Patterns and Paths! -by Norma Glad

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My writing group recently chose limitations as our current topic. We are all seniors and have had and are living with firsthand knowledge of some of the limitations our senior years have brought to us. My first thoughts went to my lowered level of hearing. In the past 15-20 years I have put a lot of energy and commitment into doing the best I can with my hearing variability. 

Wearing a hearing aid in each ear became a necessity for me. Acceptance that I couldn't hear everything was important to me. I soon realized that not accepting the truth could in itself become a heavy limitation. The truth that I had to face: "I am not able to hear everything that is said to me or around me."

Some examples of what I do and have done about some of the changes and limitations resulting from my hearing condition:

I sometimes choose to leave out of my schedule events, presentations or meetings in which I'm interested. I know in advance that those will be extra hard for me because of background noise or other conditions which make hearing more difficult for me. Some voices are easier to hear than others. Some rooms, auditoriums, restaurants or other public places present extra difficulties to my ears. 

I once visited a number of restaurants to find the ones with the best hearing conditions.  It turned out that the most expensive ones would be on my list.

I often ask a friend who had attended the same event as I to tell me what she remembered of the words or ideas, so I could fill in some of the ideas or words which passed me by.

At other times I turn to an alternate sense, such as vision, which helps me lip read. A major irony of my life:  My undergraduate studies prepared me to be a speech and hearing therapist.  My work in the Cleveland Public Schools included teaching lip reading.  Never did it occur to me that I myself would someday need to use that skill.

Another use of vision which has enhanced my hearing is observing how people express themselves: body language, bodily tensions, facial expressions. I consider this to be part of the subtle kinesthetic and bodily senses which we might not always be aware of.

I belong to several interesting educational groups which are important to me, even though I miss a lot of what is being said.  I have asked myself, "Why do I keep coming back here, when I can't hear everything?" My own answer:  I like the people in these groups; I like being a part of it. I've been in each of these groups for a long time, so I feel close to many people in the groups. We share similar aims, thoughts and experiences.  This is all of value to me.

Sometimes when I can't hear something I want to hear I feel really dumb.  Part of this could be envy that they can hear it and I can't. Another recurring thought: “I’m not like I used to be!" Here we are again in limitations of the senior years. I try hard to grab any and all words and phrases which I can hear, and to do what's best for me, as I am now.

In 2015 what seemed best for me was to undergo major surgery in order to have a cochlear implant in my left ear. The cochlea from my left inner ear wasn't working well, so it was removed, replaced by an amazing internal magnet and external hearing aid which have greatly improved my hearing. I wear a more old-fashioned one on my right ear.  Both need to be removed at night, and attention paid to the batteries. They're certainly worth the extra attention they require.

The implant is a great example of how contemporary technology has aided my search for better hearing.  With the implant came a microphone and a small remote packet which together direct and enhance incoming conversations so they go directly to my left ear which has the implant.

Another example of technology benefitting me is my CapTel telephone.  Because I don’t hear everything on other phones, CapTel puts a 6x12 screen on the desk part of the phone.  All incoming speech is transcribed into words which are printed on the screen so that in addition to my partial hearing of what was said, I can read it.

Caution number one: The conversation on the screen comes in more slowly than most people talk.  Consequently, I ask callers to please talk more slowly and/or wait a short time until the captions catch up with what is being said. I often thank them for helping me hear more completely.  

Caution number two: There are many occasions when the intended words and the printed ones differ greatly. Example: On the first day I received the CapTel phone, a friend called me to tell me about her orange geranium.  What came through was orange uranium!  Stranger ones also appear which are even more humorous. While hearing limitations can be quite serious and heart-rending, I don't mind having some extra humor in my life.

 

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Norma Glad is a member of Congregation Har Shalom in Fort Collins. She is a certified yoga instructor and leads chair yoga classes at the Fort Collins Senior Center and at her residence. 

Staying Young While Growing Older -by Jane Everham

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I have a confession to make. At the age of 16, my two best friends and I made a pact – when we turned 65, no matter where we were, we would come together and . . . commit suicide.After all, we reasoned, life would be over if we indeed did reach that ancient age of 65. At sixteen, we were fully into

drama, writing morose (and bad) poetry, nurturing dark thoughts, and conjuring such nonsense as a “suicide pact.”

Well, age 65 passed a few years ago, and I am happy to report not only are we still here (we called off the pact), but we are active, engaged, and leading vibrant lives. We’ve slowed down some by retiring but are now almost as busy in the world of volunteering.

Twice in the last month I have thanked two friends for revealing that they were 75 while not looking nor acting a day over 60. I was inspired by them. I am active and busy and loving life, but my joints ache some, my short-term memory takes unannounced vacations (without me), and I do worry that “old” will arrive soon. Knowing that folks older than I are still going strong is a relief. In fact, I just had lunch with a 93-year-old spitfire. She admits she didn’t take care of her body as she should have, and declining physicality is a hinderance now, but her mind is fully intact, still brewing with thoughts; she keeps me on my toes by challenging my thinking with probing questions and encouraging my many endeavors.

I’ve always heard that old age is not for sissies, but the last of the Greatest Generation and the Baby Boomers are really pushing the bar up and away when old age arrives. I used to joke that I would live to be 104, whether I wanted to or not. The fantasy of relaxing in a rocker on my front porch watching life go by had some appeal in middle age. Not any more. Life is too precious— so many interesting people to know, books to read, podcasts to hear. There are opportunities to serve, to give back for all the blessings I have received. Life is fragile, and no one knows when the end will come. My life has not been perfect, and I would redo some things if I could, but overall, I have no regrets. I will take what I am given but would really like to “die alive,” giving at least a small kick “for more” regardless of my age.

 
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Jane  grew up in the Chicago suburbs in the 50's and 60's. She moved to Colorado to attend Denver University. . After earning an Educational Specialist degree in School Psychology at UNC, she worked for 34 years in the public schools in Cheyenne, Wyoming and Fort Collins. After retirement in 2011, she has spent her time volunteering with the Larimer League of Women Voters, Foothills Unitarian Church, and progressive politics. She loves to have lunch with friends, reads voraciously, and travels.

Staying Alive -by Clay Carter

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Each year makes me more aware of distinct choices for living with aging.  One choice is to welcome the inertia of reduced energy and meager responsibility:  Make no non-medical commitments that can’t be easily broken, avoid engaging in reading or interacting with anything or anyone that is mentally challenging, make exercise a matter easily dismissed, disengage from issues beyond my constricted circle of activity, ignore activities that excited me in the past, rationalize and excuse indulgences, become gradually more secluded except for being merely a spectator. 

  In this mode, lethargy spreads like spilled syrup on a pantry shelf: invasive and hard to get rid of; the mind and body become dull and sluggish.

Another response to aging is to keep adapting so that my essential self is not lost. Not just living until I die, but staying lively till I die. This is where meaning-purpose is relevant.  Meaning-purpose energizes. (I use the hyphenated term to suggest a connection like two sides of the same coin.  For many of us, “meaning” connotes static essence, while “purpose” connotes action. Think of the one term as the blend of two aspects.)  

Aging often moves us beyond roles in which we found satisfying meaning-purpose. Sometimes it is retirement from important work, or children growing beyond the need for care, or physical decline, or loss of access to people in whose company we most liked ourselves, or…you have your own list. The changes affect not only our external routines, but also the way we see ourselves and relate to ourselves.  

How to regain the sense of being alive? We think of times when we were fully engaged in an activity that we could do well, that we enjoyed, that resulted in something we wanted to happen, that fitted with who we are. Then we remember how it felt: fullness of energy, ability to think what came next, alive! 

Next, we tease out all the skills and attributes that we expressed in doing what made us feel alive. We may notice instincts for mentoring, or being a catalyst for productivity, or nurturing cooperation between antagonists, or engendering camaraderie among mere acquaintances, or problem solving, or having empathy, or organizing people to do complicated tasks, or encouraging love for excellence, or sharing resources, or seeing new solutions, or giving hopeful perspective; the list is longer than my imagination.  We may be surprised at the complexity and range of what we know how to do with excellence.

The next step: look for a place to express the essential self.  This can be difficult in a culture that pays closest attention to youthfulness.  However, we keep in mind that all the wisdom and skill we possess is something sorely needed somewhere by someone.  When we get frustrated or confused or disrespected, we pause and remember the energy and satisfaction of our best moments. We try again.  We find places to live out who we are to the fullest.  We find ourselves staying alive.

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As a minister, family therapist, and addiction therapist, Clay conducted groups for over two decades designed to facilitate positive change in attitude and behavior.  In 2008 Clay published a book entitled Older, Wiser…HAPPIER: 10 Choices for Rebooting Your Life at 50+.  Since his retirement to Loveland in 2012, Clay has continued to provide pro bono workshops on aging issues.