prefer hot water, but warm will suffice). I have been project-oriented all my life, I am a born organizer , I need to get up knowing I have plans for the day. Just sometimes that plan is to do nothing, to relax. I am so glad that I am still a working ‘ early-octogenarian’. I have just looked this up in the dictionary, and an octogenarian is someone between the age of 80 and 89, so I have another nine years within this bracket. Hopefully I can continue enjoying Dar Cilla. I must admit that my work of running a guesthouse gets ever less onerous as my team take over ever more of my responsibilities but still have the knack of making me feel I am un-miss-able. They leave me with the cherry in the cake – meeting and greeting the many delightful and interesting guests on our fabulous roof terrace.
I am confident that the sun of Tarifa will continue to tickle my nose and that the fabulous fresh seafood will continue to tickle my palate. I am confident my grandchildren will visit me regularly (they love Tarifa !). I am confident my ‘top team’ will continue to support me. My door is always open to family and the many friends I have in Tarifa and to the many returning guests to Dar Cilla who have become friends. This, with good health, and there can’t be much wrong with life at a later age.