Lessons for how we can transition in older age
Twenty-five years ago the conversation was about how the monarchy was out-of-touch. Queen Elizabeth was compared unfavorably to the younger generations — that is, Princess Diana — and found rule-bound and unfeeling. Especially after Diana’s death, the monarchy was called on to recognize and lead the public’s grief.
Twenty-five years later we are, worldwide, honoring the steadiness of service and the longevity of Britain’s grandmother, the Queen. She is remembered with wide affection, perhaps surprising us by how much we are touched by her story.
Oh, there are critics, and in coming weeks and months the commonwealth will break a bit, and the monarchy’s odd incongruity may be raised, its old embrace of colonialism, but now is not that time.
After age 71 Queen Elizabeth’s external behavior and perception shifted with Diana’s death. A public person we know only through media representation is not a person we know. But the transition in attitude and happiness seemed genuine in later years.
I am not yet 71, but close.
What can we learn from this example of transitioning from age 71 to 96?
— We have learned that we can’t make decisions for our young-adult children, and we can’t apply the generational codes we grew up with to their lives.
— We learn to defer to their decisions and judgments while offering our experience if asked. Thank goodness the rules of my life don’t involve who curtsies to whom and a dress code few meet.
(We might wish our grandchildren had better table manners or our son/daughter wouldn’t wear those pants again, but maybe they think the same thing about us).
— Have your own life and get rewards from your responsibilities, keeping those obligations that give you happiness, even if happiness comes later, after the sore feet and endless small talk (or whatever your bane). Honor the social contract, and be a good citizen of your community and the planet.
— Let them go: the adults coming into their own, the preconceptions we didn’t know we held until they manifested, the “what will other people think” ethic.
— People may look to us as a model, a rock, the family kinkeeper. We don’t know who is watching us to learn how to do life.
— Develop your style. Queen Elizabeth supposedly wore bright colors and a taller hat to be easily recognized and “seen” as a shorter person. We knew it was the Queen by her outfit.
A confession: I think of myself as retired, and the Covid shut-down (sweat pants, no haircut) didn’t help. Retired and Covid home-bound allowed us to stop caring in some ways. To let things slide. I can do better.
The question is What Makes You Memorable?
Twenty-five years ago I was at the height of family and career stress in my late 40s. We may not get another 20+ years, but we may. How will we be remembered? It is our persona from here on out that will matter.
Our adult children have a very different relationship with us at ages 20, 40, and 60, as do we with them. Will we be a resource of delight? Or a dreaded responsibility?
I have given up gossip, mostly. It does me no good to talk about other people or hear the updates on other people. If someone speaks ill of others to me, they likely speak ill of me to others.
I strive to keep my sense of humor intact. One needs others for repartee and laughter. Although it helps to amuse yourself.
I want to write, write, write because it gives me pleasure.
How will you be remembered?