Now That I Am in My Seventies I Understand Why No One Tells You the Truth About How To Optimize Life in Your Seventies

AgingWhen I was about to hit seventy, GG Lee’s (Great Grandmother age 95) mantra was hitting home.  She said live your life to its fullest while you are “young old,” because when you hit “old old” at age 84 your life and health changes drastically and you do not want to or cannot travel or do anymore.

I breezed into my seventies believing that nothing would change until mid eighties.  I even asked all my doctors if my Boomer generation could expect that age 84 to be later for us.  I remember age 90 as the age at which I, as a Boomer, needed to be concerned.

The Highs are Higher and the Lows are Lower

By the time you hit seventy, a lifetime of living life with its highs and lows leaves its marks on you physically and mentally.  There is more of an acceptance when not able to change people or  circumstances, acceptance of burdens placed upon us and beginning to let go of responsibilities.  But, there is also more contentment, more gratitude, more appreciation of family and friends, and of life itself.

When happy life passage events occur, such as a wedding, Bar or Bat Mitzvah, birth of a baby, especially a grandchild, I, the over seventy I, am more emotionally impacted.  I feel many more such happy life passage events are in my past than in my future, so every one is ever more important and special.

GG (Great Grandmother) Frieda #1 Keep your own tzures (troubles)

My Mother, a Holocaust survivor, always said everyone has tzures (troubles).  No one is immune from difficulties in life.  She said do not envy others, as the grass is not greener.  As you are familiar with your tzures and are learning to handle them, why take on strange tzures and start again.  This goes for the large number of divorces among Boomers, around 50%.  This Grandma’s mantra is that a perfect marriage is when you are happy 70% of the time, as, after all, we do not get along with siblings with the same DNA, how do we expect more from a relationship with a stranger who was raised with different culture.  Think before upheaving your life in your seventies, and even sixties.  Life will upheave without your help.

I am finding more and more in my personal sphere, that there is always some pain, sometimes deep pain that is very difficult to overcome.  I remember GG Frieda, and know this too will pass.   For a time, whatever is on the flip side, whether health or other family issues, causes pain, the highs of life are higher and can help overcome the pain of the lows.

GG (Great Grandmother) Frieda # 2 Life is Hard and then you Die

My Mother, a Holocaust survivor, was the only survivor of her village.  She made lemonade out of lemons her whole life and, by example, taught me to do the same.  Choose to concentrate of the hardness of life and miss the journey that we all must take to death.  The journey is worth the pain and the highs and lows along the way.  Relationships with good friends and a support system of family and friends, and finding what brings joy in exploring in the extra time in retirement is the better path.  GG Frieda ultimately lived and loved and enjoyed life, with her book title, ‘Out of the Darkness,’ she found the light.

Prepare for the Medical Challenges that are Going to Come

Stress exacerbates medical conditions and the stress of life of seventy years cannot be underestimated.  Medical challenges will surprise you in your seventies.  Whether it is you, your spouse, your children or your grandchildren, there are going to be medical challenges in your seventies.  You can only control your own medical health.  A previous blog post spoke of maintaining a medical profile.  The very first part of the medical profile was to keep notes about symptoms and issues, and act quickly when these arrive.  It is better to be proactive than in denial.

Here is this Grandma’s advice as to what to do as soon as practicable to optimize health in your seventies:

Get medical baselines for everything, a full and complete medical work up.

Getting medical baselines for everything in a full and complete medical work up means a comprehensive blood work-up and taking care of any issues, such as high cholesterol or high blood sugar or aches and pains.  That means ultra sounds of your arteries leading to the heart and a heart evaluation.  It means a mammogram and ultrasound of your breasts if you are a woman and the same with prostate for a man.  It means an ultrasound of your reproductive organs if you are a woman.  If you already have issues, it means keeping up with regular screenings and appointments.

If you have a parent or sibling who has had such issues, or had a heart attack, cancer, stroke, gout, or diabetes or any other chronic or emergent condition, run, do not walk to getting baselines.  Where there is a family history, move quickly in your earlier seventies, even better in your sixties.  Our dear friend who was healthy as a horse and who considered himself healthy as a horse, dropped dead after his normal Sunday morning 50 mile biking trip recently.  He refused to get a cardiac work up at 70, any part of a medical base line analysis as he felt he did not need it.  Yes, he died of a heart attack at age 71, and the autopsy showed he was healthy as a horse. . . .except for undiagnosed hardening of the arteries that cut off blood flow to his heart.  This was a condition that, if found, could have been taken care of, and we would still have him with us. . . .only if he addressed the possibility of mortality in his seventies.

Be prepared for what is surely to come.

When the symptoms do come, this Grandma has a two week rule.  If the first doctor does not find anything, think outside of the box.  Yes, a cough might mean going to the general practitioner.  A cough that persists for two weeks means a visit to an ear, nose, and throat doctor.  When that doctor cannot find anything, think to go to a gastroenterologist as it might be reflux related, and think to go for tests and a scan — to see if it is cancer.  38% of us Boomers will face cancer.  Some issues that are persistent have a 38% chance of being cancer related.  This cough and associate phlegm could be bile from the pancreas and pancreatic cancer.

Remember, doctors are now very specialized.  A specialist may not think a cough is much and after doing tests in his or her specialty might not find anything, but it may signal something that is life threatening.  Chronic may be longer than two weeks, but many of us who try to get a doctor’s appointment in a month find that it is even longer to get that appointment to check anything out!  It is better to have multiple appointments with different specialists for the unknown symptom or issue.

One cannot leave a symptom or issue unknown!  I know from personal experience with myself and loved ones.  Delay in treatment of cancer means less likely success in overcoming and surviving cancer.  Stroke and heart disease are also major killers of us Boomers in our seventies. Fatigue was a symptom my friend had and my Mother had when she had cancer.  Their general practitioners told them fatigue is normal when you are in your seventies and eighties.  No!  The onset of a symptom or issue should be explored.  Find another doctor, a gerontologist, if possible.  Yes, we are old enough for a gerontologist as our general practitioner.

There is more to being prepared to optimize your seventies, but here are the stages regarding good health maintenance thus far.

Medical Profile

Log of Symptoms and Issues

Two Week Rule for the Unknown: Multiple Specialist Appointments

Complete Medical Work Up and Base Lines.

Now that I am in my seventies, I understand why no one tells you the truth about how to optimize life in your seventies.  We have been led to believe good health is a given or it is easier to deny that it isn’t.

There is a saying that if you do not have your health, you have nothing.  Optimizing your seventies is concentrating on being prepared– for good health.  Our friends and we discuss all our doctors’ appointments when we are at dinner, all of our ailments, and, hopefully, how we are overcoming them.  Please consider being proactive–alive and in good health throughout this decade.

Welcome to the Seventies!





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