As we grow older, our bodies start to slow down. The mind isn’t necessarily as sharp as it used to be. But that’s not a bad thing – it’s natural. In society, a misconception exists that age must be stopped, the signs of time reversed. The negative stereotype of the elderly is one of out-of-touch technophobes who have lost the vitality of their youth. But this couldn’t be further from the truth, as Joyce Williams testifies.
Joyce is a retired physiotherapist who blogs under the name ‘Grandma Williams’. At 83, Joyce is living life to the fullest – travelling the world, trying new experiences and recollecting fondly on old ones. She wholeheartedly embraces older age, admitting she feels “happier than ever”. So we asked for her thoughts on the aspects of life that just get better as time goes on:
1. A feeling of freedom
“Older age gives you the freedom to be you. No one else’s expectations weigh you down anymore – you are now you. Yes, you’ve always been you but now you know who you are. You feel free to say and do whatever you like. You can confidently say what you don’t like. There are no more ‘musts’ in life. You’re free of driving ambition, which is liberating.
“At 21 I hitch-hiked around Europe, and I haven’t lost that sense of adventure or desire to explore. Now I simply use a stick. If you’ve always been curious, you’ll retain that curiosity. Your later years are active years! Old age, post retirement, gives you all the time you need to explore the places you’ve always dreamt of visiting. I recently visited India; I’d love to see Africa and returning to Bali is also on my list.
“Later life gives you time to try new hobbies. Astronomy has always fascinated me – now I can read and learn about it at leisure. So why not take up a class? Or get lost in Google? Providing you have a brain that’s interested and engaged, don’t let anything hold you back. You can do anything.”
2. Happiness – bonus time is a blessing
“Today’s life expectancy is a gift. Years ago, you were considered ‘old’ at 65. Now it’s possible to live 30 years beyond retirement – that’s a privilege our ancestors didn’t have. There’s a whole new population living an exciting chapter. Once you reach a certain age, you enjoy life in fresh ways. The majority of older people are rusty, but not ill. You get on with life in spite of rust! There’s a comfortable serenity about later life. You appreciate life’s scale – none of us are going to live forever – but, if you’ve retained a network of friends and family, then that’s a real pleasure worth celebrating.”
3. A strong sense of perspective
“Once you reach a certain age, you reflect on the past – who you were, how you behaved or reacted to certain situations, the path you imagined you’d take. You realise that everything falls into place. You might have fretted about hormonal children, but they mature into responsible adults and respectable parents. You were unemployed at one stage, but you carve out a career path even without a plan. Doors open and you walk through. Looking back you see everything connected up. Life is a cycle. By reflecting on life, you grow to understand. But, when you’re in the midst of a dilemma, it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. That’s why old age is refreshing. Worries you had then don’t faze you anymore – and wouldn’t faze you if the same issue arose again.
“Memories are so important. Nostalgia is a lovely thing when you’re old. I might not be able to walk up the Derbyshire hills I cherished in my younger years, but I can sit in a pub garden or on a wall and gaze up at them. Otherwise, I imagine the walk. We can’t look back with sadness, or loss, because we haven’t lost anything – we’ve still got those memories. We can re-do them using imagination. Re-living moments (physically or in conversation) with friends is a special social occasion.”
“Passion doesn’t fizzle out in older age – it burns brighter. And Stannah’s research proves I’m not alone in feeling this way – nearly 1 in 5 (19%) over-65s agree that sex gets better once you hit retirement age. The luxury of later life is that you have more time for intimacy. There’s no need to rush as you’re not tied to the 9-5 or family demands. So, you wake up when you fancy – and go to bed whenever you like, too!
“The years have taught you what you like. And, if you’ve been with your partner for a long time, you’ll know what they enjoy. You both feel looked after, while the throes of a new romance are equally thrilling. One thing you do know: touch is lovely. Sensual touch should be celebrated, so make the most of your extra time with massages. Looks become irrelevant – you embrace body confidence with age.
5. Feeling of pride
“Reaching a certain age gives you an immense feeling of pride. Rather than dreading the next ‘big’ birthday, you add years on, boasting about your years because you’ve made it through life’s challenges. I’m proud I’ve survived the war, rationing, polio epidemics. And Stannah research shows that two-thirds of over-65s would like the younger generation to recognise that we’re stronger than we’re often given credit for. I’ve experienced constant change and it’s been tough, but it makes me realise how resilient I – and my entire generation – are. That’s why it’s so important not to worry about ageing. Look forward to it as another normal, enjoyable chapter and celebrate a life well lived.”