Conversations: Why I Am So Happy at 70+
I had a conversation with Camille the other day, about Happiness. Let’s face it, 2020 has not been happiness making. So why is she feeling better about life than she has in a long time, COVID notwithstanding? And what can we all learn about gratitude?
Ahh…downsizing. It can be a trip to Hell, then so glorious. Camille recently downsized from 5,000+ square feet to just around 1,800. She left behind a gorgeous home but has no regrets. No more lawn, no more maintenance, greatly downsized finances. Her mother had lived with Camille for decades but when she passed away a few years ago, it was time for a life change. After months of difficult decision making and exploration, she fixed upon an active adult community not far from her current home. She had to offload very precious possessions and very many of them, including family artworks and furniture, years of lovely collected housewares and keepsakes. It was sad and it was hard, but once it was done, she never looked back. A huge weight, literally and figuratively, was lifted.
Now, she revels in her rightsized space. “It’s a perfect size, more than enough room for me: 3 bedrooms and 2 baths for just one person!” she says delightedly. “I can control it. My house is no longer a burden.” In the one–story, open-plan design she no longer has amenities like a formal dining room, which she doesn’t miss one bit. She can still expand the table and get 8 around it for “Friendsgiving.” She has a nice little screened-in porch to entertain in three seasons. She feels secure, with lots of other people around and an already close-knit community. On her block, there are 8 women who are living on their own like Camille, and they have become fast friends, looking out for each other and having fun together. We survey her new home. “Isn’t it cute?” she asks. It is certainly cute. Camille is very, very “house happy.”
Camille is one of the healthiest people I know. At 70+ she takes no medications at all. She feels good most of the time, attributing her constitution to her “sturdy Italian stock.” I envy her gene pool. She points out that most of her friends have had knee or hip replacement, but I have never even heard her complain about stiff joints and we have done a LOT of walking on our beach business retreats—I can’t keep up! The only major blip on her health record was a breast cancer scare decades ago, which was discovered and treated early. She breathed a sigh of relief, that she had dodged a bullet that fells so many women in her age group. She was tested regularly and a few years ago the worst happened when the cancer returned. She elected to have surgery. Again, once that decision was made, she never looked back and has no regrets. She is cancer-free and feeling fine. She rarely even gets a cold or the flu. “Having your health at this age is a big deal, she says. “It is the biggest deal.”
Friends, Family and Finances
Camille also has more friends than anyone I know. Pre-Covid she went out to dinner or lunch with friends a few times a week and regularly got together with her new neighbors. She has a wide network of friends and acquaintances from all over. Now social distancing has changed the agenda somewhat, but the reduction of facetime has not affected the value of those ties.
Most of her local friend group grew out of an organization she joined about 20 years ago when she first moved to the area. It is called The New Virginians, a social club that offers those new to the area opportunities to meet up and share common interests. She wisely got involved in leadership positions early on which helped her really get to know the other women. She credits it as one of her best decisions. She also keeps in close contact with friends from high school in the 1960s! That is impressive. She lived for many years in California and still keeps in touch with those friends via a weekly Zoom call even though she hasn’t seen some of them for years. Her strong connections are likely the main ingredient to that “secret recipe” of good health and long life.
Camille has one sister, and their relationship has become stronger since they are both retired. She is also enjoying a closer connection with her sister’s two grown children. Her sister and her niece fortunately live locally, and she is reveling in being great auntie to her niece’s two young boys. Nothing keeps you young at heart more than two preschool boys racing around the house and asking you to play ball with them!
With the proceeds from her expansive home, sold at the right time in the real estate cycle, Camille finds herself more solvent than she’s been in years. As she approached 70, she was filled with the real fear that she might not have a secure retirement. She had been laid off late in her career and found it impossible to find a job making what she was used to, and life started to look dark. She made an intelligent choice to move from a large home into a very affordable one, she adjusted her way of life and simplified everything. She could finally breathe a sigh of relief. Now she is “pennywise.” She lives well within her means but feels she has absolutely everything she needs.
Meaningful Work = Staying Relevant
This blog you are reading at www.boomerconnections.com gives Camille joy and hope. After she lost her job she also lost much of her enthusiasm for life. Her work had defined her direction, her days, for most of her life. Now she envisions what we hope to accomplish by telling the story of Our Generation and providing a point of connection for Baby Boomers.
Camille enjoys it when I proclaim that… with this little blog all we want to do is change the world. “What a worthwhile goal for someone who is 74 years old!” she laughs. Camille is our tech expert, the director and producer of Boomer Connections. She taught herself WordPress and all the other complicated machinery required to run this project and it gave her incentive and newfound drive. She loves the challenge of figuring out how to make the site valuable to advertisers and an income generator, as well as lots of fun…and meaningful. “I do believe we will change the world,” she says.
Here is a little example that speaks volumes about her mindset. I visited Camille at her new digs not long ago and she was so excited about…get this…moving her sofa! When she set up her living room it was nice, it was just so, but looked quite stark. She visited her neighbor one day and noted that the same layout looked much cozier over there. She came home and simply angled the sofa the same way, instead of arranging it in a square, and that easy move really did transform the room. She was giddy! But it was so good to see, her joy in her new place, the simple fixes that make a house a home. Happiness can really be found in simple things.
For Camille, life is very, very good at 70+. But it’s not just about good fortune and wise choices and sturdy Italian genes. It’s about recognizing and being so grateful for everything, even the small day-to-day joys: At the end of this long, long year, a very refreshing insight. Lots to look forward to in 2021, am I right?!
Happy New Year friends!