The 70-Something Blog is now The 80-Something Blog. Stay tuned in ten years for The 90-Something Blog!

Life in a NORC

A Naturally Occurring Retirement Community (NORC) is a community (building, street, or neighborhood) a large proportion of whose residents are over sixty years old living independently.  Peter and I live in an apartment building in a neighborhood with many single-family homes and lots of young children. But although many of the residents of our building brought up their kids here, most of us now fall on the far side of sixty.

It’s not surprising that  our neighbors would need the help of walkers, crutches or canes.  Since September, residents of our floor have had three knee replacements, a fractured hip and just last week, a broken foot.

Thanks to my knee surgery, I have used all three of the devices.  But I am now walking around our apartment on my own most of the time.  So, when a neighbor down the hall who lives alone broke her foot last week, I decided that the dinner I was making was enough for three people, and although she couldn’t leave her apartment, I could bring her dinner. 

Both of our apartment units have stairs up into them which was a challenge for us.  I hobbled down the hall on one crutch, carrying a hot plate of roasted pork tenderloin in cranberry sauce, broccoli and mashed potatoes.  My neighbor stood at the top of the stairs into her apartment and I stood at the bottom.  She leaned down as far as she could and I leaned up on the stair railing and passed her the plate of dinner.

It was a pathetic scene, but we laughed together at the ridiculousness of it.  It also worked.  She got a real dinner via room service down the hall (me) and I got to feel great for helping her out.

Twenty Years Without Gluten

I have not eaten anything containing gluten for twenty years.  My long un-explainable stomach symptoms finally got explained in January, 2000.  I have celiac sprue, an autoimmune disease where gluten destroys the villi in the small intestine.  It took me a while to process what my gastroenterologist was explaining.  No wheat, rye, barley.  Ever.  Nor any of the millions of foods containing them.  

I know that things have improved for people like me since then. More restaurants understand  gluten-free. More organizations realize that there is a market for good gluten-free products. Back then, it wasn’t easy to adjust to the cardboard product that was gluten-free bread.  Or to give up pretzels and bagels, French bread, most desserts.

Five months after my diagnosis our entire family took a dream trip to Africa.  By then I had adjusted to my condition, but since I knew nothing about African cuisine, I carried a giant size jar of Skippy peanut butter and gluten-free crackers in my suitcase.

There is still no magic pill or cure for this genetic mishap.  I still look at dessert menus--you never know when a flour-less chocolate cake will make the cut.

Whatever Happened to Thank-You Notes?

                                             “Dear Aunt Ruth and Uncle Milton,

                                                                   Thank you very much for the $5 birthday check.  I am depositing it to my savings account for a trip to Europe when I grow up.

                                            Thanks again.

                                           Love, Judy”

So went the template for the thank-you notes I wrote to my mother’s five siblings year after year, once I knew how to write. 

People always used to write thank-you notes.

I thought about that recently because people have been so nice to us since my knee surgery—sending cards, calling, bringing flowers, delivering home-made dinners, offering to pick up food at the market, etc. I am embarrassed to admit that I sent my thanks by email.

Fortunately, our daughter-in-law has taught our grandchildren to write thank you notes.  Sometimes they don’t come for months, but they come. And the other day I got a very nice hand-written thank-you from a cousin for a wedding present.  All may not yet be lost.

Those $5 birthday checks year after year added up.  When I was in college, I managed to go to Europe thanks largely to them. 

Today each of them is worth $53.56.  Not bad.


Happy Birthday Eighty-Something

On January 10, 2008, the “80-Something Blog” (nee the 70-Something Blog) debuted.  This is my 1239th post.  It has been an honor to have people accompany me on my journey over these twelve years.  I have learned so much from my readers.  I have also learned a lot from writing.  You look at things differently when you think you might write about them.  

I hope you’ll stick with me.  It could be interesting. 

P.S If you want to read the prequel, 70-something:  Life, Love and Limits in the Bonus Years is available here.


The New Knee News

Everyone who has a joint replaced has his or her own expectations of recovery.  Since this is my second new knee (the other was replaced twelve years ago), I knew the post-operative physical therapy would be challenging, but I had forgotten how much it actually hurts.  A lot.

Before I went to the hospital, I put a bunch of meals into the freezer and filled my cabinets with enough food for an army.  I gathered a half-dozen books that have been on my to-read list and did a quick re-read of How to Prepare for Surgery, a book that I bought for my first knee operation.  My preparations would make the recovery easy.  Or so I thought.

In reality, I was barely able to get through the paper for the first few days.  Even though I did not have full anesthesia, I was a bit confused after the surgery.  I forgot some key words, like Tylenol. I know we streamed a film after I got home, but I can’t remember the ending.

But now, I feel terrific.  I am not reading much yet because forty-five minutes of exercising three times a day takes a good chunk of time.

Sure, my knee still hurts, but I’m thrilled that my surgery is over. In a few weeks, I would expect to go dancing, that is if I had a husband who danced.

P.S. Thanks to all for cheering me on.


On Becoming a Better Person

I’m not making any New Year’s resolutions for 2020, but I am open to becoming a better person.  I recently found some good suggestions in an article (13Ways to Be a Better Person in 2020) in The New York Times.  Here are my favorites.

Just Be

We could all use more time to just exist, to not be pushing to fix anything that’s wrong in our lives or the world.  We should try to focus on what is right—for ourselves.  Just Be.

Let Your Kids Fail

I shudder when I think of all the college-application-building activities kids do these days to demonstrate their near-perfection. Having evaluated thousands of graduate school applications in my work, I’d much rather read about how kids overcome setbacks.

Hug a Baby Boomer, or a Generation X-er (or anyone who sees life somewhat differently)

It is enriching to learn about challenges facing future generations or to share your own experience with a younger person 

Buy Stock in Leggings

Leggings are great for everyone.  Best thing since sliced bread.

Happy New Year!


Old Stuff

When we moved out of our Massachusetts house and into a Washington, DC apartment, we had to give my mother’s beautiful English Bone China to a charity because nobody in our family wanted it.  (Seth did take a plate or two for their sentimental value.)  

Our children and grandchildren don’t want any of our “stuff”.  Maybe they’ll take the three candlesticks holders (brought from Russia) turned into a lamp that my aunt says belonged to my grandmother.  It is one of my favorite possessions.  Tastes change.

When Seth was coming to help out while I was having my knee replaced, I stocked up on frozen mixed berries and yogurt for his breakfast smoothie.   I was not surprised when he looked at my 1968 Waring blender and remarked that I must be the last person on the planet who still had that model.

On that first morning, after he used it to make his smoothie, he admitted that it did a pretty good job.  The second morning, he was muttering under his breath about how great it was.  As he left after his visit, he asked me to give him the Waring blender in my will.

Oldies can be goodies.

Knee News

Twelve years ago, I had my right knee replaced.  It’s fine now, but the recovery was so painful that I decided I would never go through it again.  A dozen years later, the pain in my left knee changed my mind and on Friday, December 20th, a wonderful surgeon (about fourteen years old) replaced it. I know I will be glad—eventually.

Peter took care of me the last time, but now he has his own mobility challenges so Seth stepped in, and he was amazing.  He took me to the hospital at 5:00 a.m.  He brought Peter to visit me.  He brought me home.  He cooked and did the dishes.  In exchange. I did a couple of small sewing tasks for him. 

(I got the better deal.)

However, no child is perfect.  He did not know that our ice cream scoop should not go into the dishwasher, and it was unrecognizable when I got home.  My car has a couple of new scratches on it due to a minor encounter with a post in the hospital parking lot. 

But our household now has two walkers, a pair of crutches, lots of candy, one new knee and two lucky parents.


Only the Jeans are Blue

It’s been thirteen years since my husband Peter learned he had Parkinson’s Disease.  Because Parkinson’s presents itself in many different ways, we didn’t know then how it would proceed.  We did know that there was no cure.

Until the winter of 2018, our life stayed close to normal although we had to give up some things.  But that February, Peter tripped on a piece of irregular sidewalk and broke his femur. Although he made a good recovery, he became slightly more tentative in moving around.

After that, his condition remained quite stable until just two weeks ago when his mobility took a sudden drop.  Until he’s had some tests and his neurologist has figured out whether this drop is fixable or just a “new normal,” we are keeping our fingers crossed.

Throughout this illness’ long run, Peter has not complained. 

Last week when his order of two new pairs of badly-needed blue jeans arrived, Peter was so pleased with them that he asked me to keep a record of the style number so he could order the same style when these wore out.

He will wear these jeans until they look like what the kids buy new now—full of holes.  So, if he is planning to buy jeans that far in the future, I figure that his optimism remains intact.



Family Matters

When I was a sophomore in college, I became an aunt.  My brother had married his college sweetheart a year after they graduated.  I was thrilled and couldn’t wait to meet my beautiful niece.

That niece, Wendy, is now sixty-two, a successful author and consultant, married to a man I’ve never met.  She travels constantly for her work.   Wendy and her father are not in touch, and although she lives only a couple of hours away, we haven’t seen each other in years.  It’s sad.

On a recent Saturday afternoon, Peter and I chatted with her for an hour using a video conferencing service called Zoom.  We were delighted to see Wendy and “meet” her terrific husband of twenty years. 

Life is a little complicated for both of us now, but we are determined to get together in 2020.  You can’t hug a computer screen.