The eyes are failing and the hearing’s shot. The joints are creaking and the digestive system isn’t doing much better, but I’ve discovered lots of chances to be creative in problem solving. Let me share with you seven ways that I have learned to keep living a full life at 93.
The space one occupies as we grow older shrinks, and I’m constantly eliminating things once thought to be indispensable. It’s easier to do this, when one is in the habit of keeping only what one needs. Recently, I gave something away that afterward I realized I needed. Then I thought that the person would make good use of it, and God would take care of me. In fact, a few days later I received from someone else exactly the thing I had given away. So I’ve just decided that giving as a lifestyle never ages, and the hundredfold is always new.
2. New friendship
Everyone is concerned about children when they start school and have to make all new friends, but no one even thinks about a 90-year-old moving into an assisted-living facility and having to start from scratch. She too has to make new friends, because the ones she knew have all died, and she can’t even go home at the end of the day! I’ve had to learn to listen to people who may think very differently and figure out just how each one wants to be loved. I make many mistakes and want to give up at times, but I always try to remember to start again.
Something that actually gets easier as one gets older is spending more time praying. I used to be very active, so now I try to be just as active praying for everyone. I try to find out everything that is going on, so my list of intentions is up to date. I pray one rosary for my family, another for the Church and the Focolare family here and around the globe, and finally one for all of the problems in the world. I miss going to Mass and feel blessed whenever someone comes to take me, or the priest is able to come where I live. You might think that by 93 I would have worked out the kinks in my life, but I find myself doing the same things I’ve been trying to correct my entire life. Thank God I have learned how to start again in the next moment. Maybe that’s what keeps me young.
I’ve found new ways to live the aspect of my life that deals with health and illness. Since it’s pretty clear that my holy journey is nearing its completion, it is still wonderful to be able to go to exercise class, to eat properly, to put in my eye drops and take all my medications as prescribed. I admit that I sometimes get a little downhearted when I see the cost of medications, but then I try to remember to trust in God. I have a pretty active relationship with those who have left for heaven. I entrust different things to different people and ask for strength when the going gets a little tough. I have also been helped by John Paul II’s Letter to the Elderly and by the example of his life. It takes a real act of faith to believe in the value of your life when many around you see things differently.
I don’t need many clothes or much furniture, but I try to keep what I have in order. With my eyesight so poor, I’m not sure if the colors match, and I might be tempted to think, “Who cares anyway?” But then I remember that even at 93 I have to try to be an expression of the beauty of God in the way I dress and the harmony of my apartment. This gives so much meaning to the little things I’m still able to do.
I’ve always loved learning new things, so I study the documents of the Holy Father (when I can get them in big print) and watch DVDs on the catechism or other topics. I know I’ll never practice nursing again, but it’s part of my vocation to stay on top of the latest advances in my profession. So I keep up to date, and maybe something I read or hear might be useful for someone else. I love wisdom and pray often to the Holy Spirit to help me not say useless words.
I used to keep in touch with people by sending cards or by phone. Instead, times have changed, and, just as I needed to learn to drive at 50, I now have had to learn how to use email so I can get the news and stay in touch with everyone. It is slow going, since I only know how to move that mouse in one particular way. I almost gave up recently, but my family and friends helped me to keep up my courage. It almost seems like a miracle, but, notwithstanding my eyesight, I read every issue of Living City from cover to cover. I also watch the news every day to keep myself informed of what’s going on in the world. Reading about a world that tends toward unity helps me to be hopeful in the midst of so much tragedy. I really believe in a united world.
My conclusion? Yes, it is a little challenging to be 93, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a full and rewarding time.