Lots of advantages to getting older
Everyone at the Lakeview Center for Active Aging had an opinion about aging, but they had trouble getting their words out because they were laughing so hard.
All four ladies agreed grandchildren and great-grandchildren were the best part of getting older. But after that, the jokes just kept coming.
“We can switch from one personal hygiene product to another,” started the ball rolling. Clearly, the women ladies had a strong bond and have fun together. “When you get older, you can say anything you want,” Joyce Miles said.
“The friends we make as we get older, they’re real friends. There’s no put-on stuff,” Billie Jo Workman said of the advantages of getting older. “Our families live elsewhere, but we can count on our friends here” at the Lakeview Center at Lake Tomahawk. Workman, Miles, Mini Posin and Elizabeth Swann meet at the center regularly for lunch and a variety of social activities.
Posin, in her nineties, is just glad to be living, she said. She’s grateful for her health and her ability to get around. Miles is happy to meet friends every day at the center. “We have the best time,” she said.
The ladies moved to Black Mountain for various reasons, including love of the mountains and the small-town atmosphere. All agreed it feels like home now. Posin’s daughter saw a poster of Asheville 18 years ago, and they decided to check out the area. Posin fell in love with Black Mountain and put down roots here. “I don’t feel any older today than I did 30 years ago,” she exclaimed.
All the ladies agreed that one good part of aging is they no longer worry so much about what people think.
Another newcomer to this area is Beverly Highland. Originally from South Carolina, she chose Black Mountain as her retirement home. The best part of growing older (also a hard part) is “knowing what you don’t know,” Highland, 72, said. “But now I know where to look and who to ask.”
Another insight that comes with age, Highland said, is “understanding no one is better than you, but nobody is worse than you.”
The greatest gift of aging has been courage, she said. “I finally have the courage to write and let other people read what I’ve written. I doubt myself less,” she said. “I still doubt myself, but I must do that as a writer. Even five years ago I would have been intimidated to talk to someone who’s worked with writers and publishers. But that’s no longer the case.”
Courage is also helping Highland move forward with another lifelong dream - standup comedy. Advice from a friend got her working on her comedy routine. “Comedy comes from experience. Now I have enough experience to make fun of myself.”
Highland is also writing essays about her hometown. She believed she had to wait until people died to write about them, she said. But then she concluded she might die first, so she had better proceed with the project. “James Baldwin said we as writers have a responsibility to write about those who raised us up, so I’m really focusing on telling those stories now,” she said.
The advantages of growing older reveals some interesting things, research reveals. There is Social Security, Medicare and senior citizen discounts, yes, but Zaria Gorvett of the BBC reports that there are less known benefits. People over 60 have fewer colds and allergies. They have smarter brains and better sex.
A University of Michigan study asking subjects to respond to “Dear Abby” letters revealed that people in their 60s were better than younger ones at imagining different points of view, thinking of multiple resolutions and suggesting compromises.
A 2010 study at Stony Brook University that surveyed hundreds of thousands of Americans found that “people over 50 were happier overall, with anger declining steadily from the 20s through the 70s and stress falling off a cliff in the 50s.”
Black Mountain residents Barb and Henry Griffin would likely agree with much of these findings. Henry, describing himself as a “tightwad” who spent his entire life saving money, is enjoying not having to save anymore. “It’s liberating. I get to enjoy the money I saved now,” he said.
Barb feels much younger than she is. “That is partly because I have a lot of younger friends, mostly because of my tennis group,” she said.
The Griffins, both age 79, lived for many years in Ann Arbor, Michigan before moving to Black Mountain six years ago. “I was surprised at being able to come into a community and be accepted so readily.”
Now as new residents of Givens Highland Farms, the Griffins are again settling in and enjoying a new community.
“Our decision to move to Highland Farms was made eons ago; it’s all part of a process,” Barb said. “We wanted to make it easier for other family members so they didn’t have to worry about us. We’ve been fortunate to watch grandparents and parents make similar plans. We had wonderful role models for aging.
“I’ve always had respect and admiration for older people. I know many people who are past 90 and remain vigorous.”
Henry is particularly enjoying liberation from the constraints of the past. For example, “we haven’t traveled much, but now we can,” he said. “Our next trip is wine tasting in Chile with a group of friends.”
A key to happiness, Barb said, is to keep learning and meeting new people. “We enjoy classes offered at Highland Farms and Montreat, for example. We attend a weekly group here at Highland Farms that discusses current events which is led by a former State Department official. We recently took advantage of a class at Montreat about the Supreme Court and the United States Constitution. We have many opportunities for learning in this area.”
For more about programs at the Lakeview Center for Active Aging, visit blackmountainrec.com or call 669-8610. For more about the programs of the Council on Aging in Buncombe County, visit coabc.org or call 828-277-8288.
For more about adult learning opportunities through McCall Continuing Education of Montreat College, visit montreat.edu/student-life/special-events/mccall or call 669-6423. For more about learning opportunities open to the public at Givens Highland Farms, call 669-6473.