Ageing and the art of slowing down

27 October 2014
Wandering around our backyard, sitting under the elder tree, watching the birds fly and admiring the vegetables in the straight rigid lines of first planting, it's easy to feel the contentment of living here. I notice the minutiae of life out there, or life as I know it. Out in that backyard I do a lot of thinking about the changes we're going through now; the changes that age brings. Like everyone, Hanno and I are ageing, although the older we get, the faster that seems to happen. I consider us to be lucky because so many people who were born at the same time as us died too soon; cut down in their prime before they knew a full life of human experience - the good and the not so good. One thing is for sure, these changes need careful thought and planning just like all the others we've implemented.

We're classified as young/old and even when we're old/old, we both want to be here, living an independent and engaged life, possibly assisted occasionally by our family, friends and the community. There is so little written about proactive ageing. We have a lot of information about disease in old age, how to manage illness, where to get help, where to socialise. There are also, increasingly, articles such as this one on loneliness and disengaging from community life as we age and as partners and friends die.

We are lucky, we two. We've established ourselves here, we have work to do every day, we have family and friends dropping in and phoning, and because we've voluntarily rejected the glitz and glamour of what modern life has become, we don't worry about money. We're productive, providing for ourselves and sometimes for our family, so our days are full and we enjoy what we do. But it's not one hundred percent comfy-cosy. There are days when we're not feeling the best or have pain, but on those days we look after each other and know it will pass. I can truthfully say that most of the time, life's good.

Over the years we've always adjusted our routines and chores according to our needs and the time we had available. Now we do the same thing but everything takes longer to do now and we've had to make major adjustments to help us along. One of those changes has been our vegetable garden. We took out two garden beds in the past month or so. We still have the wonderful opportunity to grow some of our own food, but we've made it easier for ourselves after many years of sowing and harvesting as much as we could. Another big change is that we're looking after Jamie three days a week now so on those days, we don't plan much except to provide meals, snacks and drinks and to show him, by example, the appeal of living this way.

We also have a handy man who comes in when we need him. He does the roof work and the hard physical chores Hanno used to do. Hanno loved fixing everything that needed fixing, and took pride in knowing he had those skills, but Mark the handyman does the potentially dangerous work for us now, while Hanno still does the garden and lawns and most of the outside work.

There will come a time when you too will start to slow down and scale back on what you do. What you can do will depend on your physical capabilities when you're older, but I think the key to this is to keep doing what you can and stay interested.  I guess my main concern is that one of us will die well before the other and our motivation and some opportunities might fly out the window. I'm not scared of death but I'm aware that it's one of the few things we face totally alone. Sure, you may have someone sitting beside you, but they don't experience it with you, they simply watch. Death is not something either of us expect to visit soon, but the thoughts are there and like every stage of life we go through, we have to be as prepared as we can be. 

Have you changed how you work and live as you age?


  1. I have really changed as I am older. I am 62 almost 63. Arthritis is getting me. My knees and ankles just will not keep up with me. My mind still seems to say "do it" but my body just will not do it. The pain I feel when I go ahead and do it is miserable. I have looked into knee replacement and ankle replacement. My doctor has told me I could do both. (not at the same time) But, I am afraid of it. I have had 6 different surgeries in my life. Last time I had some heart issues while under the knife. I just think I will go at a slower pace and live with it. I still work full time, but I changed my job to be a lot less stressful.

  2. I'm not there yet but I still enjoyed this post. You have a great outlook on the seasons of life.

  3. Good post Ronda. I am a couple of years younger than you and my husband is 9 years older than me so aging and what it means has been on our minds for a while and so we made some decisions that were difficult to implement but that we feel are right for us. We didn't want to spent the rest of our lives looking after a house and garden....we have chosen to declutter and downsize into a 23ft caravan which we now call home. It was the decluttering that caused some issues as we humans become attached to 'things' over time and they recall memories, but the reality is that the memories are there anyway and you don't need the 'stuff' to recall them. We decided that we wanted to keep traveling around this great country of ours until we can no longer manage to hook up the van and put the annex out. At that point we will return to a place that we love the best and remain there. We have seen many people travel with electric carts, walking frames and ramps to get in and out of the van. We have three steps so we may need a ramp at some stage too especially as my knees are not too good these days. We are often asked...."What do you do?". We do everything that we would do if we were living in a house except we don't have a garden or house to maintain and clean. We get up, make the bed, shower, have our breakfast, read, sew, cook, meet other people, go for walks, experience the scenery and wildlife of where we are at the time, take the time to watch the sun rise or the sun set, write a blog and stay in touch with friends and family via the internet. We have only been on the road for 6 months and have been on a trip around the Australia, but our intention is to stay longer in places and get involved in the community in some way, maybe doing volunteer work. We have each other and have enough of everything. Barring any serious illnesses we think we could manage to live on the road for the next 8 to 10 years. It is inevitable that one of us will die before the other. In the lifestyle that we have chosen the remaining person will have the friendly community of the caravan park for company when they are living on their own.

  4. Yes Rhonda. I have changed as I'm in my 70's. I concentrate much more on keeping fit and eating good fresh food, some from my allotment.
    And I'm throwing out so much 'stuff' - stuff that was once important but is now just simply clutter, and it feels good.

  5. Nice post! I'll think about it .....

  6. It's been a good idea to reassess what your family is able to do in these later years. There's no point doing all the things you love to do if it burns you out so cutting back but not cutting out and being realistic is sensible so that the things you both do are still enjoyed and cherished. Regards Kathy A, Brisbane

  7. Good Morning Rhonda....a great post! Have we changed...tricky question here for me. Both me and hubby are over 60 and are caring for our mid 30's daughter with a disability. I have continual arthritic knees and constant pain. We certainly feel like we want to slow down but unfortunately can't as we are like in our 30's still doing bedtime/bath time. People our age around us are slowing down/retiring...generally experiencing 'freedom' to do things at their own pace! Sometimes they even (to us) act Older. We have no family assistance nor friends' assistance....people are too busy and just retiring and taking it easy! But we are young at heart and just keep doing it. One day one of us will pass and that is scary as the future is so uncertain for her. I'm sure there are many Carer's also in this situation. I met a man once in his 70's at a meeting crying for his wife. She was also in her 70's and caring for her mother in her 90's and daughter with a disability in her 50's. I so feel for these older Carer's who are at their wit' send! We just keep plugging on and do our best!

  8. What a nice post Rhonda! I'm not quite 40 yet, but my dear partner just turned 60. I wonder what the future will hold for us and how our lives might change. He really wants to travel as he's worried he will not be able to do so once he's older. I really just want to be at home as I have a high pressure job and am away from home too often. It's hard to find the ideal compromise. But when I read your lines I think I should compromise now as I will be able to do the things I want to do later while he might not be able to do the things he wants to do later.
    Thank you for making me think about this and realising that also my partner seems to be the same person he was 15 years ago to me, he's gone thru some changes I will only understand in about 20 years time.

  9. We are changing things a little as we age, I'm 60 next year and Tony is 61. Tony has some health issues so we are adjusting what he does -- as you say getting someone to do the roof work and that sort of thing is something we were discussing again not half an hour ago. I think it's time we firmed up those decisions.

    For myself, I still work full time and I can manage that and home if I stick to my routines and if everyone does a bit which they do. I'm decluttering big time as our house is large and the day will come when we will downsize. By decluttering now when I'm well and fit I hope to avoid a problem down the track.

  10. I am glad that you have got someone to do the heavy work for Hanno. Yesterday was grandparents day, so happy grandparents day to both of you! That was a very interesting article, thanks for sharing it.

  11. Rhonda your post and the readers comments brought to mind Joni Mitchell's song "Circle Game", especially the lyric "We're captive on the carousel of time". It's so true that the older we get the faster the ageing seems to happen. I agree with you where you wrote "What you can do will depend on your physical capabilities when you're older." Last year my physio taught me a few stretches to strengthen the muscles around one of my knees, advising me that if I don't strengthen the muscle it will continue to pull my kneecap out of alignment (he explained it better and in more detail but that is the gist of it) and I will have a problem with arthritis as I get older, which will of course then limit my activities and enjoyment of life. I think nutrition, exercise and maintaining flexibility through stretching are key to staying as healthy and active as possible through as we age, and though this is simple and straightforward it is not really easy. At least I don't find it so, and the more information I find about nutrition the harder it seems. Oh dear!

  12. So many of your readers will relate to your post, Rhonda! Arthritis and heart conditions seem to be slowing most of us down as we go past middle age. For me it is arthritis, which is a bitter pill to swallow, as I have a carer to do the housework now, and it was only a few years ago I was the carer, cleaning 3 houses a day, helping people bath, dress and shop! At least I can still do those things for myself, thank goodness!
    Ten years ago my husband was 60 years old, happily mowing the lawns, using chainsaws, whipper snipper and all the tools necessary to maintain the yard. Then he had a heart attack and was diagnosed with COPD, and now he can't even start the lawnmower, let alone push it over the ground. So we have a gardener who mows, prunes, and tidies up the yard. Hubby gets very depressed over this; he says he should be out there doing all the hard work, but he doesn't have the physical strength any more. We've been in our house for 35 years and have done a lot to it, so we don't want to leave it until we absolutely have to, or are 'carried out in a pine box' as he says.

  13. What a wonderful post Rhonda. I´m a bit older than you - 73 in a few days. My boytoy husband will be 70 at the end of the year. We often express our gratitude that neither of us have had aches and pains. We are very aware that this is a problem for many in our age. As a way of keeping as healthy as possible, we decided a while ago to do something about the excess weight each was carrying. Not a great amount but it wasn´t going to go away on its own. We started the 5:2 diet with very good results. Now we feel that we are in charge of our bodies. At the same time we spent some money on gym cards - an investment in our future health. I swim regulary and took the daring step of joining a crawl course to improve my technique. I was the oldest but not the slowest.
    Last year my never-sick husband was told he had an aggressive form of prostate cancer. Now nearly a year later after hormone and ray treatment, the results were great. He is regarded as cured though there must be regular check-ups. So we feel really blessed healthwise.
    When I have a hobby I tend to go in for it in a big way and this has been the case with the greenhouse and garden. Our short and unpredictable summers mean that this can often be a stressful time. I have decided that it is not necessary to grow 40 different kinds of chilis and tomatoes. Next season we will scale down.
    For us these really are the golden years and I think of this every day. My heart goes out to those who carry heavy burdens. We have a dear friend who has now had to move into a care home. We visit him and plan activities with him as often as possible. Right now we are helping to adapt his computer to his needs.
    I wish though we could see more of our children and grandchildren than we do. Working adults do not have much spare time. Childcare and after schoolhours care here in Sweden is so great that we have only been needed during some holidays and parents´s business trips. Strange to moan about such a positive factor I know. Still, the girls are coming tomorrow for a couple of days and we are going to have such fun. We taught them to swim when they were younger so I´m sure a trip to our great swimhall will be on the agenda.

    I think often about the approach of death. At our age it can come at any time regardless of how fit you are. We have regular bouts of clearing out papers, books and clothes though it´s never enough. It´s strange how tabu the subject of death still is. Suffice to say my own views are controversial.
    Thank you for starting this discussion Rhonda. All the very best to you and Hanno.

  14. I have much to learn from you about acceptance and inner calm. I struggle to just sit and rest. I feel guilty when I do so, thinking of all I should be doing. In truth there IS much to do and perhaps we should be thinking about having less to do. You have actually made that move to reduce the tasks. Sensible!
    (We live on a smallholding, where we produce much of the food we eat, we provide day and respite care for adults with special needs and do quite a bit of community work. All of this we love doing and it is quite difficult to choose which to reduce. I am 68 and my husband is 70)

  15. My husband likens it to an old dog trying to keep track of all his bones....when the dog gets older he just has to give up some of those bones and that is what we are doing. Slowly selling things....making things simpler....a good feeling.

  16. I know what you are talking about. I'm 67 and my husband is just 70 and every year I seem to have less stamina than the year before. We still do all the work around the house and yard ourselves but at some point the semi dangerous stuff (really just the gutter cleaning) we will have to farm out to someone else. It's hard to cut back doing the things that you enjoy doing but at some point it begins to become less
    enjoyable. I think though that a person needs to continue pushing themselves to do things even when the job becomes harder because once you start skipping things, just because they take longer and are more laborious for you, suddenly you realize that it's not optional on your part but you really don't have the strength or stamina to do anymore. Your muscles and joints aren't getting used so they begin to atrophy. So as long as I can mow the yard and rake and mulch the leaves, dig flower beds and tend them, load and unload mulch and compost, and move stones around to edge things I'm going to keep at it but try to slow the pace.

  17. The physical limitations imposed by pregnancy made me acutely aware of what frightens me about ageing. I'm not scared of death but I am scared of not being able to get in and out of the bath by myself etc. Fortunately I can act now to maintain strength and flexibility, preventing this from happening. My father is a great example of this- he is very active, goes to the gym almost everyday and can outperform men a third of his age. He knows he will live to an old age and cannot be idle (it's not in his nature) so he must be fit and healthy. His father was still farming when he died at 83.

    When we lived in Shanghai I loved walking through the parks in the morning. They were all full of people doing their morning exercise, especially older people. They weren't jogging etc but they were doing gentle repetitive exercises such as tai chi and lots of walking backwards and clapping in front and behind them. The benefits were clear as there were so many active older people around. I want to be like that when I'm older.

  18. My husband is 67 and I just turned 60 (and have a chronic illness). We were just talking about this as we are getting our garden and property ready for winter. We will decide in the spring if we are going to expand our garden as we would like or keep it as it is.

    We will do what we can as long as we can, even if we end up growing only herbs, tomatoes, and green beans in the garden.

  19. It's a great point that you make - we see endless articles about the painful aspects of getting older but not enough about the ways to delight in it. A lovely, thoughtful piece.
    Best wishes

  20. Great post Rhonda-
    These are things we talk about with each other. My health isn't the greatest right now-- and my husband who much much older than me has already had a brush with death, suffering a heart attack and stroke 3 years ago. Like Hanno, my husband has done all the outside work here-- but he has slowed down. I am scheduled to see the doctor next week, and hope to be on the mend and improving. Like both of you-- we share a lot of the work on our simple little homestead-- but we do worry about money. So, we've made the decision to down size-- to smaller place, smaller plot of land to work, and smaller out of pocket expenses.
    Yes! things change as we change-- it's necessary to talk about and discuss these things. So glad you opened the discussion.
    have a wonderful weekend!

  21. good post, even for those of us who are a bit you food for though about the future.

    That wonderful salad caught my did you get the eggs red? I have never seen eggs like that before!

    1. I boiled the eggs first then put them in some spicy vinegar left over from the home pickled beetroot. It looks good, doesn't it. :- )


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