Lantern in her hand

How Does It Feel to be Old

This article was written by Rhenda when she turned 60. It is one of the first chapters in her book, Voices From My HeartJim and Rhenda as Burt and Mary.

As a nurse working with people older than myself, I hear it time after time. I don’t belong in a place like this. These people are old. They are in wheel chairs and using walkers. The last person I heard say it was sitting in a wheel chair, but he did not see himself like the others in wheel chairs. We still feel like the same person that we were when we were young. My favorite patients are 88 years old and above. They are healthy. They usually take very few medications. They look younger than they are. They are active. They have seldom had anything seriously wrong with them…until now. This may have been an elective surgery, or they had an unfortunate fall, but suddenly they are not bouncing back and recovering the way they always have. They are dismayed by the length of time it is taking them to feel “normal” again. This reminds me of the saying, “Inside every older person is a younger person wondering what happened.”

At the age of fifteen, I walked into a large bookstore and chose the first novel I ever purchased. I gave the cashier the 60-cent price and proceeded to read. This book remains special to me even now. A Lantern in Her Hand, is the story of a woman’s life told through her own eyes beginning at eight years old until her death at eighty. I learned at the age of fifteen, while reading this book, that we are the same person, always, no matter if we are eight or eighty.

When her granddaughter asked her, “How does it feel to be old, Grandma?” She replied, “It doesn’t feel at all. People don’t understand about old age. I am an old woman…but I haven’t changed. I’m still me. They think we’re different…we old ones. The real person I am still has many of the old visions and longings. I’m fairly contented here in the old home… I’ve never grown tired of life as some old people do. I’m only tired of the aches and the pains and the inability to make my body do what I want it to do. I would like to live a long time yet…to see what can still be invented…to read the new things that will be written…to hear the new songs that will be sung…to see heavy foliage on all the new shrubbery…to see all the babies grow into men and women. You will find out when you get old, that some of the realities seem dreams…but the dreams…the dreams are all real.” (Bess Streeter Aldrich)

I had a recent illness, lasting over a week and finally had to see the doctor. I realized that the doctor was looking at a sixty-year-old sitting on her table. I was still young, but she had to ask all the questions that were applicable to someone my age. I don’t belong in a place like this. In other words, the questions she was asking, did not apply to this sixty year old. I was doing it. I was repeating the same words my patients repeat to me. How strange! That fifteen-year-old girl is now sixty. I am still the same person inside I have always been. My advice…Eat well. Drink water. Move your body. Take fewer medications. Talk to others. Interact. You are still alive. Find Joy and Dream.

4 thoughts on “How Does It Feel to be Old”

  1. Kim Taanner

    Wonderful ! I am excited to follow you into this adventure . I to have health issues. I am getting a new DR. But want to start with some positive thinking. You 2 are that for me. I’m 57 going on 97 and will be glad when it begins to reverse. Thanks in advance !

  2. So enjoy you two! I am 61, newly retired biologist and market gardener, we have a homestead, raise our own meat birds and pigs… but… I am 50 pounds overweight ! We don’t buy or eat processed food, (except for tortilla chips and graham crackers, our downfall) but I can’t seem to lose any weight! I can point to late night snacking as the culprit, blame it on arthritis and pain, or something else, but the point is I am in a metabolic crisis and want to get better. I am hoping I can get this figured out ! With love, Connie

    1. Identifying late night snacking as a culprit is a smart direction to look. Keep a food journal and be complete and honest. Do it for at least a day, three days if possible. That exercise may be enlightening.

      For us, the whole package is key. It is like the weak link in the chain, ignore one part of getting and staying healthy and the others do not have as much positive effect as they could.

      As a biologist you understand more than we do about the body functions. Take the time to think about all your daily habits and look for possible contributors to your metabolic crisis. The answer is there and will require thought honesty about how you got to where you are and what is keeping you there. Don’t ignore the possibility that you may have a medical condition that needs help beyond what you can conjure up on your own.

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