What is it like to be 80 years old?

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What is it like to be 80 years old? This is certainly not something I gave any thought when I was younger, but it is something that I would like my children to consider, as I hope that they will get there, and I want them better prepared than I was.

At this time of year, it is common for TV stations to tell us about many of the important people that we have lost. When over half are younger than you are when they died, it can be scary because you know that you are about out of time. It becomes natural to look back on your life and wonder how you could have done it better. There are the inevitable regrets and a few proud moments, but most important is the realization that I have a new perspective on life. One that seems enough better than before, that I want to share it.

I spent over half my life trying to accumulate wealth, power, and status, thinking that it would make me happy. I now know that happiness does NOT come from getting what you want, but rather does come from wanting what you have! Don’t wish to win the lottery, as those people are some of the unhappiest on the planet.

Being prepared for retirement is important and I thought that I had more than enough resouces to see me through to the end. Decisions have consequences, and I made bad decisions around relationships that adversely affected my retirement savings. I am still better off than many my age and have learned that less really can be more. It forces us to prioritize our needs and appreciate what is important.

Just as when we cross certain bridges, or drive on the Pennsylvania Turnpike we must pay a toll. Old age also comes at a price. First little aches and pains, later not so little ones. Just remember that we pay any toll because it is better than the alternative, and don’t complain.

When we have lost half our vision, hearing, stamina, and balance, working for a living may not be possible anymore. Government Social Security programs are far from being guaranteed. Real Estate and the stock market periodically collapses, so how are we to insure our financial future? You can’t eat gold, but a years supply of freeze dried food might save your life. However, if you have food and water when your neighbors don’t, some will try and take it away from you, so you better have enough guns and ammunition to protect what you have. Your neighbors will also want to protect what they have and guns will be great for barter for whatever you need. No I am not crazy, but I have studied history and patterns keep repeating and hard time will come again.

Women live longer than men. I accepted this as a well-known fact without thinking about why, until I read about a major university study that found that women have more and stronger relationships than men, and that is the main reason that they survive after their men are gone. When I worked  60 hours a week I was too busy to realize I did not have any solid relationships. Now that I know how important they are, and have lots of time for them, I realize that I never learned how to have friends, and my recent efforts to do better in this area have not been very successful. Learning new skills at this age is not impossible, but it certainly is more difficult!

To sum it up, being 80 is a challenge. Some things work and some do not. But the alternative?  I’m not ready for that yet. As a photographer, I still have things to see and memorialize and there are places I still want to visit.  As I look back, I am grateful for all the good things and, honestly, I have forgotten many of the not-so-good things. Being 80 is just that—80 years of living. It is your perspective that makes it good or bad.

About the Author

Jack Harwick is an 80-year-old, former aerospace engineer who helped put planes in the sky, satellites in space, and men on the moon. He left aerospace to start his own electronic security business, which is now a division of Honeywell Corp. He is very creative and has been issued a US patent for the PanoFix photo accessory. Jack has had many interests that have come and gone, like magic, cars, and architecture, but photography has been a constant passion for over sixty years. Relationships have always been a struggle with four failed marriages. Because of those failures, self-improvement has been actively studied for the last two decades, with varying results, but general improvement.

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