I have an old Reba McIntire CD that includes a poignant song about an elderly woman who’s “all dressed up with nowhere to go.” I listened to it again this morning.
The lyrics remind me, once more, how easy it is for older folks to slip into habits that may lead to such a nowhere-to-go moment.
It takes work to get out and make new friends and enjoy the ones we still have. Someday it seems we attend more funerals than parties celebrating the joys of living a long, healthy life.
It takes a degree of toughness to get up early and head off to exercise class or to meet a friend for a long walk that will produce the energy and enthusiasm to stay busy the rest of the day. It takes extra effort to organize that dinner or lunch to make a friend’s birthday or anniversary special or invite someone new to join you at the senior center for a card game.
And yet, it is essential to our own health, mental and physical, that we do all of those things and more as we age.
That’s a message Linda Whitesell has delivered many, many times as a geriatric nurse practitioner for the Everett Clinic for the past 12 years and throughout a nursing career spanning 40 years.
Now, at 67, as she prepares to retire herself, she sees in a much more personal way how important it is to fill life with friendship, fitness and purpose.
“Thrive, don’t just survive,” should be the life plan as we age, she says.
One way she and her husband, David, work on “thriving” is a daily afternoon walk with their best friends, a pair of smooth-haired fox terriers. If they forget, Thunder and Amber are quick to remind them that it’s time. So the quartet takes that 2-mile walk around their neighborhood business in Everett.
“We find this walk is a way to establish a relationship with our community. We say hi to the regulars, smile at newcomers. It’s a social outing with exercise, excellent for mind and body … for the dogs and for us,” Whitesell said.
One activity she’s really enjoyed in recent years is the opportunity to speak with seniors about paths to successful aging. That’s why you’ll find her at Bethany of the Northwest the afternoon of April 15 presenting “Enhancing Your Later Years,” with her colleague Dr. F. Claude Manning, a geriatric specialist at the Everett Clinic.
Whitesell will share tips on staying healthy, how to jump-start a personal wellness program and debunk some common myths about aging.
Manning will address disease and medical management as well as a couple of biggies that can severely affect the aging process: dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Whitesell and I both believe it’s important for older folks to write their history, stories of their life and times for their family and friends. She calls it “leaving your legacy … the stories of how you want to be remembered.” The act of writing triggers more memories.
“I have teenage grandchildren and their historical view of the 1950s is far different from mine and I was there. I lived it,” she said. And so she writes and advises others to write.
If you don’t know even how to begin, start with writing what you remember about your mother and father’s lives, the stories they told you. Write down all the places you remember living and then fill in your memories of those times and places. Just write.
Live a life with purpose, she said. Fill your time you with friends, exercise, healthy habits and meaningful activities.
Good advice at any age.
Linda Bryant Smith writes about growing older, surviving and finding a little gold in the golden years. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Enhancing Your Later Years”
A program with nurse practitioner Linda Whitesell and Dr. F. Claude Manning, a geriatric specialist at the Everett Clinic.
1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. April 15 in the third floor chapel of Bethany of the NW at 916 Pacific Ave., on the Providence Hospital campus in Everett.
The program is free, but reservations are required by calling 425-259-5508.