Monday, May 15, 2017

May 2017: What Our Minds Let Us Be - by Pat Stoltey

Old age is a relative thing. Some might consider me old at 75 (that’s three-quarters of a century, you know), but my mother made it to 97, almost to 98.

At any age, we are what our minds let us be and we do what our bodies allow. My mom still played golf in her 70s. Her art projects were a favorite hobby until she was almost 90, when  her hands would no longer hold a paintbrush. She worked hard to stay engaged and socialize with her neighbors in assisted living and later with her roommate and the caregivers in the skilled nursing facility. 

Determination and perseverance played a huge role in her life. Coming from a broken home with very little money, my mom graduated from high school at 16 and after waiting a year to meet the requirements, moved to Chicago on her own and entered nursing school.

During World War II, while my dad was in the Army, Mom worked as a civilian nurse in an Army hospital.

For most of the years my brother and I were kids, Mom and Dad farmed. My mother could handle a tractor just as easily as she could whip together the huge noon-time meal for my dad and the field hands.

She endured hip and knee replacements. At the end of 2012, when she was 94, Mom had a tiny stroke and was put on hospice. She didn’t like it when the nurses stopped her blood pressure medicine and the caregivers wouldn’t let her get up and walk, so she willed herself to get better.

In April 2013, I moved my mom from her apartment into assisted living. She became a social butterfly until February 2015 when she fell in the bathroom and fractured her good hip.

We used to consider a hip fracture the end of the road for the elderly. But even with the limitations put on her by the orthopedic surgeon Mom got better and returned to assisted living. A motorized wheelchair kept her independent.

Mom paid attention to every bit of those never-boring 2016 election shenanigans, made her choice in November, and voted. Even though she didn’t watch each game of the Cubs’ march to win the World Series, she kept with the team. Current events and the latest world crisis were always on her mind and made for energetic conversations.

All that contributes to the biggest lesson I’ve learned from my mom--we can find joy every moment of our lives, even during the hard times. I hope to follow Mom’s example as I grow older, taking pleasure in the things I can still do and letting those other things go.

I often said, “Mom’s a trooper.” I’d like that legacy for myself as well.

Pat Stoltey is a local writer of crime fiction. Her fourth novel, a historical mystery titled Wishing Caswell Dead, will be released from Five Star/Cengage in November 2017. She lives in Fort Collins with her husband, Bill, Katie Cat, and Sassy Dog. 

Thoughtful Aging - by Janice Whitaker

     In 1992, after raising children, teaching in public schools, and moving fifteen times because of my husband Bill’s 30 years of military service, we settled in a large Texas city and began second careers thinking we would never move again.  We spent most vacations visiting our parents and our children and grandchildren in other states.  We saw the difficulties our parents had as they aged and thought about how their last years might have been better in other circumstances.

     When I retired in 2005, I thought about how I wanted to spend my remaining years.  Gardening was my main interest; I spent many hours pursuing that interest until the Texas heat and my body told me that it was time to quit.  

     About that same time, our daughter’s family moved to Fort Collins.  After we visited them, I talked my reluctant husband into giving up his Texas activities and friends to move close to our daughter, convinced her that her family wouldn’t be our main source of entertainment, and convinced my outdoorsman husband that Colorado had many opportunities for adventure. We became permanent Fort Collins residents in 2010.

     We were welcomed at our new church and encouraged to join Fort Collins Newcomers Club.  We volunteered at The Food Bank for Larimer County and joined book groups.  Bill hiked, led hikes, and volunteered with The Nature Conservancy and Poudre Wilderness Volunteers.  I volunteered with Poudre River Friends of the Library.  

     Still thinking long-term, I searched for activities I could enjoy throughout my elder years.  I joined a group of women who meet twice monthly to share knitting projects.  Now one of my favorite hobbies is knitting baby beanies for newborns.  

     I learned to play Scrabble, joining Northern Colorado Scrabble Club where I met many interesting people and learned the protocols for tournament Scrabble.  No longer confident driving after dark but wanting to play several times each week, I formed daytime Scrabble groups.  We now play on the first and fourth Fridays of each month for fun, and a dozen of us play in a Scrabble marathon tournament where records are kept and prizes are awarded every six months.

     Perhaps the biggest challenge in the move we made was finding a home where Bill and I could age in place.  We had some definite ideas about what we wanted, and our realtor pointed us to a patio home community where we could have a home built to our specifications.  Because our parents found stairs and narrow doorways an obstacle to their decreased mobility, we wanted all the activities of daily living to be on one floor with wide hallways and doors.  We also wanted an open floorplan with space to entertain along with yard maintenance and snow removal available and good walking trails.  

     We feel blessed that this challenge is now a reality and hope that we have many years ahead to enjoy our home, family, friends of all ages and the greater community.