Who says old people are Set in Their Ways?

“They” say that old people don’t like change, that they are Set in Their Ways.

This is the same “they” who spout other bogus pronouncements, such as:

*** Women don’t get heart attacks. (Actually, it’s the No. 2 cause of  death in women.)

*** Old people don’t have sex. (They don’t have it as often as teen-agers and newly-weds, but then again, who does?) And my personal favorite:

*** You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. (Some old dogs  have heard this one so many times that they’ve come to believe it themselves.) But the fact is that  you can teach an old dog to do just about anything, if you make it worth his while.

A blog is born

I’ve been thinking along these lines lately because it’s been a year since I started blogging about the myths and realities of aging. Some of the other things I was working on around that time were a project to earn a Distinguished Toastmaster award; going for a Gold medal in the President’s [exercise] Challenge; and experimenting with all sorts of  exotic veggies, such as bok choy, kohlrabi, and jicama and speaking and writing about the delicious results .

And then something happened

My BF Dick got an offer he couldn’t refuse. It was a job offer, and it was perfect for him. It was as if he’d sat down and written a description of his ideal job, and someone came along and offered it to him. At the time he’d been retired for only a few months, a short time but long enough for him to conclude that retirement sucks.

The problem was that we’d have to move across the U.S. from Seattle to southern Maryland, but there was never any question about whether we should do it.

Steps in getting from there to here

1. Much filling in of forms (like 50-page security clearances) and much, much waiting for approvals

2. Taking a trip to Maryland to look for an apartment

We found one with a great location but were super-stressed and delayed for weeks by an error during the rental process. (You would think that a company which operates and rents apartments would be able to perform a routine credit check without incident.)

These preliminaries took so long that summer turned to fall, and we began to anticipate a  move across the country in the middle of winter.

3. Organizing our move

No move is without its challenges, but ours involving transporting all this stuff:

  • a household with furniture, kitchen wares,  and about 1,600 books (yes, we did lots of culling before and after),
  • my cats Puddy and Ginger,
  • Dick’s truck,
  • my car,
  • the two of us, and
  • Dick’s small airplane

4. Dick driving his truck to Maryland to start work

He left the day after Christmas and drove in some very bad weather to the apartment we’d finally been able to rent. While he was on the road, I got a phone call informing me that my son Jonathan (who lived in Boston) had died on December 29. It was devastating, a complete shock which I’ve written about here.

5. Dick starting work and returning briefly to help me

6.  Arranging to have my car hauled across the country

7. Overseeing final steps in Seattle

I hired a painter, interviewed several electricians, had the utilities disconnected, cleaned-up, monitored the movers, brought the cats to a vet for updated shots and medical certificates, and got a locksmith to come at the last minute before the movers drove off.

8. Dealing with a dental implant emergency

It involved a temporary device called a flipper which broke and was repaired three times, the last repair being the day before I was to travel to Maryland.

9. Flying to Maryland with my cats

The Baltimore-Washington DC area had been hit by back-to-back, record-breaking snow storms, and the driving was terrible.  Dick met me (and the cats) at the airport and drove us to our apartment.

10. Camping out in the apartment

Dick had bought a new air mattress, two chairs, and some household essentials when he drove to Maryland to start his job. We used cardboard packing boxes for tables. It took about a week and a half or so before the enormous moving truck, hauling 4 or 5 households-worth of stuff, got to our place.

Getting organized in the apartment

1. Creating order from chaos

The arrival of the furniture and kitchen wares precipitated a frenzy of unpacking, arranging, and organizing along with frequent runs to Wal-Mart for missing essentials.

2. Refreshing my driving-on-snow skills, learned in Boston but grown rusty in Seattle

3. Flying back to Seattle to complete my dental implant surgery

I must say that dental implant surgery takes forever and is subject to glitches. But it makes up for the hassle by being very expensive.

4. Figuring out where to get the necessities of life

With lots of help from Dick and a new GPS for my car which arrived shortly after I did, I found supermarkets, a credit union, a doctor, a pharmacy, and a hairdresser. I got a new cell-phone and service provider because my previous provider didn’t cover the area where we live, and I got a Maryland  driver’s license and auto registration.

5. Visiting several Toastmaster groups and selecting one to join

The new normal

1. Dick’s hard at work and loves his job

He’s like the proverbial “kid in a candy store” with exciting and challenging projects to work on. It’s so gratifying to see that his considerable experience is seen as the huge plus that it is.  

2. I’ve resumed writing, exercising, and public speaking

With the death of my son and the move, I was physically and emotionally exhausted and unable to attend to my blog for quite a while, but as things settled down a bit I started writing again.  I also began exercising again, initially, indoors on a mini-trampoline and when the snow melted, outdoors.

I resumed the President’s Challenge right where I’d left off and completed requirements for the Gold metal. Now I’m going for the Platinum and trying to figure out a way to earn 400,000 some points in less than 5 years. I’ve also done a demonstration speech and taken other roles at Toastmasters’ meetings.

3. Dick and I went to Albany for my daughter’s graduation

She received her Master’s Degree at an inspiring and joyous ceremony, and we celebrated afterwards with great food, conversation, and sight-seeing.

4. Dick went back to get his airplane.

Several weeks ago, he took a one-way commercial flight to Seattle and flew his Cessna 150 airplane back across the country, taking about 3 1/2 days.

What it all means

  • Change is a trade-off. To get something, you have to give up something (sometimes without knowing exactly what it is).
  • It’s your choice whether what you may get is worth what you give up.
  • You need to have a plan for making the change. Fortunately, Dick always has a plan.
  • If you’re in a relationship, it’s crucial that you both commit to the change and to helping each other get through it when things go wrong. Get mad at the obstacle, not at each other.
  • As we age, we tend to accumulate a fair amount of baggage—both literal and metaphorical. Nonetheless, we can choose change at any age.

What do you think?  Do you have experience with big changes in your life as you’ve  grown older or in the lives of your parents or grandparents? Do stereotypes about being “set in their ways” discourage people from trying new things as they age? If we believe that we’re too old to change, do we stop trying?

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Madeleine Kolb 07/16/2010, 3:06 pm

    Kelly, It’s great to see you here again. Living longer and healthier is a challenge and an opportunity not only for those over 60 or so but for everyone else.

    We need to become better as a society at using invaluable knowledge accumulated over decades. As my BF says, “Would you rather have a 60-year-old surgeon operate on you or two 30-year-old surgeons?”

  • Kelly 07/16/2010, 2:08 pm

    I see what you mean about retirement being anything but boring. I think as people are living longer and healthier they have to adapt and find new interests to fill their time whether that is a hobby, travel or a new job.
    .-= Kelly @ Impowerage´s last blog ..Belly Dancing =-.

  • Madeleine Kolb 07/06/2010, 7:06 pm

    Aileen, What a wonderful thing to say. Thank you so much.

  • Aileen 07/06/2010, 3:16 pm

    Madeleine, you are in incredible inspiration. – beyond choosing change you have chosen inner peace, adventure and a fulfilling life. You have found the ability to maneuver through incredible challenges.
    .-= Aileen´s last blog ..Simple Stress Release- Breathe =-.

  • Madeleine Kolb 07/02/2010, 3:53 pm

    Manal, I loved this comment, especially that part about children moving and going to a new school. I remember moving from Cambridge, MA to the adjoining town when my son was about 9. He kept asking why we had to move but settled in very well once we did.

    And, yes, age is not an issue. We all have fear of change throughout our lives as our brains work overtime to protect us from danger.

  • Manal 07/02/2010, 1:38 pm

    Madeleine,
    You are truly an inspiration. I love reading your blog and following your journey.

    Personally, I think resistance to change is a human trait and not age related. Ask a 4 year old if he/she wants to change their home. Ask a 10 year old if they want to move to a new school. Once our subconscious develops, its main purpose is to protect us. Change is usually perceived as a threat to safety.

    I did some major changes in my life from moving thousands of miles to leaving a well-paid career. It is scary but it is exciting as well. My parents also made some major changes. So age is not an issue at all.

    They say the only constant in life is change.

    Thanks so much for this insightful post. It does feel like having a conversation with a friend. :)
    .-= Manal´s last blog ..10 Things I Wish We Could Teach Every Child =-.

  • Madeleine Kolb 07/01/2010, 6:02 pm

    Angela, Thank you for your generous comment. Adaptability is a huge factor in making change at any age, especially since we can never be certain how things will work out.

    You are facing some very big changes indeed. I think it’s very exciting (and probably at least a bit anxiety-provoking), and I’m following your progress with great interest.

  • Angela Artemis 07/01/2010, 11:57 am

    Hi Madeleine,
    You’ve proven yourself to be quite elastic Madeleine! I think change keeps us youthful. The more we adapt the better off we are! When we get stiff and won’t bend and make changes that’s when we’ve given away our power.

    Good for you!!! I think you’re an excellent role model and I’m so glad your blog is out there as an example of how we can adapt, change and grow at any age.

    I’m dealing with moving again……#14 and trying to reinvent myself in a new career. Those are the changes I have to be flexible about now.
    .-= Angela Artemis´s last blog ..Who Is The Best Expert on YOU =-.

  • Madeleine Kolb 07/01/2010, 10:25 am

    Linda, Thanks you for your comment. In terms of the move, I really didn’t expect it to take so long or be so difficult. But had I known, I would have done it anyway.

  • Madeleine Kolb 07/01/2010, 10:23 am

    Jean, Thank you so much for your comment. I really appreciate it.

    I think that the key elements in thriving as long as you live are work, supportive relationships, and goals to work toward.

  • Linda Gabriel 06/30/2010, 10:00 pm

    I love the idea of choosing change, even unexpected or unwanted change. You are obviously a great example of how to do that gracefully Madeleine!
    .-= Linda Gabriel´s last blog ..Does Your Mind Need to Go on an Information Diet =-.

  • Jean Sarauer 06/30/2010, 8:25 pm

    I loved this post, Madeleine. Reading it is like sitting across from you and listening to a new friend tell me about her life experiences. You are an incredible woman and you and Dick prove the point that despite loss and age, life does go on and can be full and amazing.

    My own life is rich with the examples of family members who continue to live full, active lives into their 80s and 90s. Yes, there are losses, aches, and challenges, but there are so many pleasures too.

    Thanks for this generous post.
    .-= Jean Sarauer´s last blog ..What Lil’ Wayne Can Teach You About Marketing Your Blog =-.