“The great thing about getting older is that you don’t lose all the other ages you’ve been.”
~ Madeleine L’Engle (author of A Wrinkle In Time)
Years ago I enrolled in an improv comedy class, and those Tuesday nights kept me sane through a stressful corporate job and a long commute. It was so much fun to stretch my boundaries and image-in creative possibility.
But I never thought of doing it at 80.
While we’ve examined the exigencies of age-related behavioral challenges, there is a flip side: seniors acting out on purpose, which is what happens at Stagebridge, the nation’s oldest theatre company for the silver set. Founded in 1978, the company’s mission is “to transform the lives of older adults and their communities through the performing arts. Stagebridge’s unique position as a theatre company ‘for and of’ seniors demonstrates in action the many ways in which elders enrich our culture and our communities.”
Age is definitely a state of mind, as one elder demonstrates repeatedly. At 83, Violette moved from North Carolina to Costa Rica to live with a daughter’s family, but found the arrangement too confining for her adventuresome spirit. Two years later she returned to NC to live solo in a sweet senior apartment, right on the bus line. Now, at nearly 88, she’s just moved again: to an off-grid cabin in rural Tennessee on land her middle daughter, Colleen, recently purchased, where Colleen intends to move and build a sustainable house — next spring. I wondered how Violette would fare, living alone in the wilderness all winter? Her response:
“The woman who showed the property for the seller and managed purchase details lives adjacent to the property. She has become good friends with Colleen through multiple emails and phone calls. Her name is Connie and she has volunteered to check on me daily and take me grocery shopping weekly. So I won’t be too alone.
“I believe others whom we are connecting with that have the same aim to get back to basics have a deep commitment to community. The man who is going to wash down the walls in the cabin, repair the fridge and bathroom fixtures (plus who knows how many other tasks!) is of that nature and lives just a block away.
“Colleen will be back and forth doing projects as often as she can as well. She and my son-in-law, Tom, will be with me during the holidays. I may even get a dog; I most certainly want a canary. I might get a mule to take me up and down the slopes.”
Is this the new face of the 80s? With her enterprising attitude, Violette exemplifies the truth that crones don’t whine, they shine. I have another virtual friend who also lives in rural Tennessee, about 20 miles from Violette, and have networked these two wise women. I look forward to enjoying stories of their pioneering spirit.
Though Violette doesn’t currently own a home with which to qualify for a reverse mortgage, she possesses the other attributes of a good HECM candidate, as outlined in our aging in place series several years ago:
- A network of local family, friends and neighbors
- A safe neighborhood
- Outgoing, resourceful, and able to reach out for social support
- The home (not yet built) can be modified to address changing needs.
And if you enjoyed Violette’s story, stay tuned for Part 2!