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January 2018

Approaching Eighty

Turning eighty (which I will do next month) is daunting. Period.

I didn’t miss a beat when I turned seventy. It was just a number. However, on my seventy-fifth birthday, I wrote in this blog that I was beginning to feel old. At eighty, I am old.

But what does that mean? I’m not working, but I’m fully engaged. In the last week, I heard three outstanding speakers on subjects I knew very little about. I read a Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Geraldine Brooks. I went to the Renwick Gallery, a jewel of a museum. I met some new people as I try to build a network in Washington. As of this moment I am (gratefully) in good health, and my doctor tells me that I “have a lot of mileage left.”

So bring on eighty. I’ll give it my best.


The 2018 Golden Globes ceremony with its parade of Hollywood stars dressed in black to protest sexual harassment, topped off by Oprah’s call to action made for quite an evening earlier this month.

When I heard a talk by Marcia Greenberger, co-founder of The National Women’s Law Center a few days later, I was reminded of how far we have come in achieving equal rights for women —and how far we still have to go.

Marcia led us on a walk down memory lane, recalling how she went home from elementary school every day for a lunch made by her mother because mothers were at home in the fifties. She reminded us that there weren’t school sports for girls then. Girls could only be cheerleaders.

When she attended the University of Pennsylvania, there was a separate college for women and women had a curfew. Men were only allowed in the dorm one afternoon a year. Remember?

Greenberger agreed that we have made progress. But she pointed out that two-thirds of those who earn the minimum wage are women and that many women earn less than men doing the same job.

#Me Too and Time’s Up are helping to shed light on the issues of sexual harassment and the inequality of women. A new commission to focus on sexual harassment in Hollywood, chaired by Anita Hill has raised more than $16 million through GoFundMe.

Women have made progress since the days when we stayed home all day. But we still have a way to go.

Getting To Know You

Recently, we ate dinner with a lovely couple that lives in the apartment next to ours.  We had exchanged greetings in the elevator, and eaten dinner with a larger group that included them.  But this was our first chance to talk two-on-two.

Everyone in our retirement community has an interesting, usually impressive (and always long) life story, and they were no exception.  So we shared our histories through most of the meal.

When we got to dessert, Bob announced that he had just gotten his first hearing aid.  His wife said that she wears two hearing aids.  Peter has two hearing aids also, but he doesn’t wear them much.  I have none, at least not yet.

Only in the dining room of a retirement community would you hear such a lively discussion of hearing aids.  It comes with the territory.

Ten Years and Counting

When I post a blog entry, it often feels like I am sending it off into outer space.  I don’t know many of my readers personally, but I like to think that most of you are experiencing aging in ways that are not so different from the ways I describe.

When you got my blog post announcing 70-something’s tenth birthday, many of you responded with words of appreciation and encouragement. And you asked me to keep writing.  You understand the new challenges we anticipate facing in our eighties, and know that we are in this together. 

Thank you for your support. If you keep reading, I’ll keep writing.

The Best of Times

(Once again, Peter Kugel’s Annual Contribution to

On Fridays at 4:00, the retirement community where we now live, offers us a weekly lecture.

We recently heard a retired neurologist talk about the history of Washington, DC during the second half of the twentieth century. It was, in the words of President Kennedy, “a city of Southern efficiency and Northern charm.” It was also the capital of the richest and most powerful country on earth.  

For Americans who lived then (us) it was the best time in history to be alive and we were very lucky to live in it. Luckier than the people who lived before us and luckier than our grandchildren who will live after us.

Our ancestors lived without modern medicine or flush toilets. Our children, and their children, will have to live with climate change, the threat of nuclear war, a crumbling infrastructure that we have neglected, a huge national debt we have greatly increased, terrorism, income inequality and a dysfunctional government that will be unable to deal with the whole catastrophe.

The people we had dinner with that night agreed. We had been lucky and our grandchildren would not be.

When I went to bed, I remembered that things hadn’t looked so great when I was born (in 1930). It was the first year of a bad depression and that was followed by a terrible war. The future looked grim.

Before I went to sleep, I thought about something that Yogi Berra had once said: “It’s tough to make predictions. Particularly about the future.”


It’s not unusual for a resident of a retirement community to turn ninety. It's not unusual to have several generations of the family come from near and far. But last week’s birthday celebration for a resident of our community was special.

The new nonagenarian had been a piano teacher and composer. Her son, who came from Alaska for the occasion, is a world-class cellist. They gave a concert together for their family and invited all of our residents. Their program included several classics for piano and cello (by Saint-Saens, Bloch and Rachmaninoff), and her son played Bach’s Suite for Unaccompanied Cello in D-minor.

When they had finished, the world-class cellist thanked his world-class mother for accompanying him, as she has for all of his life.

Birthday Report is a decade old this week.


In 2008, I had no idea what going “public” with my life would bring. Now I can proudly claim that I have published twice-weekly (1,055 posts) since then because I grew to love sharing my seventies (and because I am compulsive).


Ten years ago I was a very different person.  I was constantly scurrying to keep up with work, home, friends and more.  At seventy-five, I retired, and losing my community of thirty-three years was hard for me. It took me six months to fill that void with the right balance of activities.


I am thrilled that the blog led to my book, published last June:  (70-Something:  Life, Love and Limits in the Bonus Years). And I am grateful to have so many new friends, blog readers who have written to me over the years.


Now, I will have a new phase of life to recount, because our recent move to a retirement community four hundred miles from home has considerably changed our lives.


At (almost) eighty, I can’t promise to blog for another decade. My concern is that the next ten years will bring losses, and I hope I can handle them with grace. 


Thanks to those who have joined me on this journey through my seventies.  Extra thanks to those who have stayed with me through all the ups and downs of the decade and to those who have written to tell me that my experience resonates with them.


Happy New Year.


When My Parents Were My Age

These days, I find myself thinking more about how my parents were feeling when they were the age I am now. (My father died at seventy-seven; my mother at eighty-six.) Now that I am approaching eighty, I realize that they may have felt more and more vulnerable as they grew older. I was too busy with my kids and my career to notice. They were my parents, and I took them for granted.

The move we’ve just made to an unfamiliar place has shown us our vulnerability. We don’t adjust to change as easily as we used to. I don’t know where to take my dry cleaning, where I can turn right on red or where to park my car. I have to find new doctors and in the spring, I will have to look for new farmers’ markets. (Fortunately, I don’t have to find a new husband.)

I am eager to feel settled, to feel more part of a community. People here are warm and welcoming, but they are not yet “our” people and we are not yet theirs.

Did my parents have an easy time when they retired to Florida? I wish I had asked.