I’m Too “New Age” For This

How fortuitous.  This blog posted in the New York Times earlier this week.


The author must have listened in to the phone call my cousin and I had a few days earlier.  If she didn’t, then this is further proof that, for women, aging has its challenges but also big time perks.

Dominique Browning, a babe at 60, has found her voice and the relief of thinking and declaring, “I’m too old for this.”  She is, she writes, too old for feeling bad about her looks.  Insecurity is another distraction for which she is too old.  She doesn’t have time to change others because she knows it’s an exercise in futility.  And she’s learned to walk away from toxic people and toxic situations.

Hail to Ms. Browning.  And hail to the millions of other wise women who are feeling much more comfortable in their own skin.

Browning writes that she could just as well have adopted the mantra “I’m too wise for this.”  But she went with “I’m too old for this,” a mantra I was about to adopt when the aforementioned  cousin suggested “I’m too new age for this.”  Or simply, “I’m new age.”

For me, that’s pitch perfect.  My age (70) is “new,” “revitalized,” “different from expectations”—mine and every other woman who survives in tact with energy, health (Okay, maybe a bum knee here and a fragile back there), and optimism for the future and the unknown but exciting path it will take.

Cultural expectations be damned.

I mean, what was the New Age movement in the 1970s all about?   At its root, New Age was an alternative approach to Western culture.  The new age culture focused on spiritualism, mysticism, holism, and environmentalism.  The movement was all about “feelgoodism,” “correct knowledge,” and “tolerance.”

We sure could use some of that!

And no one is pretending that adopting this mantra works every time a “new age” woman is confronted with her image in the mirror, the “Oh, I sure want to be like you when I’m your age,” or the invisibility new age women experience (except for those who go under the knife, unable to accept the slow but inevitable march to the end.)

We “new age” women—even those loud and proud feminists—sometimes secretly wish that the construction guys on their lunch break might hoot and holler as we stroll by.  Or, while out dancing, some man who can keep a beat asks us to dance.

The flip side is that we don’t have to worry about the anger at being oogled or the hurt of being a wallflower.  Now, we can dance to our own tune without having to worry about what anyone thinks. Being outwardly “invisible” allows us to be inwardly “visible” and to connect honestly with ourselves without the cultural pressure to look, act, think like an “senior” or “elder” or, worse yet, a “hag.”









I’ve been searching for my copy of Barbara Walker’s The Crone: Woman of Age, Wisdom and Power.  The book left a huge impression on me and, based on Amazon customer reviews, a powerful one on scores of women, both “new age” and younger.

“So many times ‘crone’ is spit out like a disparagement, and Walker does an excellent job of educating the reader that Crone is an age of woman that brings wisdom and power.”

“This book celebrates the place of perhaps the most marginalized group in our culture, while damning the methods and motives of the Christian church from the burning times through today.”

Sit back, put on some New Age music and meditate on and give thanks to all the wisdom and power age has offered to you as a gift to be cherished and shared.

And for Pete’s sake, have a little humor about it all.


Brain’s “External Hard Drive”

Is today Wednesday?

And who is the artist who painted those still life sunflowers that light up one’s mood and virtually any space, no matter how dark and gloomy?


Gee, I just can’t remember his name.  I know he had a brother.  His name was Leo, right?  And the painter cut off his ear.  He lived in a sanatarium in France.  For God’s sake, I visited the place.  What was the town?  Oh, right.  Arles.  Quaint place with, if I remember correctly, a row of  perfectly trimmed trees lining both sides of the main rue.  The sanatarium was empty, but one could walk around the inner court and imagine the voices, the intermittent screams, the mumbling.

This painter guy whose name just won’t come to me was good friends with Gauguin.  Correct?  But they had a falling out, and Gauguin took off and moved to Tahiti where he painted the colorful, zophtic women there and never returned home to his wife and kids.


“I remember all this, but I can’t recall the painter’s name,” I told my husband.  “I think it starts with a P.  Can you please give me a hint?”

He stood silent, his arms crossed.

“Come on.  It’s driving me crazy.  I think I’m losing it just like this man whose name has disappeared from my memory bank—what’s left of it.”

I paced the kitchen, stealing a look every now and then at the vase of sunflowers sitting on the dining room table.

I started going through the alphabet . . . A, B, C, D . . . Nothing.  Only the damn P.”

“Please,” I whined.  “A hint.”

“Okay,” my husband said.  “He is known by his first name.  Now, that should joggle your addled brain.”  He’d been making disparaging comments about my waning memory for a time.  I hated him for it and did my best to catch him every time he forgot what day it was or where he’d put his car key or bike lock.

“First name?  You mean like Pablo?”

He snickered.  “Wrong century.”

I knew it was but had to take a guess.

My husband must have felt sorry for me.  “The first letter of his first name begins with the name of your favorite car, the one you owned twice.”

That should make it easy.  Ford, Fiat, Volvo, Toyota, BMW, Mini Cooper, Honda, Kia . . . I’d been leasing cars for years so had a variety of makes to choose from.  Still, none of the first letters of any of them jogged my memory.

By now, I was ready to throw myself into the garden fountain where we’d found and rescued a drowning robin just the week before.

“Jane, you owned two of these cars and thought about leasing a third one last year but didn’t think it would do well in the snow.”

Finally . . . “VW.”


“Okay.  VW.  Now what was the guy’s name?”

What my husband didn’t know was that in between remembering the VW Beetle and coming up with the painter’s name, I did a quick iPhone search while his back was turned.

“Vincent” I screamed.  “Vincent Van Gogh!”

“It’s about time.”


I wish I could have felt some satisfaction.  But I’d cheated like many of us do these days and used the Internet.  An article in Scientific American likened the Internet to the brain’s “external hard drive” and that the social aspect of remembering has been replaced by new digital tools.

I’d better keep pace with all the new and improved digital tools because my old, fading memory will require regular tune ups to run a bit smoother and last a bit longer.











5 Things to Know About Aging Parents








  1. When parents say they don’t want to be a burden, don’t believe them.

Everyone wants to know they’re loved.  Everyone wants to know that someone else has their back.  Aging parents are no exception.  They may be living in the highest-rated senior facility in the country.  More than likely, it’s in another state. (Think Florida.)  Sure, they have lots of friends and a dizzying social calendar.  But they are far from family and miss out on sharing their children’s and grandchildren’s lives.  They may not be keen on or able to travel and are dependent on their family coming to see them.

Our aging parents may have shouldered the responsibility of taking care of their parents or other relatives.  They know only too well all that that entails.  Still, they would love to have one of their children suggest that they move closer . . . into a senior living facility or even into their home.

Take my mother.  When my younger sister mentioned that there was a small house for sale 10 minutes away, she jumped at the chance to relocate from Florida to Ohio.  She and my father bought the house.  While my mother had said for years that she never wanted to be a “burden” on her children, in her heart she would have done anything to live close by.


2.  Many aging parents don’t want to live exclusively with other aging seniors.

On the one hand, living exclusively with folks in the same age group sounds like a great idea.  They share similar concerns, interests, and stories.  They have lived through important marker events such as war, times of economic bust and boom, their sons’ and daughters’ journeys into adulthood, middle age.

But choosing a homogeneous environment has its drawbacks.  Just sit by a swimming pool during the holidays when suddenly the sounds of grandkids laughing, splashing energizes everyone within earshot.  There is music in the air. When the holidays come to an end and kids and their parents return home, the quiet can be deafening.

Several aging parents have confided that walking down the hallways of a senior facility, meeting other people along the way, is like seeing a reflection of themselves.  It’s a reminder of their mortality.  One day, a resident seems healthy and involved.  The next, he suffers a stroke or heart attack and ends up in long-term care or, worse, never returns.

“Why would I want to live with a bunch of old fogies?” one aging parent said.  “I want to surround myself with all kinds of people in different age groups.  It helps me feel younger.”

3.  The personalities of aging parents may change drastically.

Be prepared: Your father with the droll sense of humor may turn into a bitter old man who finds no joy in life.  Your mother, once a controlling woman who ran the household, may go on permanent strike and never cook again.  She may become the “softie,” the parent you turn to with problems of your own.

It’s a challenge to accept the “new” parent whose take on life goes from upbeat and positive to downright morose, or from judgmental and myopic to loving and open.  You thought the dynamics in your family were set in stone.  For better or worse, you’ve adjusted. Suddenly or progressively, everything is turned upside down.  Your parents don’t relate to you as they always have.  And you struggle to adjust.

This is when siblings (or other close relatives) can be a big help.  You can compare notes.  You can talk about how things used to be and come up with strategies as to how to accept and honor the people your aging parents have become.

As Bette Davis famously said, “Getting old is not for sissies.”  Watching parents age isn’t for sissies, either.

4.  When aging parents initiate discussions about end-of-life, they still feel in control.

In his book, The Other Talk, author Tim Prosch presents a guide to help parents and adult children discuss and make end-of-life decisions.

Prosch notes that 75 percent of families never have this necessary conversation.  “There’s got to be a way to help people pass the emotional barriers—it’s something that stops most families from having any kind of communication on the subject.  It’s a denial of our own mortality.”

Parents who do have this discussion have a sense of making their own decisions about some tough subjects: Living wills; funeral and burial arrangements; estates.  They can take solace in the fact that their children have clear directives and will, hopefully, follow them.

5.  Aging parents can die from a broken heart.

When the mother of a friend of mine died, her father moved in.  But from the moment he arrived, he made it clear that he wouldn’t be there for long.  The couple’s wedding anniversary was approaching, and he had no plans of celebrating alone.

My friend watched as her father grew weaker and weaker.  His doctor said that he had no life-threatening illness.  Still, his condition was grave.

A day or two before his wedding anniversary, he passed away.

A unique case of dying from a broken heart or one case among many?

According to a study by Harvard researchers published in 2013, surviving spouses have a 66% higher risk of dying within three months after their partner’s deaths.

Researchers are not sure why but postulate reasons may include the remaining partner’s health after caring for her partner,  a change in lifestyle, loneliness, or failing to take their medication.

When my father died less than a month after my mother passed away and people constantly assumed he’d died of a broken heart, I didn’t buy it. After all, my dad had fallen, hit his head, and ended up with bleeding on the brain that ultimately killed him.

But now that I’ve seen the research, I’m not so sure.  I know my dad wanted to die first and felt he couldn’t survive without my mother.  Sadly for him, it didn’t work out that way.

Lesson?  Don’t ignore the chances of your surviving mother or father dying of a broken heart.  It happens all too frequently.  Do all you can to encourage rest, medication (if necessary), maybe even counseling or a push toward staying engaged with other people. Most importantly, be there, optimally in person, with support, love and understanding. Losing one parent is hard enough: Losing both without time to mourn and process is heartbreaking.