The Mountain Times

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Aging in place: Finding a surprise inside yourself

There is a bumper sticker that says, "Inside every old person is a young person trying to figure out what happened." Earlier, that was funny to me because it didn't make sense. Now, it's funny because it is so perfectly true. Aging on the outside doesn't change who we are on the inside.

My first exposure to this was with my dad, but I didn't realize it at the time. As he aged, he had a way of expecting more of each day than could be accomplished. Looking back now, I can appreciate that his ongoing expectations never completely acknowledged the limitations time had placed on his physical ability to make things happen. This meant he never lost his enthusiasm.

Next, and more recently, came my clients. One of the perks of discussing personal finance with older people is that it often creates a place of openness. We can end up talking about their past lives and present experiences with amazing candor.

Almost everyone marvels at the contradiction between how he or she feels mentally and what is happening physically.

One fellow in his 90's put it perfectly: "When I wake up, my mind is full of the same kind of thoughts I had when I was 30. Visions of the day and all that can be accomplished. Then I go through the snap, crackle, pop of cranking this old body out of bed and I'm 93 again by the time my feet hit the floor."

Now, I am beginning to understand these things for myself.  I feel just as fast and sharp as I ever did, but that doesn't mean I know why I'm in the kitchen by the time the refrigerator door opens. Still, the thoughts come clear as I try and figure out what I'm doing there. Someone deep inside is amused by it all, too.

It's almost like the two of us are standing there bridging the space-time continuum or straddling parallel universes. There is the old befuddled guy wondering what to do next as he gazes into the cold shelves. Then there is the young guy waiting for that aging duffer to get the ice cream they came for. OK, that's a bit silly. But my point is that the youth in us doesn't go away. Inside, the person we have always been remains intact, free of the aches and challenges of an aging body. Maybe that is part of what gives us the blessings of perspective and patience as we grow older.

Perhaps wisdom comes out of the contrast between who we are and how we feel.

I don't know.  But one thing I'm sure of is Aging in Place doesn't happen by accident.

Scott Funk is Vermont's leading Aging in Place advocate, writing and speaking around the state on issues of concern to retirees and their families.