Living Past Ninety (age 90)

by Sheila White
(Cambridge, Ontario, Canada)

This year I will reach the amazing age of ninety. I don’t know why I have lived longer than anyone else in my family. I didn’t ask for this and neither did my husband who also lived to ninety. This could be something wished on us by a benevolent God. But I wonder why.

Ninety seems to be the new eighty. No one is surprised by it anymore. But what are we doing with those extra ten years?

I know of few folk who achieved anything worthwhile after the age of eighty. Of course, there is the amazing Hazel McCallion, former mayor of Mississauga, Ontario, who seems to be indestructible; and there is the current 90-year-old Queen Elizabeth, also her late mother, who lived to be a hundred. But how much effect does British royalty have on the running of the country? Only their advisors know.

We 90-year-olds are a burden on society. The nursing homes and hospitals who previously were delighted at the spotlight our birthdays shone on them, are now pressured to squeeze more of us into their ever-shrinking space. It has become a struggle for them to provide us with the tender, loving care that our families insist upon.

Our governments labour constantly to find the resources to keep us alive. None of us imagined we would live so long, therefore we are running out of personal funds since we only worked 45 or 50 years in which we could save enough to keep us alive another 30 following retirement!

How about health? Thanks to the information we have learned from such modern-day sources as television and the internet, we now know how to eat and exercise so that we can live a healthier life. Thus many of us toiled those hazardous years from 40 to 80 avoiding pitfalls like overweight and high blood pressure. But following 80, things change.

For my husband, it was heart disease and prostate cancer. For myself it is back and hip pain that forces me to use a walker; plus a swallowing problem that prevents me from enjoying a normal meal in company. I can no longer go everywhere and eat anything without careful planning. And I am one of the lucky ones!

I try not to complain, but these things were not part of my life until I turned eighty. Walking freely and eating without restrictions made a sometimes challenging life more enjoyable.

And so, should we go along pampering ourselves for those extra ten years? It seems to illustrate that old cliché that says:

We’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t!

Or should we approach it another way, as in a verse I remember from my childhood that went:

Let’s eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die! Nay, rather, let us join hands and help, for today we are to live together.

As always, it’s your choice.

Comments for Living Past Ninety (age 90)

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by: Loyce!

Are you psychic? You seem very aware. It is costly to live so we must look ahead and all the while "live in the moment" so we must have the balance to do so although age seems to knock us sideways so have to keep a sharp focus. Yes, life is a challenge.

by: Lynn

Hello to al of you,

Interesting discussion I think I am going to live to 101 and die on the evening of my 101st birthday.

However, who knows.

It sounds from the first entry as though after 80 bad things happen. If that is true, I'll choose to ignore doctors and pills just as I do now and if I die I die.

I see these numerous drug ads on tv and it looks like the side effects can be worse than whatever the drug was meant to cure or help. so I don't take anything except for an occasional baby aspirin. (and occasionally an anibiotic if my body does not seem to want to cure some infection itself).

I have not lived the life I was supposed to and have been selfish and self centered until pretty late in middle age.

I'm trying to make up for it now but I sure need a lot of time for all the years of not doing right!!!!!

by: Loyce!

Sheila: Perhaps your positive outlook has contributed to your longevity?

You seem to be making the best of your choices and I so agree, we all are making choices and we live with same as many have lived too long and are outliving their funds and wearing down their family caregivers.

I think those peeps who think they want to live to be a hundred just might pay some serious prices for their intentions for to live well is expensive, indeed.

Good luck to you. L!

To Elizabeth of Spokane
by: Sheila / Cambridge ON

Your answer was thoughtful and encouraging and I thank you for it.

Although I'm a Nature-lover, the idea of old trees encouraging saplings had never occurred to me. I will view my woodland walks in a new way.


Thank God for caregivers
by: Sheila / Cambridge ON

Just a quickie, Ewan, before I turn in for the night. The health system, though much maligned, has always done well by me.

While in England and before I married, I was in the Royal Navy. Now in Canada and eventually of pensionable age, I applied for help by the Canadian Veterans.

Amazingly and thankfully they have given me help that encompasses just about all my medical needs thus far. As well, they allow me money to pay a caregiver who comes to clean my floors, do my laundry and take me shopping.

For years those tasks fell to women, several of whom work in my seniors' complex as cleaners. But just over a year ago, my masseuse told me that her husband was starting a company helping seniors with all the above chores. Having just lost my last helper, I eagerly employed him.

That was absolutely the best move I have ever made. This gentleman, around the age of my own son, brings life and sunshine into my life. I look forward to each visit and he appears to enjoy my company as much as I enjoy his.

Ewan, I know this doesn't really answer your question or offer any new ideas to those who read this admirable site, but you inspired me to write what is in my heart about this gentleman. He is, for sure, a Godsend.

On second thought, what I have written here might inspire others of my great age who rely on some younger folks to make their lives worthwhile. Some of us tend to emphasize our problems without showing appreciation for those who keep us alive and smiling.

Now, I've done my bit. Anyone else care to take up the challenge?

Thoughtful dilemma
by: Leigh

I read with interest your introspective view of being ninety. When we're younger we really anticipate aging as our natural progression and never anticipate the number of health and financial related issues attached to this process.

Being healthy the majority of one's life tends to give us a false sense of security that doing all the 'right' things; eating, exercising, sleep, etc., we will not have the pitfalls of poor health. Not so, as many of us can attest to.

I appreciated your comments because I honestly never thought about how our extended age would or could also become a burden. I never thought about our depleted finances, living in aging communities, and something as simple as the loneliness for our lost loved ones.

Things we believed are a blessing can take on a different perspective. Thank you for enlightening my thoughts.

Past ninety
by: Carol, Toronto

Great column Sheila, and right to the point.

Over ninety can be just fine
by: Anonymous

I have not yet quite reached the ninety, but my husband is almost 102. We had our health downs like my broken hip and our cataracts, but still enjoy life and help others when there is an opportunity.

Since even I no longer drive we moved to a very nice local retirement home and nursing home for which we were volunteers for many years. We both still belong to the hospital auxiliary and attend our respective churches. I still do a little community work.

My husband was fit to drive until after he was 94. That was the last year we did major travel. which, that time, was to the North West Territories and Nunavut.He was the oldest they had ever had at our Lodge but he could climb the hills as well as anyone and my cane permitted me to do some of the gentler slopes too. Our last travel was five years ago to BC when our only grandchild was born.

We still don't feel we are a burden on society but are glad that some of our friends give us rides or occasionally make a purchase for us.

Articulate at ANY age
by: Ricardo

Shelia, I must commend you on your writing abilities and observations coming from a lady of your age....kuddos to you!

None of us have knowledge as to when we will be "called home" from this visit here on earth. I have pondered of late as to what MY purpose has been and is here on earth.

I wonder, when it is "my turn" to say good bye to this life, if in fact I will have accomplished the reason for my existence in the first place. Will someone say, "good job faithful servant", or "you fell a bit short of what was expected of you when life was granted to you."

I do not know if I will EVER realize if I accomplished what I was "expected" to accomplish while here on earth. I suppose that this topic has been discussed over the centuries with no answer.

No one has come back from the "great beyond" to explain or discuss this it will remain food for thought for centuries to come......THE PURPOSE OF LIFE AND BEING!

Your Mind
by: Elizabeth/Spokane

I liked reading your contribution. My mother passed a few years ago at age 90. I think she picked Thanksgiving day because it wouldn't be so sad for us if she had waited until Christmas. She had the same problem eating as you, and it took her 30 minutes longer than the rest of us to eat.

My personal belief is that all the elders in the world are holding a consciousness that influences others to some degree. Keeping cheerful (as much as you can) despite pain and old age annoyances affects the consciousness all around you. Think of all those very old trees, that are hundreds of years old. They are known as "Mother Trees" and through their root system, they continue to nourish the new trees.

I just read about an old Anglo Saxon (500 year?) recipe that can begin healing MSRA (the horrible staph infection that can kill). The medical study will be published soon.

Elders have so much wisdom that has not been tapped. In Asian countries, like Japan and China, the elders are respected so much more than in the U.S. and other western countries.

I AM sending a green energy healing prayer to you right now as I write this, and hopefully when you read this, your pain will lessen.

Keep thinking good thoughts!

Hullo Sheila
by: Ewan Elliott/New Zealand

Thank you for writing, Well 90 is a milestone few people reach, I can not really comment about how it would feel to reach that mile stone - the British Royal family has been blessed with long term good health and the best medical care British tax money can provide, I am sure they will say if asked that they paid for it, but they are paid by the British tax money, and fair enough Britian and Europe have had Kings and Queen's for generations.

Let me talk about me for a minute, My MS is steady but I get pills every day, pills to thin my blood, pills for energy, pills because maybe our government likes giveing away pills, they are a substitute for hospital care, The hospitals are no longer the first port of call for people, they are anylysed innitily by the doctor and they prescribe pills for you and you stay at home and free up a hospital bed - the nurses kept going on strike demanding more and more money - eventually the government had enough and sacked the lot - keeping just enough to run the hospital nd everybody was put on pills.

How does your health system work, are you happy wih the person who cares for you?

Looking forward to your reply.

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