Retirement and Aging

Walking our dog in the evening some time ago, we passed our neighbor’s mailbox with balloons flying above that read “Congratulations on your retirement!” He came by just then, and we asked “Who retired?”

“Me!” he said in triumph. “Have any advice for me?”

As we’re a bit older and have been retired several years longer, I thought a moment. “Take some time, then find a new purpose.” I paused. “But don’t wait too long until your time is filled with going to doctors appointments!” I grinned.

He touched a hand to his chest. “You mean this will happen to me?” I nodded. “Thanks,” he said. “Good advice.”

I imagine another friend, much younger, asking me “What’s it like to get older, to age?’ For me it started out slowly. Ten years ago as retirement approached, I attended a five day silent retreat to contemplate what I wanted to do in retirement. I became clear that I wanted to write. I signed up for one writing class then another The class evolved into a critique group that continues to meet to this day. I completed two novels that I self-published and a few short stories that are still looking for a home. Writing became my passion.

But gradually over a number of years, I began to slow down. I got more doctors: an audiologist for hearing aids, an endocrinologist for osteoporosis treatment, a chiropractor for the occasional flareups of my chronic low back pain among others. I learned to start the day with stretches and go to strength training class twice a week at the senior center to keep me healthy. I began to spend less of my time writing and more attending to my health.

Today as a symbol of aging, I immediately think of my bathroom counter, filled with bottles of medicines and supplements that I take every day. It has taken me a few years to remember to pack them all when going on a trip. At first I forgot my blood pressure medicine. My doctor called a prescription in to the nearest Walgreen’s while chiding me that I need to take it every day. When I picked it up, all I had on me was a photo of my Medicare card. But fortunately it worked. The next time this happened, in another state, the pharmacist was able to check my Medicare status online. I got one of those pill containers for AM/PM M-F and developed a system for carrying them all for the next trip. I didn’t forget any again.

Now we’ve been invited to apply for the Carol Woods Retirement Community Early Acceptance Program. We’re not ready to move there yet, but this program means we’ll be evaluated based on our current health status, stay in our home and move to Carol Woods when our health requires it, hopefully years down the road. Filling out the long forms with medical and financial information was daunting, but we got it done. A question on the form asks: what is your biggest challenge in aging? My answer: keeping my commitments in line with my available energy.

My friend who just turned 80 must have a 40 year old living inside her. As a result, she has had multiple falls of varying intensity. I practice balance every morning to prevent the same thing happening to me. She hasn’t learned to slow down. I have. I arrange my schedule to have at least two hours after lunch to stretch out on the bed and read, one of my favorite activities. Depending on how long they are, I can go through one or two novels per week. One click on my Kindle gives me the next one. I recommended this practice to her. Recently she called me late afternoon. Yawning, she admitted she had been lying down reading and fell asleep. Good, I say. I rarely fall asleep but if I doze off, I surrender to it. I may have to reread a paragraph but I get some needed rest.

A few months ago I developed double vision which an MRI and an angiogram showed was caused by carotid cavernous fistulas behind my left eye. Next week I will go into the hospital for an embolization to place tiny coils in the fistulas. I’ll be under general anesthesia and spend a night in the ICU to make sure I’m okay. Then I’ll go home with instructions to take it easy for a week, not too bad I guess. The neurosurgeon offered with a smile to tell my husband he must do all the cooking, cleaning and laundry for that week. At our initial consultation, I told him that I’m 76 and this is the first big health issue I’ve had. I thought I’d impress upon him how scary this is to me. But all he said was: “That’s good!”

Yes, it’s good. I’ve been blessed with good health. I intend to take each day as it comes and savor my many blessings. After all, as I’ve always heard, the past is history, the future is a mystery, and today is a gift. That’s why we call it the present.


  1. toby j galinkin on August 19, 2023 at 12:23 pm

    Just beautiful, Alice.

  2. Caroline Romano on August 20, 2023 at 10:28 am

    Great attitude and may your recovery from surgery be speedy and positive!


  3. Lori Hoyt on August 20, 2023 at 2:38 pm

    Wonderful advice about setting a goal early on. Alice, you have shown such grit and determination and not only envisioning a goal but fulfilling it. And you also have such a gift for friendship and family! And that determination will get you through this latest medical difficulty with Grace and humor

  4. Dolly Daniel on August 28, 2023 at 12:59 pm

    Alice, what a lovely blog about the process of aging. I recognize myself as the 80 year old friend and have made a number of adjustments and changes lately to accommodate to the limitations that have come with age and multiple health issues and joint replacements. My dear mother-in-law gave very wise advice, saying “I know my limitations”. At 80, I’m still learning, growing, and accepting that my best lifestyle and efforts will not erase some of them.

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