In the rule of three, most everything can be divided into thirds. Life’s flow mostly falls into three stages; people tend to think in one of three ways. Three is mystical.
My first husband used to say, “Some people make things happen, some people watch things happen, and some people sit around asking, “what’s happening?” What can I say? It was the sixties. (And I’ve been married three times.)
1/3 of Americans love Trump, 1/3rd don’t. 1/3rd will go along with whatever everyone else is doing.
A third of American citizens believe there will be a Civil War very soon, a third think it’s unlikely, and another third don’t know why you’re bringing it up.
One-third of Americans think “substantially less” than 6 million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust.
Three successes of the same kind form a hat trick. A third of all people are overweight and obese, and there’s a good chance that a third of the world’s population will be African by 2100. The planet has lost a third of it’s farmable land in just the last forty years. Almost one third of our air pollution comes from the gasoline burned by vehicles. And without a third leg, a stool won’t work.
A third is not a half, but it’s enough of a dent to show you mean business.
Three is a number that is big enough to matter, but small enough to comprehend. And it seems to be a pattern into which we naturally fall.
For years I’ve had a theory about aging. Hang around long enough and you see the patterns playing out there as well.
In this case, I clearly see three stages of aging.
I have some friends who saw their own parents die shortly after retiring at 65; those friends were the ones who took early retirement, so that they can enjoy their ‘golden years’ while they still have excellent health. And it’s really worked for them.
But for the rest of us, and in my own observations, it goes a little like this.
In the first stage of getting older, let’s say when people get into their early sixties, and can see their senior years rushing towards them, they generally still feel pretty good. The odd ache and pain is inevitable, and bad decisions made in their youth may be coming back to bite them, but the whole idea of getting ‘old’ seems almost laughable. Old was for your parents and grandparents, while you … you are still going to see rock concerts, and hanging out with people younger than yourself because you’re cool, and can blend in. Still fitting into those club clothes. Still able to hang out until past four a.m., now and again. Not all the time, but once in a while. Still got it.
Retirement represents possibilities! Time to shake off those shackles, maybe look into doing something they’ve put off for years, while they were ‘working for the man.’ Do what they love, rather than what pays a salary. And hey! A pension! Yeah, free money!
Most of us know there will be tough decisions that we will have to make in time, but we fool ourselves that that time is far away. Where we will live, and how we will manage our finances, are concerns, but .. just a sec! Right now, I don’t feel ‘old,’ so I’ll push aside any thoughts that remind me of how close I am to my own future.
This is the stage when you should be enjoying getting out and travelling. If you start to have trouble breathing, all of those higher altitude destinations will be out of the question. (If you haven’t already, quit smoking now.) If you have decent mobility, and enjoy exploring travel destinations by foot – do it now. You’ll be glad that you did.
But too many of us are fairly delusional about embracing the concept of aging. Example: I was talking to someone about creating a rock n roll retirement home. He said he was really interested, and would look into it when he got older. He’s 68.
In the second stage of aging, things start to get real. You start having more things go wrong with your health, and you’re less able to do some of the things you used to do, but overall, you’re managing, with medications, regular doctor visits, and surgeries to either lop off the stuff that’s not working or to put stuff back from where it fell off. Most of the time you don’t notice that you’ve subtly normalized a slowing down of your world. You walk slower, you eat less, and you rarely feel like staying up late. You check your calendar before accepting an invitation that’s too far in the future.
This is the point where organizations like CARP and AARP say you’ve got to face your future head on. Ask yourself, “Will my home work for me as I age? Should I re-fit my residence with devices to help me stay self-sufficient and independent, or should I consider selling or moving? Will my community be there to support me through the ups and downs of aging? Do I have enough sympatico friends to get me through the long days and weeks when work is not there to fill those hours?”
At this point, all possibilities are still viable, but with restrictions. Expectations of what can be accomplished in a day change greatly. There’s not much desire to take on too many new things; dealing with the changes going on around you are enough to keep you busy.
You may find that you become more dependent on help from others for some activities, like getting around in the winter, when it’s more difficult. If you’re dealing with multiple chronic conditions, or a lot of pain, you may need to keep that in mind before planning travel. For Canadians, any travel or moving decisions can also become contingent on being able to access healthcare when necessary, in order to stay healthy and on the go.
This might be a time when you enjoy leisure activities with family and friends.
Then there’s the last stage that comes along, when it becomes crucial to have someone around who can help with even basic daily living activities. Bathing, cooking and shopping become chores that are fraught with tension. As your body wears out, it may become necessary to hire outside help for personal care assistance, or to move into a residence where they will see to your daily needs.
Now, the thing is, how old you are at any of these stages is not important. What IS important is to be continually taking the ‘temperature’ of your physical condition, and to be enjoying every moment to it’s fullest extent. Some people are old at 60, others live far into their nineties in great physical shape. It will be your genetic background, and how you treated your body during the younger years that will determine how well you weather the senior years.
Some people find the discussion of aging too frightening. They hope and pray they’ll never get to the stage where they need to admit that they need help. But the only way to avoid aging is to die young. And for a lot of us… it’s too late for that option.
Okay, enough of all that. Everybody lift your beers into the air and let’s say it together!
Happy Canada Day!