My mom is living this. Perhaps you or someone you know is living it too. I asked her to share what she’s seen so that others can learn from her experiences.
The smartest of my friends is 82, and a few years ago she simply gave up. She scorned computers and cellphones, ignored her doctor’s advice, smoked till the walls of her home turned yellow, and stopped going out. She was also a fine pianist, but even the Steinway went silent. Because she was once a medical professional, people assumed she knew what she was doing.
Her body began to wither from disuse, and she turned her face to the wall, barely speaking. Her children interpreted that as willfulness. It was not will ― it was the opposite.
They tell us to Botox our brows, eliminate those wrinkles, erase our worry lines. Try mindfulness, they say. Yoga exercises. Anything to slow the aging process. Maybe that new lipstick the famous actress is hawking.
There’s a world of formulas out there, at best superficial, none of which matters one whit if you have stepped away from the world. Without interaction, you face a shutdown ― your body knows you’ve withdrawn. Physical imperfections grow worse, and your brain begins to atrophy. A silence envelops you.
Our children want us to be who we are, but it’s difficult for them to recognize the truth, and who we’ve become – a different person than the one they’ve known all their lives.
Unfortunately, there is no vaccine against inertia. It’s our greatest enemy. So encourage your parents to make the effort.
As for your own health, it’s not too late. You can still learn from the past and make a better future. If you haven’t already, start now. Walk, dance, act, sing, volunteer! And don’t forget that lifelong learning and friendships feed your soul and nourish your brain. They are the key to senior years without silence.
It will be better for all of you. It will be better for all of us.
Jessie Tromberg, mother of 3, grandmother of 5, is a member of OLLI@UCI and is many decades past middle age.