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Life begins at 80: Part 1

By Ruth Chamberlin

Observer columnist

Published on September 11, 2018 1:25PM

Ruth Chamberlin

Ruth Chamberlin


Four women over 80 chatted by the door, coming and going. I squeezed in a question. “What have you learned since you turned 80?” Two smiled tippy smiles and chewed on that thought. The third, the eldest among us, said, “Everything!”

After my 80th birthday, I thought: Is this what 80 feels like? This young? This old? Lots of friends and relatives, men and women, far and near, were 80-plus, so I wrote emails and letters or cornered them in person, asking, “What’s different now? Surprises? Funny or poignant incidents surrounding age? A young person’s perception of 80 vs. yours, now that you are 80? Are your goals different now? Do you have new aspirations? What advice would you give your 40-year-old self?”

Their answers bloomed and blossomed! Voluminous or brief, unique in voice. I’ve deleted identifying bits (with a few exceptions), and divvied up long answers. One person’s words may appear in Part 1, Part 2, and/or Part 3 of the series.


Observations on 80


“Here’s my take. I truly don’t feel any different at 80. I am fortunate to be in good health and so I thank my lucky stars every day that I am still here on earth and very active and busy. I used to say, ‘No more birthdays,’ but now I welcome every single one, considering the alternative.”

• • •

“It ain’t over yet!”

• • •

“Love being asked about where we are in life, will put my thinking cap on & keep in touch with those new thoughts … hopefully they (the thoughts) won’t come and then scoot away … actually that caps another blessing of having reached this decade … forgetting!!!”

• • •

“Wow, what an interesting idea. Turning 80. I think I might laugh to myself and think it was a cosmic joke, until body parts started to ache. Luckily no surgery has been prescribed and I can safely take Ibuprofen for acute pain!”

• • •

“When I was in my late teens I read a story about an old woman and her young granddaughter in which the woman said she knew everything about her said ‘old’ but inside she was still her younger self. To some extent that describes where I am as well. At this point I recognize that stiff knees won’t allow me to folk dance anymore or get up easily when working outdoors but inside I still wish I could, even though I have made my peace with the physical manifestations of age.”

• • •

“Truly enjoy visits to the family home, seeing classmates who still meet once a month to sup and chit-chat about how things have changed since graduation (including new hips and/or knees).”

• • •

“My turning 80 caused me to make some comparisons to my old grandparents … they both looked and acted old, old … humped, bumped sitters with nothing much to do but sit and wait until ‘death do us part.’ Our 80s were their 60s.”

• • •

“I am now referring to myself as ‘mature’ instead of telling people my actual age. It is an age with fewer worries for me.”

• • •

“’Whatever.’ I find myself saying/thinking that quite often. It’s a form of not hanging on too tight(ly) … I guess I’m feeling less whelmed. Feels good.”

• • •

“I certainly did not want to turn 80, that sounded really old, but now that I am here, I just don’t feel any different. We have had a wonderful life and we have no regrets.”

• • •

“I don’t know that I’ve learned very much in my 82 years on this earth or that I would have any advice to my 40-year-old self. Mostly, I guess, I just know myself a little better. I trust my instincts (or intuition or gut feelings — or whatever you call it) more and find that logic, while satisfying at the moment, is less reliable in the long run. Probably along those lines I find that paying attention to those old adages and proverbs is probably a good way to live one’s life — the distilled wisdom of those who have gone before us. You know the ones — ‘There’s more than one way to skin a cat’ and ‘Pretty is as pretty does’ and ‘Don’t cry over spilt milk’ etc., etc., etc.”

• • •

“Laughter is still the best medicine.”

• • •

“I say ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ every night, plus the 23rd Psalm, before prayers for the world and others and this keeps me grounded and at peace (pretty much).”

• • •

“Water aerobics three times a week has been terrific to keep me moving.”

• • •

“Am up and down the stairs in my two-story home.”

• • •

“My latest incident was in a Yoga class, more advanced than others I’ve attended but my self-competitive nature usually pushes me to the limit … and beyond. ‘Face sideways on the mat, spread your legs wide, bend forward from the waist putting your hands on the floor,’ said our instructor. So far, so good! ‘Now put your head on the floor and push up into a head stand.’ The silence was broken by my laugh I couldn’t contain, as I thought back about 40 years since I had attempted anything resembling a headstand. Perhaps the class of younger women had no idea why I was giggling, but someday they will!!”

‘My turning 80 caused me to make some comparisons to my old grandparents … they both looked and acted old, old … humped, bumped sitters with nothing much to do but sit and wait until ‘death do us part.’ Our 80s were their 60s.’



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