My Mum lives on her own in her own house in Rangiora, about 30 minutes north of Christchurch. She has been blessed with pretty good health. The only thing that she takes is a couple of Panadol in the morning to help with a bit of pain in her hip and back as a result of a couple of falls.
This year Mum turned 95. Mum has some eyesight degeneration, and it was only a bit over a year ago she stopped driving. She now has a ‘Mobility Scooter’ to help get around when she needs to. Mum has a very social lifestyle. A number of times a week she gets together with friends, all younger than her, to play cards and a couple of other games. Mum always says she doesn’t sleep well and usually gets up around between 9 and 10am. She loves her flowers and pops out in the garden to tend her flowers.
Whenever I visit there, she always has a few jobs lined up. This time it is cleaning out the gutters, mowing the lawn, tying back her flowers and cleaning the tops of a couple of cupboards in the kitchen.
It is the day of her birthday, Mum was still in bed when I get up and walk about 15 minutes down to the gym opposite Rangiora High School. This is the High School I had attended around 40 years ago. This year I had committed to spending at least 30 minutes everyday on a treadmill for my health and also as a challenge.
An hour later as I am walking home I meet an elderly couple, out for a walk. I am curious, and ask how old they were. They must have thought it a bit strange and asked me why. I told them I was a relationship specialist and was just curious.
The elderly gent, proceeded tell me he is 94 and his wife is 92. She was in a wheelchair and living in a nursing home. He comes up regularly from the nearby town, Kaiapoi, to take her out for a walk. A couple of their children had passed away. In our brief chat I could see that they were both sharp of mind and obviously his wife needed assistance and was in a nursing home.
As I open the front door, I see Mum is up and about in the Kitchen. “Happy 95th Birthday Mum” and we hug. It is a sunny day with a slight cool breeze from the South blowing with a few clouds in the sky. We make breakfast. Mum has her wheatbix with warm water and a cup of tea, I have a protein shake. We take our breakfast outside to the patio which is North facing and sheltered from the wind. It is Saturday, very peaceful and warm sitting in the sun.
“What do you want to do for your birthday?”
“Let’s go and visit Muriel Anderson.” Mum replies.
Muriel is a friend Mum has known for over 55 years. We get in the small Nissan hire car and head off to Christchurch, with Mum navigating. We miss a couple of turns, one of them ending up effectively driving around the Lancaster Park Stadium. This has been an icon in New Zealand Rugby, and is now starting to look like a modern day coliseum. The big Christchurch Earthquake had rendered the stadium unsafe and unusable.
We arrive at Muriel’s, unannounced. The last time Mum had visited was back in October for her 100th. Muriel turned 100 in October last year, still lives at home, is going deaf and is nearly blind. She has helpers come around in the morning and evening to help her get dressed and bath her 3 or 4 times week, she also has a cleaner and a gardener. Muriel is quite adamant, she is not going into a home and for her 100th, the family chipped in to put in a ramp for her front door to make it easier for her. Mum makes a point of calling her a couple of times a week to keep in touch.
We see Muriel sitting on her chair by the door on the phone. Mum decides to take a few minutes to show me around the backyard and garden. We finish the tour and come back. Muriel is still on the phone, so we knock on the door. Muriel takes a minute or so to get up, open the inner door and Mum leans in and in a loud voice, “Muriel, it’s Jean Flynn here with Keith”. Muriel replies. “I didn’t think it was Sam, she doesn’t wear blue.” There is a bit of a fumble as the fly wire door is unlocked. We walk in and sit down and begin chatting.
Muriel tells us in detail the itinerary of the current trip her son and his wife are on, what her family are up to and bit of a sports update. Muriel is a short lady, lucky to be 4 foot, and has to use her zimmer frame to get round. I notice one of the biggest challenges for both Mum and Muriel is getting up after sitting for while.
I also notice on a wall to the left, a rubber exercise band. As if reading my mind, Muriel starts talking about how she needs to exercise each day using the rubber band and also has to do some hand exercises to help with her arthritis.
Here I am with two healthy well over 90 year olds, living happy lives in their own homes with some support. Both have sharp, active minds and are up with what is going on around them, both have good health and great friendships and relationships around them.
I hear regularly where people fall out. It is sad when siblings do not speak to each other, or parents and children do not talk. Mum told me of a mother who lives next to her daughter and they had not spoken to each other for many years due to a falling out. Mum is not perfect and there are some of her good friends who irritate her and she talks openly about it, but at the end of the day she says that she is not perfect and others are not, so there is no real reason to get too upset because friendship is more important. Mum is there for her friends and her friends are there for Mum.
On Sunday a small number (14) of Mum’s friends came over for afternoon tea. It was a happy time, lots of laughter, good food, drinks and more importantly great friendships and relationships.
I am blessed to have this experience, a glimpse into a possible future, as I have potentially another 40 plus good years in me. I concluded that for old age the two most important things are good health and great relationships. That at the end of the day our partners, children, friends and family are more important than the stuff that we can carry around. I was upset with my brother a few years ago over a couple of things and ended up not speaking to him for a year or two. Silly when I look back. I fessed up and asked to keep in regular contact. We have become closer.
So as they say, don’t sweat the small stuff. Life is too short. And as I put in a card to a dancing friend who is turning 50 ‘May your next 50 years be filled with more joy, happiness and love than the last 50’.
Here’s to more happy, loving, and fulfilling relationships. Until next time.
P.S. If you want to check out the secret for my mums health and old age, check this video out….
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