When An Old Friend Dies, “An Ageing Badge of Courage”

Death is never easy for the person that is dying, of course, nor the family and friends engaged in the process. It is especially poignant for friends that have made a significant difference in our lives. One such friend is currently in hospice as we wait for the inevitable end. We are no longer allowed to visit at the family’s request and those were also his wishes, we were told, and we respected it.

My last visit was last week. He gently told me that he hadn’t realized that he had such an impact on many of our lives. There had been a steady stream of visitors while he held court in the VA Hospital, truly a palace of hospitals. They all told him how he had touched their lives, and many were significant. Though he was terminally ill, he remained jovial and in unbelievably good spirits. He told me that the doctors couldn’t believe how his mental stability remained so healthy, while his body failed. I believed it.

This dear man has been a warrior, a pundant, and a fierce newspaper writer. He is a Rotarian and an author. Though he is in and out of consciousness now, his philosophy has been to always ask a person about themselves, and remembered what was important to that person, and ask them again when he saw them later. He liked to make people feel friendship, and happy, and loved. He was of great assistance to others when they needed his help. For me, he told the local newspapers to “print her stuff” when I was writing press releases for work and charity. And, they did since he had requested it. Once when I wrote an article, he critiqued it so rigidly that it almost wasn’t mine anymore but he encouraged me take the credit because he wanted me to learn to write better. I think I do because of him. He said to look for the good whenever you can because people really do want to hear what is good. It made me smile since he wrote publically very critically of politicians using the many historical references that he was so famous for. Learning from this person in his eighties, was a gift he gave to many. How lucky we were to sit with him and bask in the glow of his knowledge.

He remembered to me how much he enjoyed dancing with his wife as if he would be seeing her soon. I touched his knee as I gave him the new Rotary pin for the year, and left it where he could see it. When I was walking out the door he quietly said, “Come again anytime, I am always glad to see you.” I am sure that he said that to everyone that visited him. I would expect nothing less.

As we wait for the end, we still consider the living that he touched, made better, and changed us for his having been here. His grace in dying should be a lesson to us all to not regret anything as we live our best life, and be thankful that we lived it.

The ageing process is inevitable and all generations should understand and expect it bravely. We shouldn’t let the fact that someone is old or infirm deter us from making contact to enjoy their company and learn from them. We should look at their wrinkles and gray hair as an “Ageing Badge of Courage” and try to be like them…because we inevitably will.

Thanks for reading;)

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A Stunning Elder Interview

Today, I will focus on something that I personally experienced recently, within my 6 month job search efforts. I will preface it by saying that I always seem to get the interview, make it to the final 2 or 3, and then they hire the other person who happens to be younger for reasons that vary greatly. The other person already has their Master’s degree or speaks Mandarin, or something else. I AM starting to think it has something to do with my age;)

To say that the interviewer was stunned when she saw me would be a mild assessment. I looked lovely if I do say so myself, in my soft pink pearls and blouse with elegant matching scarf. I had some fun socks and patent designer loafers on with black pencil slacks. My attire was entirely appropriate for the job at hand so I know that wasn’t what was stunning her.  At 58 years of age, I had adhered to all of the advice from headhunters, friends, business associates, and my college professors to not reveal my age in my resume. Of course my resume shows that I graduated in 2011 with a Bachelor’s of Science and that I am in my 2nd year of graduate school so why shouldn’t there be an assumption that I am in my 20’s, or 30’s, and surprised to see me standing there in front of her? Why, because then it would be “Agism” and getting people to realize that is the first step to appreciating what a seasoned new hire could offer, and get past it.  

To be clear, the person that interviewed me when I introduced myself was only momentarily stunned, immediately got past it, and recovered professionally and courteously. I thought about the look on her face when she first saw me and at first I didn’t know what the look represented until later during the interview by some of the questions she asked. She was deft at getting the answers she needed without really asking. I was impressed. We ended up having one of the longest interviews I have had with many commonalities between us. She had me take an integrity test with over 150 questions on it that made me smile since I am a Rotarian and live by the 4-Way Test, “Of the things we think, say, or do, is it the truth; is it fair to all concerned; will it build goodwill and better friendships; and is it beneficial to all concerned?” The test was like many we studied in undergraduate work so it was fine.

I left liking her very much, and with a good feeling, knowing that I could help her reach the company goals she had set. With my high energy and previous experience in the same field, the job would be an excellent fit. Over 90% of their clients are seniors and with my Gerontology training, it would be a bonus to them. She did give me the salary range and said I would be hearing from her soon. If the opportunity passes, that’s fine too since I would only want to work for a company that appreciates the grace and wisdom of an experienced employee that appreciates intergenerational workplaces and can pass it on to their customers and other staff members. I will remain optomistic and hope that she sees the potential in hiring me, a stunning, seasoned 58 year old, if I do say so myself.

Thanks for reading;)

Aging Healthy is Diverse

We are all aging from the time we are born but managing aging is diverse. For different cultures managing recuperation from illness varies especially as it relates to pain. The Brits are taught from an early age to “Have a stiff upper lip” while we Americans have heard over and over, “No pain, no gain.” Italians just started discussing some medical issues within the family like breast cancer within the last generation, and they pray about it.  Collective societies like the Chinese all pitch in to get the best result. Mexicans tend to take care of themselves, and along with Blacks, look to their places of worship to get through difficulties. My source for this information, besides my own experiences, came from Mehrotra Wagner’s book, “Aging and Diversity.” Of course there are differences among many within their own ethnic groups but the point is that we should be considering their differences.

Too often we see medical practitioners and long-term care agencies handling everyone the same way. There are movements to change this within the Ageing field. For instance, The Jewish Home in San Francisco is a good model. They not only cook for their clients’ cultures and beliefs but offer counseling and religious services within the perameters of their Jewish faith.

Other considerations to be made are that some have hearing and sight deficits, but not all. Simply because a person has gray hair isn’t a reason to talk louder, for instance. I say it all the time that we shouldn’t assume anything. If a person can’t talk doesn’t mean that they aren’t in pain. Stroke victims may be able to blink once for “yes” and twice for “no.” We shouldn’t assume that they can’t communicate because they can’t talk.

By learning about the ethnicities of the diverse people we are caring about, and caring for, we may be able to take te pain threshold down a notch. At least we can all try.