What must it be like to be 90?
My Mom recently turned 90. We threw her a party at her assisted living facility. It was like a family reunion, and then some. A few old friends happened by. Our next door neighbor from the house I grew up in, and in which Mom lived some 80 years, showed up. He, too, is 90. He came in with a huge smile on his face, and walked right up to Mom to say hello. He told me he makes Christmas lawn ornaments for friends and family. You know, big nutcrackers, elves, even Santa and his sleigh. At 90.
|Mom with some of her nieces.|
I wonder what I’ll be like should I be lucky enough to make it to 90. I wonder what it is like for Mom. I wonder what goes through her head. Does she still worry about money? Does she worry about her health? Losing weight? Or is there some point where you just say, “Screw it all, I’m 90 and I’m going to enjoy it”. My old neighbor, Tom, certainly seems to be that way. But I’m not so certain about Mom.
Like me, Mom has always been an introvert. I know what it is like not to want to be around people, to just hole up in your room and watch TV or read. I love going to the movies because theatres are dark and you feel that no one really knows you are there. So now, at 90, does Mom still feel that way? I think she does because she does not go anywhere. When my siblings and I researched assisted living facilities for Mom, high on our list was to find a place that had a lot of activities. We were certain Mom was going to want to stay busy (or at least, we hoped). And the place we found has about a dozen activities each day. They take trips to Bernheim Forest for picnics, to the grocery store, the mall, they have jewelry classes, play bingo, bridge, poker, Uno, they have movie night in the on-site theatre, weekly chorus practice and performances, and of course there are mealtimes, where everyone gathers to talk about families, their health woes, or where to buy the best wigs. They all seem to enjoy living there. Except Mom.
In the year Mom has been at Atria Assisted Living, she has left the building once – and that was because the administrative staff said she had to go for a TB test or she would have to move out. She has left her room twice, including that little TB outing. She takes all her meals in her room. There are people on staff who say they have never even met Mom. I think they placed bets on whether or not she would leave her room and go to the party room for her birthday. I spoke to one young woman who was very surprised when she did.
What is it that makes one 90 year old want to get out as much as they can, while others lock themselves in their rooms, working puzzles and watching games shows? I cannot figure it out.
My Uncle George never stopped. I’ve written before about how Uncle George always did things the hard way, on purpose. By stepping off his back porch at the highest step-down point rather than the lowest, he kept his mind sharp and challenged his body. I want to be like Uncle George.
I watch so many older celebrities keep working into their 80’s and 90’s. Angela Lansbury
is 90 this year; she’s touring Australia in a production of “Driving Miss Daisy”. Betty White, at 93, just came off another 7-year run of a sitcom. And Dick Van Dyke, also 90 this year, is still dancing, singing with his new band, and making records, videos and guest appearances.
The one person who I most wish to see doing all this won’t leave her room. And it is frustrating. It’s difficult not to say something to Mom about it.
“Do you know how lucky you are to be 90 and in such good condition? You’re just pissing it all away!”
But, of course, I don’t say that to her. I gently prod, try to suggest things she might be interested in doing. I offered to drive her to Florida to see her great grandchildren. “No.” I offered to go get her and accompany her to Mexico to stay with me for a few months each winter. “No.”
She won’t budge – literally or figuratively.
So I’ve given up. We all have. If we try to push her on being more active, she just digs in her heels. We’re the ones feeling frustrated. We’re the ones stressed out about it. We’re the ones getting into long discussions about what to do about Mom. Mom seems perfectly content to sit in her Lazy Boy chair, continue working those word-seek puzzles, read her books, and keep the TV on for company.
I have made a promise to myself. Barring any major health problems, if I make it to 90 I’m going to be hiking the Alps, or rafting down the Colorado River, or at least still enjoying the beaches of Florida or Mexico. Will I make it? What will that be like? I’ll let you know.