Preparing for old age —Vision for Ageing in Aotearoa

Many months after the Conference of Age Concern and New Zealand Gerontology in September 2021, I stumbled across the video of my talk. Here it is! It’s still of interest to anyone who is starting to think about the fact that they will probably grow old, maybe very old. This talk is about my reaction to a not-so-surprising revelation that I was likely to live to 99. I buckled down and prepared for old age—my way. I talk about a way to get a sense of control over your future old age, and to avoid the twin traps of denial and despair. We know the potential problems, the aspects of old age that we fear: but how can we mitigate them?

This is strange talk. While I do tell how I prepared for my own old age, I don’t want to tell you what to do or help you do it. Plenty of experts are already out there, able to help and advise. The satisfaction lay in doing it my way. Preparing for old age with my own plan, my own tiny habits, my own spreadsheet. Taking control, that’s what relieves the fear.

The video sound’s not great for people with hearing problems, but it’s fully sub-titled. To show or hide subtitles, click the CC icon bottom right of the video:

Bottom right of video are 3 icons. The first is CC. Click CC to show or hide subtitles.
To show or hide subtitles, click CC

Who needs these ideas on preparing to grow old?

If you think this talk could be useful for someone you know, please share the link, which you’ll find on YouTube. People caring for aging parents, people about to retire, aged care workers and nurses spring to mind. The talk includes a couple of poems, but don’t let that scare you.

I’m mighty interested in your feedback. What points stuck in your mind? What can you use in your own work or personal aging? What makes sense when you consider how your parents or grandparents have grown old? Is there any sense in preparing for old age, as opposed to just letting it happen — or pretending it isn’t happening? More to the point, what’s your own philosophy about your very own future as an aging person?

Technology glitches

Little glitches like this are perfect because they give the audience a moment to reflect.

Conference blooper: Rachel pauses and the subtitle says: Lost the link.
The organisers for Vision for Ageing in Aotearoa did a great job, but none of us is perfect
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11 thoughts on “Preparing for old age —Vision for Ageing in Aotearoa

  1. josaiawrites says:

    I feel as if we’ve had a lovely cup of tea together. I loved listening to you and your thoughts and experiences. I’m 69 and doing a lot of thinking about my own aging process. I retired two years ago and find that the solitude and space were exactly what I needed to begin to really look at the rest of my life and what I wanted to do with it as well as how to plan for the ongoing aging process. I love to write and to paint and have been doing much more of both than I could while working full time. I find I’m pickier about who I spend my time with, as time feels more precious than ever. I think about continuing to build a support community, think about where to live… Do I choose a retirement community, how to build in more consistent exercise in addition to my trips to the gym, how to maintain as much health as possible, with the knowledge that age related changes occur. So much to think about. And with all that, to remind myself to live as fully as I can along the way… Thank you for writing and sharing. You give the gift of yourself. I hope to do the same.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Josaia, you already do give yourself very generously! I am very tickled to know we have had a cup of tea together now. The conference organisers were very broadminded in accepting my totally non-academic talk for their serious event. It’s unusual for anyone to think as comprehensively as you do about the bonus years, for many reasons. It’s probably paying off already, especially the writing and painting 🙂

  2. auntyuta says:

    Since my husband of 64 years died in December of 2020, I do live completely on my own,

    With a few things I do need some help, because of some health issues. However, basically I can still look after myself, if I can get a few hours help per week. 🙂

    My birthday is in September. I am going to be 88 this year! 🙂

    If I end up with a life threatening disease, I do not want any medical intervention to prolong my life. I hope, I die a natural death before I need full-time care! 🙂

    My life so far is pretty good and well worth living. Of course, living on my own after a long married life, feels often immensely lonely. But I have basically a good life in retirement since I own my own home and have no money worries. If things get tough I have good skills in economizing, that is I can always find ways to cut down on spending, A lot of things I like doing are for free, for instance to go for walks or just sit in the sun! 🙂

    I love to listen to classical music on the radio, or dance a bit to some radio music. All this is for free! 🙂

    Also, I can cook very inexpensive, nutritious, good tasting meals and so on, 🙂

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      I am glad to know you are managing life in your late 80s so satisfactorily. I like to imagine you dancing! How do you alleviate your loneliness? I hope your blog readers help with that.

  3. auntyuta says:

    No doubt, Rachel, bloggers play a big part in my life. 🙂

    But still. one would like to have the company, over a whole evening for instance, of someone close in real life from time to time. – My son lives in a different state and can’t be with me as often as I would like. With more improved health I might be able to visit him again for a bit some time in the future. 🙂

    My two daughters are full-time workers, and they both have large family commitments. Also, they don’t live very close to me. When one sees me, to help out, when I get stuck for instance in the digital world, she does for me whatever she can. And occasionally there is even time for a lunch outing with other family members, such as some of the grandchildren and great-grandkids! 🙂

    For major medical appointments one of the daughters takes time off work to come along with me! For instance, this month I’m going to have a major Carpal Tunnel Relief Operation on the left hand, and then a few months later another operation on the right hand. 🙂

    How do I alleviate my loneliness? As I said, contact with bloggers helps, also communication with some of my neighbours, Also, going for visits to a nearby club, where good lunches are available. 🙂

  4. debscarey says:

    What a lovely presentation 🙂 I could do (way) more as I’m 15 years younger than you and you trounce me fitness-wise. I’d love for my mother to watch your video but anything which requires she makes an effort instead of others making the effort for her is rejected out of hand. Gardening has kept her reasonably fit to date, and she’s fortunate in not having much wrong healthwise (other than high blood pressure and a heart murmur) so it’s been hard to chivvy her along. She’s relocating to the USA to live with one of my sisters, and I’m grateful that task will be passing hands. Does that make me a bad daughter? Probably, but my stress levels will be greatly reduced to it would be an act of self-care too 🙂

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Oh this must be tough to watch. Let alone as a daughter. Not a bad daughter! Just a clear-sighted one. You want the best for your mother. I suppose… there are many ways to exert control over one’s life. And one may be control by proxy, which involves embracing dependency. You’ve done your bit for now: enjoy the relief.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Thank you for linking! I appreciate your appreciation 🙂

  5. Joared says:

    So good that you’re bringing up the many issues associated with aging in such a delightful way. I think I was in my sixties when from time to time I gradually began to think more about the years ahead, first with my seven years older husband for the two of us. Then he developed some medical issues. Some years later he unexpectedly died. Suddenly, aging would be just for myself. The unexpected didn’t end there in the years ahead.

    Now when I think about aging there are a couple main things that come to mind. Despite formulating plans for my aging years it has been important to be prepared there will be unexpected events, numerous adaptations and adjustments needing to be made. When the unimaginable occurs I can simply take it in stride to avoid becoming distressed — at least so far.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      That seems very wise to me: to anticipate what may happen and what definitely will happen, and when that (or something unexpected) does happen, to stay as calm as possible,and cope.

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