As many of you know, last week my Mother celebrated her 99th Birthday on April 13th. She is one of the lucky ones who has stayed healthy in body, mind and spirit. As I observe her many years of living fully I see that the attributes of ageing well, are similar to living well with illness. There is nothing we can do to guarantee a vital long life nor is there anything we can do to prevent illness. This need not be discouraging, however, it is a simple fact that we cannot control these outcomes.
What is way more important is that we can do so many things to increase our chances to improve the quality of our everyday life, and reduce the risk of many major illnesses. I don’t need to list the obvious and we all know the exceptions to the rule. So bearing that in mind I want to briefly mention one thing that my Mother and others swear by. Life long learning.
This morning my Grandson Rowan was talking about his Great Grandmother’s age. He finds it impressive because she is 90 years older then he is. He comments on how she will be his age squared at the big 100th next year.
“Imagine, Great Grandma, at HER AGE, can text me, he proclaims. Not every Great Grandma can do that,” he says.
“She’s a life long learner,” I say.
“Never take a break from learning,” he states. ” You can take a break from work and from school, but never learning.”
Coincidentally, I had been reading a journal of my Mother’s this morning, while I waited for Rowan to take a math test. This is where she writes down tips on ageing that she agrees with, along with her own experience. Life long learning was hi-lighted throughout the journal and her conscious practice from the time she turned 65 was to learn something new every year. Because of that practice she can use her ipad for reading, searching, photography, texting and all the myriad of things that I use mine for. I believe she was about 92 when she learned how to use an Ipad. (16 week course at her local library)
Another outcome of this continual learning is that she is up to date on the world around her and can relate to what her great grandchildren are doing. And it is fun. Consequently, she is never bored. I have never once heard her state that she is too old to try new things. Yet, she has clarity that there are certain things to give up – like driving. “Don’t dwell on things you can no longer do; just be grateful that there are other ways to get around, other than with your own car,” she writes.
Learning new things is important when we are living with illness. What can we do about our own situation and how can we play an active role in our treatment? Take on the role of discovering the non-medical things that are helpful and available, in our communities: creative arts; writing; music; discussion groups; courses; nutrition; exercise; walking groups… so many opportunities.
As I read Mom’s journal and saw the time she has spent writing and recording important information that can help us live well I also see that it is no accident that she has ended up still flourishing at 99. Why? Because everything she wrote down, she actually applies. Truth is, I want to be more like her.
As long as you live, keep learning how to live.” Seneca
Note:1) The cake was made by an inherited and beloved family member, James Hawkins. What I know is that it was delicious and everything you see was edible including the basket. The roses took him 7.5 hours to lovingly make. The other special surprise was 99 folded cranes made by his better half, Sheila. She didn’t specify the hours but I know it was many. They were suspended from the ceiling in the centre of the room, and a golden crane will be added next year for the 100th. This is a shout out for celebrations!! Do it while you can. Yes, it is worth all of the effort and labours of love leave us all with unforgettable moments.
Note 2:) I am compiling a list of Mom’s tips that I will include in one of these posts. Maybe my 52nd, which happens in three weeks. They are equally helpful and inspirational for living well with illness and living well as we age.
Note 3:) Thanks once again, for showing up and reading this post. With appreciation and best wishes, Trudy