Acting Our Age

Marjorie Kondrack

I CHUCKLE WHEN I read Lucille Ball’s gentle admonishment that “the secret to staying young is to live honestly, eat slowly, and lie about your age.” That’s not so easy anymore, ever since the internet outed us all.

But I’m not above using a little subterfuge. After all, forced disclosure is never comfortable. When asked how old I am, my usual reply is “any woman who will tell her age will tell anything”—a remark sometimes attributed to Mary Kay Ash.

Still, as my husband and I have advanced in age, additional economic and physical challenges have emerged. Last year was our annus horribilis—a Latin phrase most of us learned from Queen Elizabeth II. With our physical capabilities declining, we’ve needed to outsource more home maintenance, both inside and outside our home.

My most recent capitulation was to surrender my fussbudget tendencies and hire a house cleaning service. I still engage in light housekeeping—important for my brain health and sanity. But deep cleaning became an impossible chore to manage. Bringing on help is expensive. It’s all been a huge concession for me—the original do-it-yourselfer.

Regarding meals, it’s possible to prepare quick, simple, nutritious and delicious meals at home without resorting to fast food and frozen dinners. For instance, you can pack a lot into a simple omelet, and it’s ready in a flash. I like pizza, too, but the digestive system doesn’t. I keep convenience foods on hand for those days that are hectic. We’re lucky to live near a food market that prepares and emphasizes healthy prepared meals.

In earlier years, we enjoyed having the extra time to shop around for the best deals. Don’t underestimate the everyday small savings that can come from comparison shopping. I used to plan our meals, perusing the weekly food market circulars for specials and sales. But the time comes when energy lags. Now, when I food shop, I choose the market convenient to our home, regardless of economic advantage. And while online grocery shopping can be a great assist, learning to master the technology can be time consuming. What about other products? Thank goodness for Amazon.

I’ve long been accustomed to spending wisely. We didn’t get to where we are today by wasting money. Still, if I want to buy new linens, I now remind myself that I don’t need to wait for the January sales.

At this juncture, we place a high premium on comfort and convenience. It gets more expensive as time goes on, but we’ve positioned ourselves so that we don’t have to be vigilant about every penny we spend. It’s time we treated ourselves and used our savings to make life easier. There’s a payoff to past frugality and to diligent, disciplined, conservative planning.

It would be nice if the various stages in life followed an idyllic pattern, but life is an enigma. Adjustments must be made along the way, according to our capabilities or lack thereof, both physically and mentally. Meanwhile, we’ve evaluated the pros and cons of continuing care retirement communities and decided to age in place for as long as we’re able, allowing us to live in the same familiar community we’ve known for the past 37 years, and maintain a more independent way of life.

We don’t aspire to become members of the HHH club, which stands for “happy, healthy, hundred.” We’re missing the second requirement. Longevity should be beautiful, not an everyday struggle. But there’s still much to live for. I have no special talent. I’m just passionately curious. I love learning new things and hope to remain a vital, contributing member of society to the end. In a world where ageism exists and is an accepted practice, I’ll defy it for as long as I can.

Marjorie Kondrack loves music, dancing and the arts, and is a former amateur ice dancer accredited by the United States Figure Skating Association. In retirement, she worked for eight years as a tax preparer for the IRS’s VITA and TCE programs. Check out Marjorie’s earlier articles.

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