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Christmas Conundrum

That is the Question…

‘What are you doing at Christmas?’

It’s the usual seasonal enquiry but this year probably asked for different reasons. Many are facing difficult choices and I’m not referring to what to buy Uncle Fred. The lucky ones amongst us may be wrestling with where to spend Christmas and with whom. I’d be very interested to hear (on Twitter) what you are planning to do.

Apparently about a third of us have not yet made up our minds, although many have decided not to mix with others despite the new rules allowing up to three households to meet over the five day holiday period in the UK. Some have recently changed their plans now immunisation is so close, or after hearing all the advice such as keeping a safe distance, opening windows, and generally exercising this ‘freedom’ very carefully.

Those were the days! Engraving by Randolph Caldecott of a Victorian Christmas meal

Our decision

It’s hard being physically separated from loved ones for long periods and the temptation to get together to celebrate is understandable.

But we’ve reluctantly decided not to have anyone inside our home and not to visit anyone else in theirs, which is the regime we’ve followed since March. I suppose we’re ‘lucky’ in not having elderly parents or grandchildren to tempt us, but we still do look forward to Christmas as a time to see family and close friends, as so many others do.

However, being older and in the vulnerable category, and having been so careful for so long, it seems foolhardy possibly to throw it all away for the sake of a ‘Christmas Bubble’. It would be a cruel fate to succumb to Covid with the ‘cavalry’ (to quote our PM) galloping towards us waving syringes!

So, we’re getting a tree, the decorations will go up, presents bought (online) and sent, mulled wine will be drunk and too many mince pies will be eaten. And we will watch even more Christmas films than usual. I will also be sending cards, as I think it’s important, especially this year, to keep in touch.

One of Sir Quentin Blake’s wonderful illustrations available as a free e-card


All I want for Christmas……

As for Christmas Day, we are trying our own, hopefully one-off, ‘Red Letter Day Experience’. Others have been calling it something rather less positive, ‘madness’ being one of the reactions.


Our children are coming for Christmas lunch – outside in the garden, socially distanced! We have invested in a gazebo and decorated it with fairy lights. We’ve also bought an outdoor heater and have woolly (rather than Santa) hats, coats, scarves and thermals at the ready.

Erecting the gazebo – it did go higher eventually !

All I want for Christmas is that we are well and that the day dawns balmy so we don’t end up with hypothermia instead of Covid! Not sure what we’ll do if it pours, or even worse, snows.

Whilst this is far from an ideal solution to the festive period, I know there’s a lot to be positive about, including Covid rates now decreasing, lockdown 2 over, and, best of all, that we’re still here with, incredibly, one vaccine a reality and more likely to follow.

So many have suffered so much these past months, it seems petty to complain about missing just one proper family Christmas.

Marshmallows ahead..

I’m reminded of the famous marshmallow experiment on delayed gratification where young children were offered a choice between one marshmallow immediately, or two if they waited for about 15 minutes. Those that managed to wait – don’t think I’d have been one of them – had a strong correlation with better life outcomes (although I believe some doubts have now been thrown on the findings).

I’m hoping, if I now wait and delay the pleasure of indoor gatherings, I too may have a better life outcome – and lots of marshmallows!


In the meantime, we can look forward to a plethora of celebrations once we can get together again, and hopefully we will all look back and marvel at how well we did to get through 2020. Perhaps we will also emerge as more grateful, giving and caring people who have learned what is truly important in life.

Season’s Greetings

Whatever you choose to do, I wish you all a Healthy and Happy Christmas – or as happy as we can make it. And take care.
Onwards and upwards in 2021!

Stay safe; stay strong; stay smiling!

Joyfully
,

Maggy.

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Couch Potato Treats

Cartoon by Fiddy

No, not wine and chocolate but…

In my last blog I mentioned that my aversion to housework has given me more hours to do what I enjoy. I follow Picasso’s advice in his quote below and apply it – perhaps too literally – to the all the dust in my home !


This quote has encouraged me to pass on a few examples of the arts and culture that have recently nourished and cheered my soul (rather than the chocolate and wine that has cheered other parts). Lockdown has, perhaps surprisingly, provided opportunities to enjoy our own or others’ creativity, although nothing truly compensates for the loss of theatres, cinemas, concert venues, museums and galleries.


What follows is a personal and light-hearted list. You may disagree with all of them. It would be great if you shared what your list would include on Twitter (Age Joyfully @AgeingBetter).

Books…

I could recommend lots of books but will mention only two you might enjoy:

I’ve just finished ‘The Thursday Murder Club’ by Richard Osman. Recently published, it’s a clever, often funny, warm and easy read, with an intriguing plot set in a retirement village. Its four main characters are ageing joyfully and applying their wide experience of life to a rather different and new activity. It’s already a bestseller and all the better, in my view, for featuring older people and in a positive light. OK, it is fiction but it’s a welcome change to the more usual negative stereotypes.

The second is ‘If I Could Tell You Just One Thing’ Encounters with Remarkable People and Their Most Valuable Advice. The author, Richard Reed CBE, is a businessman , entrepreneur and founder of Innocent Drinks. The book consists of short interviews with people Reed has met, from Presidents to pop-stars, and includes role models and heroes of mine. I learned much from many of them. A tiny sample:

Look for the pluses in life. Being negative completely erodes everything’ Dame Judi Dench.

‘Treat everybody as equal value, irrespective of his or her status or who they are’ Baroness Helena Kennedy.

‘Just work hard and be passionate…life is amazing and it’s full of people you haven’t met yet, music you haven’t heard, books you haven’t read.’ Sandi Toksvig.

‘Make always the best from what you have, no matter how little it is’ Lily Ebert, Auschwitz survivor.

I realise both these books share one thing – very short chapters. This probably says something about my attention span during lockdown!

TV…

Well, of course, given my obsession with all things dance, my top choice is BBC One’s ‘Strictly Come Dancing’. But even if you don’t know your botafogo from your boleo, it’s fabulous entertainment. It exemplifies the benefits and joys of connection (both social and physical), learning new skills, purpose, giving to others, gratitude and (my favourite) physical activity – all things that promote happiness, health and wellbeing. Hoping Bill Bailey (age 55) lifts the glitter ball in the final – so far, so very good.

Bill Bailey and Oti Mabuse

Another highlight has been the brilliant TV lockdown comedy Stagedwith David Tennant, Michael Sheen and some wonderful guest cameos (including Dame Judi again). The six episodes are available on iplayer and I would recommend catching it while you can.

Music…

I could choose so much, as music is an indispensable part of my life. Or as the nineteenth century philosopher put it, rather more elegantly:

‘Without music, life would be a mistake’ Friedrich Nietzsche

I think perhaps the best I can do is to share the joyful playlist of 21 songs that I’ve included in ‘How to Age Joyfully’. Hopefully, one or two might appeal.

Films, Dance, Theatre, Book Festivals…

Despite being deprived of the thrill of being in an audience watching theatre, dance or music, at least we have TV (and Sky Arts now available on Freeview), iPlayer, DVDs, live streaming online performances and subscription channels. And I even have a stack of films on video cassettes and our video recorder that I’ll probably never get round to watching. Our video player will no doubt soon become a prized antique!

In recent times I’ve severely limited watching anything that’s depressing, instead choosing things that lift my spirits, such as comedies (‘Would I Lie to You’ a personal TV favourite ), joyous dance (such as ‘Elite Syncopations’ with its vibrant colour and ragtime music), musicals (such as Mamma Mia), and theatre (NT Live and more). I’ve also heard inspiring speakers at Book Festivals (now online, Cheltenham being among my favourites – their 120+ events are still available for £20) or elsewhere, including Action for Happiness and the How To Academy. Thanks to all those providing opportunities to keep us entertained, many at no, or low, cost.

And for an instant boost of your brain’s happy chemicals, I highly recommend this unmissable 5 minute ‘mash up’ of ‘old’ movie stars dancing to uptown funk on YouTube – if you’re not one of the 55 million who’ve already seen it! It never ceases to amaze and bring joy. (And, if keen to watch another, there’s 66 more modern film extracts danced to Can’t Stop the Feeling )

And finally…DIY!

And there’s no need just to watch or listen, as we can all participate if it appeals. Becoming absorbed in a creative activity is good for us, as well as helping us to forget we’re living through such difficult times.

Good advice from the American author.

There are many online (and other) classes in whatever skill you might be tempted to try or develop, from painting to photography, singing to sculpture, dancing to drama. Or perhaps take up writing, join a Book Club, or do a jigsaw.

If you want to do a class or a course, for the older among us, there’s Open Age, U3A, or organisations such as City Lit and Morley College in London (and online). I’m sure there are very many others to choose from, some of which are free. Enjoy!

Stay safe; stay strong; stay smiling.

Joyfully,

Maggy.

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Tips for Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow…

Following On…

…from my last blog and its five tips to kick-start your day, here are another five for the rest of the day, some more serious than others. I hope one or two contribute to a more positive Lockdown Mark 2, as well as life after we emerge. And some great quotes may inspire you and raise a smile .

Six…

Life’s too short for daily dusting...do what you enjoy

This is very personal, but my sixth tip is that your home does not need to be cleaned to within an inch of its life. Your hands yes, furniture no. Of course, if you enjoy housework, that’s a totally different matter – move swiftly on to tip 7.

The only positive I take from cleaning is that it counts as physical activity. For example, vacuuming is good for strengthening arms, legs and core muscles. But dusting isn’t great exercise, although it is better than sitting in a chair for hours on end ….

But, I admit I’m with Joan Rivers on housework:-

During these last months, with no one coming inside the house (and being naturally unobservant), my standards have slipped considerably. I’ve found leaving dust to accumulate until you (or your household) can’t ignore the sight of it any longer, provides far greater motivation to clean, as well as greater satisfaction afterwards.

It also gives you time to do something you really enjoy, which, in my opinion, is more important. Time is limited and precious. I don’t imagine anyone at the end of their life regretted spending too little time on housework.

‘May you live every day of your life’ Jonathan Swift.


Luckily, I don’t feel guilty or ashamed – well, perhaps a little. But if someone sees our dust cloud, I’m sure it makes them feel better about the state of their home, so I’m giving joy to others. 

And anyway isn’t dirt supposed to be good for you, building up your immune system? And we all need a good immune system right now!

Standards will probably rise once normal life returns but, until then, I will have enjoyed many extra hours in which to chat, read, walk, watch TV or just ‘be’.

Seven…

You need less clothes …so help your local charity shops

Being at home most of the time during this pandemic, I’ve come to accept I have too many clothes, (something my husband has gently been pointing out for several decades). I probably have more than enough to see me out, even if I live to a ripe old age – unless I put on so much weight during lockdown, that I need a whole new wardrobe.

So, I’ve given clothes I rarely wore, now or before lockdown, to our local charity shops. Giving to others is good for you (and is another of my steps for a happier life). Hopefully others will benefit, but I’ve benefited too. I feel better after decluttering, and I now have some space in my cupboards to see what’s left.

And shopping less, I’ve saved money and time, another positive for me, although sadly not for the retail sector.

I’ve also found almost everything is perfectly wearable without ironing these days, if you hang it up or wear non-iron or easy care. Opportunities for an outing of the must-iron ‘posh frock’ have disappeared. And making-up every day isn’t compulsory. More time saved. However, visits to my hairdresser when permitted are essential. Grey is definitely not my colour; I was born to be brown haired. 

It’s very tempting to now live in track suit bottoms, even for meetings as no one sees below your waist on Zoom – until you forget and get up for a coffee or loo break! But I actually feel better and more positive when I make a bit of an effort, so I do, from time to time, for my well being and to remind myself of pre-pandemic me. As the days (and my hair) become greyer, I also find wearing brighter colours is hugely cheering. Red is the new black! 

Nothing but Fabulous cartoon

Eight…

Reduce stress…Get out, preferably in nature 

‘Stop and smell the roses’ both literally and metaphorically.

I find it all too easy to vegetate indoors, especially if the weather’s bad, but being outside is great for mental health, reducing stress and improving wellbeing.

I know a big plus of lockdown for me – as for many others – has been spending time outside, hearing birdsong and really noticing and appreciating flowers, trees, the birds and the bees, which (as a born and bred Londoner) had largely passed me by. It also provides much needed Vitamin D. Back to gratitude, living in the present, mindfulness, and valuing the small pleasures of life.

And if you walk, or do some other physical activity outdoors, it’s a double win, improving your physical health as well as your outlook and mood. I just hope I can motivate myself to continue my walks once winter arrives. Actually, I dislike walking in the rain, so exercise will then be ‘Zoom’ dancing. But we’ve now invested in a small pop-up gazebo and I plan to sit outside (wearing half of what’s left of my wardrobe) watching rain drops that keep falling – but hopefully not – on my head!

Nine…

Have a weekly routine which gives you a sense of purpose

I, and many others, have learned during the last seven months that you need structure to your week.

I’ve found it really helpful to do things regularly on a certain day of the week – for one thing it helps me remember which day it is!

And physical activity, learning, working, volunteering, and hobbies can give our lives purpose, as well as achieving those short term goals on the ‘To Do’ list!  (See my last blog for more).

I get huge pleasure from connecting with family and friends (with regular video calls and virtual dinners), my activities and voluntary responsibilities ….. It all helps my life feel worthwhile now I’m retired, and particularly when other pursuits are suspended during these ‘unprecedented’ times.

And purpose is another key requirement for ageing joyfully and a life well-lived.

And Finally,Ten…

Be kind to yourself and have fun

This is especially important right now. So give yourself some slack – giving to yourself is an important part of giving.

You’re probably not in the same mindset as you were before all this began. So, don’t expect to feel a million – or even a handful of – dollars. Indeed that would be odd, given the current global situation, unless you happen to be a hermit living up a remote mountain – or Amazon! And it’s OK to wobble, (mentally, as well as physically), and to be feeling anxious. Of course, if your mental health has been seriously affected you should seek help. 


If you can, try to accept there are some things (such as a global pandemic) that we cannot control. But, happily, we can be in control of our actions and attitudes – which brings me back to where I started in my last blog.

‘Energy and persistence conquer all things’ Benjamin Franklin

I suggest:

  • do what you can;
  • focus on the positives – because there are some;
  • believe things will get better – because they will;
  • remember nothing is forever; and
  • spend time on things that make you happy.

I love the following quote (even though, unlike Gene Kelly, I’m very unlikely to dance in the rain):

So start dancing …good luck..

and until we ‘meet’ again in a couple of weeks…

Stay safe, stay strong; stay smiling.

Joyfully (mostly…),

Maggy.

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5 Tips to Kick-Start Your Day

We’re not living through the best of times but our attitudes and actions can make a big difference. I’d like to share five tips which have helped me these last few months – when I actually follow them!

If one helps you, I’ll be happy. Job done.

To quote Julie Andrews ‘Let’s start at the very beginning. A very good place to start’. These five relate to the morning and my next blog will share another five for the rest of the day.

One…

When you wake up don’t sigh and think ‘Groundhog Day’. Instead think positive and follow the advice of the Roman Emperor and Stoic philosopher, Marcus Aurelius, :

Be grateful for this ‘precious privilege’ and for everything you have. We are the lucky ones.

Studies have shown that practising gratitude is extremely good for your health, happiness and much more. It is one of my eight steps for ageing joyfully.

Two…

Enjoy a healthy breakfast. Although some now recommend skipping this meal (for example, if practising intermittent fasting), many others maintain it’s an important, if not the most important, meal of the day.
If you have a poached/boiled egg, yogurt, wholemeal toast, porridge or wholegrain cereals and fruit (probably not all at the same time, as quantity counts), your body will thank you.


For me every meal is important. Until I’ve had food and above all coffee in the morning, I’m to be avoided at all costs. Luckily evidence shows a certain amount of coffee is good for you.

One of the joys of my retirement is getting up at a reasonable hour – late to most people – and eating a leisurely breakfast, usually listening to the radio and catching up on Twitter and emails. (This breaks one of my own tips on eating right, which is don’t do something else while eating). I’m not admitting what time I’m ready to face the day but, for Radio 4 listeners among you, Woman’s Hour can be long passed.


Eating the right foods in the right quantities is another of my steps with 37 tips in ‘How to Age Joyfully’ to help you eat well and lose weight if you really need to. Tackling obesity is particularly important in this pandemic, as we all know. If you start the day eating healthily, and with hunger satisfied, you may well feel more motivated to continue eating more healthily at lunch and dinner.

But you don’t have to follow a perfect diet. Treats, in moderation, are definitely allowed because:

A few squares of dark chocolate are good for you. But who eats just a few squares!?

Three…

Breakfast digested, you need to start moving and keep moving regularly throughout your day. I’m now sitting for far too long, staring at a screen or TV without a break, but I try to get up and move about every half-hour which is recommended.

Physical activity is probably the most important of my eight steps.

‘You can’t turn back the clock, but you can wind it up again.’

Bonnie Prudden, physical fitness pioneer who lived to 97.

Some keen souls walk, jog, or even run, before breakfast. Being a lazy owl, not a lark, that smacks of masochism to me. But if I exercise in the morning, I do feel much better and it sets me up for the day.

There is some good news. New research by University College London has shown that since lockdown the over 65s are the only group that have not only maintained their activity levels, but have been exercising more! The experts are unsure why. I suspect we have more time, motivation given our greater vulnerability, and opportunity with more classes online. Read on.

Four…

Walking is of course readily available to most of us, but it’s now easier than ever to do an exercise class at home, if you have the space. I’ve found there are several advantages to a recorded YouTube video or DVD. There’s no travel, it can be done whenever I want – and in pyjamas – and no one sees me struggling to maintain ‘the plank’ for 30 seconds.

And the live Zoom classes I do are just as enjoyable and probably more beneficial with an instructor helping and encouraging us. We’re now spoilt for choice on line, with tai chi to HIIT, and so many classes are free – one positive of this pandemic.

I highly recommend Joe Wicks, the Body Coach, as he’s hugely motivating and engaging. A few million others agree. I discovered he’s done several short Workouts for Seniors on YouTube which are excellent if starting out on aerobic exercise. He also has Chair, low impact, fat burning, full and specific body parts workouts…..so there’s bound to be one that suits, whatever your level and needs. Thanks, Joe and congratulations on your well deserved MBE.

Another personal recommendation is the very best stretch class I’ve attended (and I’ve done a few in my time). It’s called Stretchworks and is the creation of former dancer Alison Evans. We now have her DVD which is suitable whatever your age or ability, and I believe she also has online classes.

Alison in one of her classes pre-pandemic.

(And just in case it was crossing your mind, no, I’ve not been asked to give either of these recommendations. My influence and reach is not quite there yet!)

If you don’t fancy an exercise class, just do whatever physical activity you enjoy. For me it’s mostly dancing but that’s a whole blog of its own.

Five…

(Photo from Badabase on Etsy.com)

At breakfast, it’s time to consult my daily To Do List. In fact, I have medium and long term (wish/bucket) lists as well. I couldn’t cope without my lists, which are still done with pen and paper, although I’m aware there are helpful apps. Just search online for ‘to do list apps’ and you’ll be amazed at the amount of information out there – about 2,950,000,000 results in 0.67 seconds!!

In these unprecedented times, when days can seem indistinguishable and planning ahead is almost impossible, it is even more important to enjoy the moment and focus on the present day.
Don’t waste today worrying about tomorrow.

I revise or redo my list most days, as hopefully there are at least a few items I can vigorously cross out – far more satisfying than just ticking a little box. I’ve even been known to add something I’ve already done and then immediately cross it out. I expect you aren’t that desperate for an instant sense of achievement!

However, despite having more time, I’ve been achieving less since lockdown began. You may be too. My answer? Don’t feel bad – just make your list shorter and more realistic for these times. It’s far better than facing daily disappointments and rewriting the same items day after day. Often I then find it’s too late to do them anyway, adding guilt (but sometimes relief) to disappointment.

I now only include the most important and urgent things, plus a few very quick and easy wins. Everything else goes on my ever growing medium term list. Result? I feel pleased with myself and more positive. But I’m still waiting for the day when I’ve crossed out every item on even my shortened list.

My daily list also includes most of my ‘me time’ items, whether a class, a video call with a friend, catching up a missed TV programme or online event, or whatever I want to do. This increases the chance of my achieving them and it makes my list far more appealing. ‘Fun To Dos’ are as – if not more – important especially now, as ‘Have to Dos’. Housework (definitely not my idea of fun) is, in fact, the subject of my next tip.

But…

tips six to ten, will appear in a couple of weeks. Hope you’ll come back then.

In the meantime, enjoy all your ‘todays’ and

Stay safe; stay strong; stay smiling.

Joyfully,

Maggy.

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Happiness in the Time of Covid? Part 2

Inspirational 100 year old ‘Captain Tom’ Moore who’s raised over £30 million for the NHS

Older people are not despairing!

Part 1 reported that ‘Perennials’ are bearing up much better than others during this pandemic. But why?

We are the most vulnerable but..

I’m not a Pollyanna  I know that the risk of a severe illness, or worse, rises with age. This virus relentlessly discriminates against the elderly; older people have suffered enormously, lost their lives, or watched a loved one do so.

And many who’ve escaped the virus have still been badly affected due to their personal circumstances. Uncertainty is extremely stressful. Each one of us one has suffered loss of some kind. Many did not see their grandchildren, who bring huge joy to their lives, for months. Loneliness and isolation have increased. And older people have fewer years ahead than behind them, so time is more limited and precious.

But despite 2020 being such a tough year, I still believe…. 

…most of us are relatively lucky

We have a great deal going for us, including the ‘U Curve of Happiness’ (covered in my last blog) that found we become happier in later life.
We are more resilient, increasingly grateful and appreciative of the ‘here and now’. We gain a greater perspective of what’s important. Our good, bad and ugly life experiences have taught us much, including acceptance of what we cannot control and the fact that even the bad times come to an end.

As well as these advantages helping us to cope, I think we’re luckier – even with Covid and our greater vulnerability – than those in midlife or younger. You may disagree, or have other views, but here are my thoughts as to why.

● As fewer of us over 65 are working (although not always through choice), we have less anxiety over careers and job security, and fewer financial difficulties than those now working reduced hours or unemployed – all the more serious if there’s a family to support. 

● Most older people have not had their education affected or had the stress of combining home schooling, working from home and perhaps also caring for elderly parents. Despite the joys of increased family time, coping with young children 24/7, often in far from ideal conditions, is challenging. It’s far easier being a grandparent.

● We’ve missed family and friends, hugs and touch, a holiday, our hairdressers, going to the pub or eating out, culture and more. But I think deprivations have generally had a worse impact on younger generations – well, maybe excepting hairdressers!

● With less responsibilities (especially if retired) and more free time we’re able to do more of what we enjoy, including bingeing on biscuits and Box Sets, decluttering, or simply slowing down and having an afternoon nap.

● Lockdown enabled us to take up, indulge, or return to, hobbies and interests, from gardening (if lucky enough to have one), DIY, and creative activities, to cycling and walking. Of course, physical activity is great for both physical and mental health, and we do need to nourish and give to ourselves too. Self-care is very important, especially now, so being a little selfish and spoiling ourselves shouldn’t make us feel guilty. Bring on a daily slice (or two) of cake!

Stunning Kew Gardens – a haven of peace and beauty these past months.

Starting to ‘sing’ with Open Age (happily for others, I’m muted); doing Zoom ballet classes and dancing in my local park; creating this website; enjoying our small garden and larger, uncrowded Kew Gardens; and watching all three seasons of the TV series ‘The Marvellous Mrs Maisel’ with a glass, or more, of wine; all these, and more, have brought me joy. There are also many things I’m grateful for, such as my family, keeping well, reconnecting with old friends – and not queuing at the Post Office for missed deliveries, as we’re always at home.

● Far more older people are embracing digital technology for the first time and are now able to communicate with friends and family, access services, watch cultural events, or take part in online activities. For example, members at Open Age have reported how much online classes have contributed to their wellbeing. This is unsurprising as lifelong learning has been shown to improve happiness, purpose and being engaged in life.

Open Age has gone online with 100+ hours of weekly activities from dance, art and languages to lessons on using Zoom.

● We may also be less anxious as we probably have more control over our daily lives. This makes it easier to take precautions to protect ourselves from this virus. A great many over 70s have been doing just that. I’ve had the ‘freedom’ to become a screen-addicted hermit, even if a pretty reluctant one!

Perhaps this helps to explain why our stress and anxiety levels have been lower and our contentment higher.

And we’re being kinder to each other! 

Many believe, me included, that we’re becoming a more altruistic, caring society. There’s been an increase in gratitude and empathy, some having experienced loneliness, unemployment, or poor mental health for the first time. Since Covid’s arrival, communities are becoming more connected and this has benefitted many older people.

Younger people have volunteered and helped the elderly and vulnerable, many of whom live alone. People living in the same street have discovered each other, whether through clapping for carers, WhatsApp groups, or in other ways, and are providing practical support. Charities and other organisations are adapting their services and reaching out to those that need help, even if it’s just a friendly voice at the end of a phone. And many, not in the first flush of youth, have been doing their bit, or even a huge amount, for others – Sir Tom being a prime example.

All this has been wonderful to see and experience; making social connections and giving to others is hugely beneficial for health and wellbeing. This is something really positive coming out of this global pandemic.

As Helen Keller said: ‘Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.’

Thank you

I’ve been humbled and uplifted to see so many achieving incredible things – maybe you’re one of them? As the Birthday Honours just published show, amazing contributions and sacrifices have been made during the last six months. (I feel privileged to have played a very small part in the awards process that recognises such phenomenal people). Grateful thanks go to all working to make this a safer, healthier, kinder and more equitable world to grow older in. 

To all 1.5 million NHS employees

And finally…

I hope we will learn from this period and create a positive legacy. Let us all continue to value and reward what really matters, including caring, connecting and contributing.

Now that would be something to celebrate in 2021 and beyond!

As Barack Obama said:

‘The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something…If you ….make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope’

And, if you do good things, stay positive, and have purpose and hope, you will become happier and age joyfully – whatever your age. 

Stay safe; stay strong; stay smiling .…and stay hopeful.

Joyfully (much of the time!),

Maggy 

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Happiness in the Time of Covid? Part 1.

What’s Happiness got to do with it?

‘Happiness? What planet have you been on these last six months?’ I hear the more restrained among you say.

I agree the words that most readily spring to mind are probably – anxiety, insecurity, inequality, isolation, illness, loss, uncertainty, stress…… no more or it will be ‘Wine & Chocolate Time’ again – my personal words associated with Covid!

Even rabbits are stressed!

Curiouser……

Life from my mid-sixties had probably been my happiest years so far. Then along came Coronavirus and our days were transformed, taking on a surreal, ‘Groundhog Day’ quality, especially for the more vulnerable. I expected to suffer hugely. No one has ever called me a home bird or Domestic Goddess.

What proved unexpected and curious is that I’ve remained pretty content, possibly even happy. (Or maybe I’ve just become institutionalised in our ‘bubble’?)

Like my design? (Cartoon by Sandra Boynton)

And this is even more surprising given the older you are the higher your risk of dying if you catch Covid19, particularly if you have other health issues. So, it would be reasonable to assume that I, at 69 an older person with underlying health conditions, would be (justifiably) depressed and anxious. I put my generally positive mood down to my optimistic outlook on life.

……and Curiouser!

But what’s even more surprising, is that I’m not alone. Ongoing research from the Mental Health Foundation has shown that ‘since mid-March people aged 55 and over, and particularly people age 70 and over, have been less likely to report stress as a result of the pandemic…[and] there were reduced levels of anxiety amongst this age group’. It is young adults that have consistently reported feeling the worst and coping least well.  

So, although happiness in the time of Covid is probably going too far, we older folk seem to have remained reasonably sanguine during this pandemic – at least until now. 

The secret? Get old!

I don’t know all the reasons for this greater equanimity but I do know research has discovered a ‘U Curve of Happiness’. Childhood is a time of happiness, but life satisfaction then starts to decrease (down to the bottom of the U) and only begins climbing up the other side from around age 50. Surprisingly it then keeps on rising until your 80s and beyond. I’m now travelling up the right-hand curve of the ‘U’.

Sorry if this comes as unwelcome news to those of you in your 40s, or even worse your 30s, but just think of all the decades you have to look forward to when you reach 50+! 

It would be totally understandable if the ‘U’ had, in these ‘unprecedented times’, already morphed into an ‘L’! But I believe possible explanations for the U curve, plus new factors, have resulted in we ‘Perennials’ maintaining our more positive mood, although I suspect it’s not going to be the same shaped ‘U’ as pre-Covid. I will say a bit more about this, and my personal experience of lockdown, in Part 2 in a couple of weeks time. Do hope you’ll take a look.

The eight steps can help us now

Interestingly, the far reaching effects of this pandemic (whether you get ill or not) have highlighted the value of the eight steps in ‘How To Age Joyfully’ to help us live well and keep our minds and bodies in reasonable shape. 

They are: 

  • staying positive 
  • eating healthily (we’ve recently seen all too clearly the dangers of obesity)
  • doing physical activity 
  • learning new things 
  • being connected 
  • giving to others and ourselves
  • being grateful
  • finding a purpose and having goals.

So….

We all share a natural anxiety about our personal and collective future. But I’m hoping to ‘hang in there’, follow my eight steps as best I can, and try to make the most of this challenging time.

After all, we are the lucky ones. Despite all the hardships we are still here and hopefully this world will emerge from this pandemic more compassionate, caring and equitable, if we all play our part. Did I mention I’m an optimist?

Well, as Sir Winston Churchill wisely said ‘I’m an optimist – it does not seem to be much use being anything else’.

I hope you too can find some joy in these testing times. It is out there.

To be continued…

Stay safe; stay strong; stay smiling!

Joyfully, Maggy.

Categories
Blog

You’re never too old to set a new goal!

You’ll see I’m aiming high from the start. There’s no time to waste at my age.

This exciting venture has unlimited potential, in theory anyway, given there are 7.7 billion of us alive and ageing. However, although hard to accept, I recognise not every member of the global population may be interested in how to make the most of our increased longevity and my personal musings on life before, during, and after Covid19 (assuming the blog – and I – last that long!). Time will tell whether anyone, apart from loyal friends and family, reads it. But, before passing final judgement, do consider giving a novice blogger a chance. Perhaps three blogs, before I’m out?

You're never too old to set another goal

Let me introduce myself and this blog…

What will it be about?

Age proud, not anti-ageing: more Zumba than zimmers! It will focus on ageing better, living well and adding life to our years, as well as years to our life. Plus it will probably include some random thoughts and subjective views.

dancing hedgehogs
What are the goals for this blog?
  • Entertain (life is often amusing)
  • Inform, and hopefully help readers live and age better in mind and body
  • Share some aspects of the day-to-day life of a 69 year old who’s very much up for all life has to offer (although life doesn’t always reciprocate)
  • Connect with, and learn from, readers (if any); and
  • Have fun!
What’s my dream?
  • Become a blogging ‘voice’ for ‘Perennials’  (a far nicer name for older people than ‘seniors’, ‘the elderly’, ‘wrinklies’….)
  • Help replace the negative narrative of ageing with a realistic, more positive portrayal, publicise and celebrate what older people can and do achieve, and promote what needs to be done so we can all live our best life
  • Invite role models and experts to be guest bloggers to share their wisdom and experience on ageing well. Any offers or suggestions?
  • Perhaps join the growing number of older YouTube stars with millions of fans; and, as a result…
  • Become a  “Proselytising Perennial for Proud, Positive and Purposeful Ageing” ( a #PPPPPA!), and make a difference to the lives of older people.

With luck, and by actually walking the talk, I should have a few decades to accomplish all this.

And, visualisation being a powerful tool, I’ll keep dreaming…..

As Walt Disney said: ‘If you can visualise it, if you can dream it, there’s some way to do it.’

And he won 22 Oscars. Just saying.

Why bother?

The older I get, the more convinced I become of two things.

  • We should do what makes us happy, so long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else. I believe this blog is worth doing and having a purpose makes me happy. Also, I love writing.
  • Wonderful things can happen if you’re Passionate, Positive and Persistent. Like becoming a published author with my first book ‘How to Age Joyfully; Eight Steps to a Happier, Fuller Life’ at the age of 68!

But in the unlikely event that, despite my three ‘Ps’, nothing takes off, at least I’ll have tried something I’ve wanted to do. It will be disappointing and frustrating but OK.

Dame Judi Dench, the 85 year old actress, so inspires me with her attitude to life:

‘I don’t want to be told I’m too old to try something… Let me have a go. Let us all have a go’

I’m truly honoured she’s written the Foreword to my book.

Why me?

Next birthday, I’ll celebrate embarking on my 70s and my eighth decade.

Having …
worked for 37 years in the public service ✔
volunteered in prisons ✔
been married for over 40 years ✔
brought up two children ✔
had periods of ill health and retired early ✔
became addicted to Twitter ✔
learned tango and ballet in my 60s ✔
became involved with various charities ✔
suffered the loss of parents and close friends ✔
researched and written a pretty successful book ✔and more…

 ……I believe I’ve accumulated sufficient lived experience and knowledge (from experts in health and ageing) to be able to blog with some credibility about the vicissitudes of life, both my own and more generally.

So, I hope you’ll join me…

….as I look at life and ageing through optimistically tinted, but hopefully realistic, lenses, and share what I’ve discovered makes for a joyful life. Believe me, it’s not rocket science!

Thanks for reading this, if you have, and look out for Blog no.2, entitled “Happiness in the Time of Covid”.

 Stay safe; stay strong; stay smiling!

Joyfully, Maggy.

cat and cocktail