Adapting, By Guest Blogger Lorie Sheffer

Photo: Lorie Sheffer, Baltimore Museum of Industry

The holiday season afforded me the chance to visit with two very special members of my family. The first visit was with Aunt Ruth, who will turn 101 in a few weeks. My second visit was with Aunt Betty. She will celebrate her 90th birthday in March.

Both of these amazing ladies live at home, and both are almost shockingly fit, mentally and physically. What I most wanted to try to see was if there was some common link the two of them shared. Being from different sides of my family I knew there was no genetic link, so I reasoned there had to be something they were doing that was contributing to their longevity.

A sense of humor was one of the first things that jumped out when I spoke to my aunts. They also both like to get out of the house and remain active. Granted, Ruth’s exercise is going to watch her daughter’s aquatics therapy, but still; at 100 years old, getting out of the house, into the car, into the pool area and back requires some maneuvering. She enjoys going out to dinner, too. Ruth was stunned when an anonymous person paid for her and her daughter’s dinner. “We must have looked pathetic, her with her cane and me with my walker”, she chuckled. Aunt Betty, being almost 10 years Ruth’s junior, still drives her car and attends quite a few social functions. Her arthritic knees seem to be the only thing that slows her down. As a retired registered nurse, she takes great pride in the fact that she keeps up with medical news and reads monthly newsletters from several institutions of higher learning. She has never lost the desire to learn and to remain interested.

Perhaps what stands out the most about both of them is their ability not only to adapt to change, but the fact that they almost seem to thrive on it. Instead of moaning about what they can no longer do, they almost brag about figuring out new ways to do things. For example, Aunt Betty told me that while she can’t carry her laundry basket down the basement steps to the washer and dryer, she has figured out a new way. She puts her laundry into a pillow case and tosses it down, then goes down holding onto the railing. When it’s done, she carries the basket up a step at a time, placing the basket onto the steps in front of her as she goes. Aunt Ruth, who is tiny and can’t reach into her kitchen cupboards without the now-forbidden step stool, has also found a solution to her problem. She no longer uses the cupboards, and instead keeps the dishes and cups she needs on the counter where she can easily reach them. Neither of the ladies seems to be concerned about what they can no longer do the old way, and instead seem pretty darned happy with their ingenuity.

I suppose what these women have taught me is that there really is a sort of evolution to aging, and those who learn to accept and adapt will thrive and be happier than those who get stuck and refuse to change. Recently, they were sitting in a waiting room, someone asked Ruth’s daughter, “Are you sisters?” Ruth said to me, “I know it hurt Phyllis’s feelings, but I LOVED it! And hey…. I feel great. I don’t feel a day over 85 and I must not look it, either!” Then she laughed and slapped her thigh.

By jeff noel

Retired Disney Institute Keynote Speaker and Prolific Blogger. Five daily, differently-themed personal blogs (about life's 5 big choices) on five interconnected sites.