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Your stories about life after 60.
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Host Anna Sale and the logos for Death, Sex & Money and WNYC Studios, all on a beige background.

"I love that we’re doing this. It’s awesome!"

That’s what we heard from one listener when we asked those of you over 60 how you’re feeling your age differently right now than you did a year ago. 

So many of you wrote in, with an urgency that suggested you’d been having a lot of thoughts about aging with nowhere to put them. Your grown children aren’t comfortable talking about how you’re getting older, some of you told us. Others noted a more general sense of invisibility that has crept in as you moved into your 60s and 70s. No one pauses to say, "So, how is this all going for you?"

So, I have to tell you, as I listened to the interviews that our friend and colleague Jo Ann Allen did with some of you, they felt like a revelation. Jo Ann is 67 herself, so you hear in her conversations both the places of resonance and also how getting older does not mean one thing. There are as many ways to get older as there are to live. 

But there are some themes you’ll hear circled around over and over again in the episode today. One is how to think about this phase of life: are you different now that you’re older, or just an older version of the person you were a decade or so ago? Sometimes aging doesn’t feel like a big deal at all, and then, when your body aches in a certain way or you’re told to stay home because of your particular vulnerability, it hits you all at once. We also heard about companionship, and how the choices you’ve made to couple up or be on your own are shaping so much about this time of your life. And you’ll hear how for some of you, being on your own wasn’t a choice, but the result of loss. “Weirdo-hood” is what one woman calls the experience of widowhood after her husband died in an accident years ago. Another talks about the thrill of realizing how, now that her husband’s gone, she can paint the kitchen any color she damn well wants. 

When I heard the conversations in this episode, I couldn’t help but think about all the people in my life who might relate. I have a list going in my head of the older relatives and friends I want to send it to. And I want to send it to people who are not 60 too, so we can be less clumsy and awkward, and more curious and loving, about all that comes with getting older.
 

—Anna and the Death, Sex & Money team

P.S. After you listen, go check out the special website we've made for this episode—we've made a playlist of our favorite past DSM episodes with guests over 60, created an easy way to share today's episode with someone in your life who you think would like it, and put together a fun video featuring older DSM listeners talking about why they love podcasts.
This Week on Death, Sex & Money
A gif of an older woman of color with brown skin, wavy shoulder-length grey hair and wearing a purple sweater smiles and waves at her smartphone. Behind her pop up yellow screens of smiling and waving faces on a blue green background.

When we asked those of you who are over 60 to tell us what your lives are like right now, you flooded our inbox with stories about your bodies, your experience of COVID, your relationships with other people—and with yourselves. No two experiences were the same, but one thing came across loud and clear in all of your emails and voice memos: no one asks about this time of life.

So in this episode, we hope to break down some of that silence around aging. Guest host Jo Ann Allen heard from listeners about unexpected health challenges and financial instability; feelings of isolation, invisibility and freedom; the responsibilities that come with being caregivers to parents, children and grandchildren; and shifting relationships with friends and loved ones. Find those conversations in your podcast feeds now.

Episode art by Ashanti Fortson

Your Stories: More About Life Over 60
The most exciting thing about making big episodes like today's is also the most frustrating: we always get way too many good stories to fit into the final product. Here are just a few of the wonderful emails we received from older listeners in the course of making today's episode:
"I'm 64. I retired at 60 from a life in scientific research to try to kickstart a career in music. My instruments are my voice, guitar, and keyboard. I am still learning all three. I have found that this is, not surprisingly, extremely challenging. But although I'm in my mid 60s, I can see that I'm getting better at it. So far, I've published 10 pieces.

I feel that ageism is one of the last remaining prejudices that is both widespread and largely ignored (especially in the U.S.). I will make music until I no longer can. If that makes even a tiny dent in the ageism zeitgeist, I will be happy; but mostly, I want my music to reach and touch people. I feel I have something wonderful to share, but I'm really not sure that I'll succeed.

I struggled with great fatigue after I retired, and I still do, although less so. I have not been able to figure out why, but I have found that the more I keep moving, both physically and mentally, the better I feel. [...] I can see that aging can look like a slowly closing door. Sometimes I feel that way too. But I don't believe that's the whole story."

—Chris, 64, WA
"I'm a 64-year-old female who has worked almost every year since I was 16 years old. I took a few years off when our two boys were born, but until three years ago, I was always employed. After decades of sitting in a chair, in front of a computer at a desk, my body wore out. My hands, back, neck, hips all broke down, and I was unable any longer to do what I loved and what I was very, very good at.
 
The last several years of my working 'life,' I gradually cut back my hours, until finally my last job was as a contract employee working eight to 10 hours a week, making almost no wages after paying for gas and taxes. The one-woman owned company that hired me stated from the beginning that she was paying very little, because all of her three employees were older women who just wanted to do a 'little something' to stay active in the working world. For many reasons, I quit after a year and a half, and have not been able to return to work since then. After a 2 1/2 year battle, I qualified for disability, much to my regret. The last thing I ever wanted to be is considered disabled.
 
Despite that, I've managed to stay as physically active as possible. I walk every day. I try to hike and kayak twice a week, although not nearly as far as I used to. And those activities almost always result in a rehab of one or more days, on my back, feet up, and taking it easy. 
 
With COVID, the isolation can be terribly depressing. But even before that, when I quit work in 2017 and suffered with chronic pain for months on end, and the death of a family member, depressive thoughts were a 24-hour a day battle. Not having a social/work circle to stimulate my mind was debilitating in itself. So much free time seemed like it should have been a blessing. But between the state of the country, the physical pain, the emotional pain, and the disappointment in how my life looked and felt...it was a bleak time.
 
I have a fantastic husband and great adult children, and a handful of pretty good friends. But aging, and all the things that go with that, shrinks the world in ways I never imagined.  I know that not everyone has this problem; having money helps, and although we're probably fine with what we have, we are by no means wealthy or well off. And, my husband was diagnosed with stage IV cancer last year after hoping that the initial diagnosis eight years ago would have a better result. 
 
I realize everyone's situation is different, and I try my best to stay upbeat. I watched my mom and my dad and his wife suffer from depression in their last years, and I always swore I would never be like them. And yet, here we are. It's easy to give up, and I try my damnedest to not be that person."

—Anonymous
"One day away from being 69 years old. Grateful to be still here, less grateful for the myriad indignities of aging. From beginning to lose friends more often, to random aches and mystery pains, from stiff joints to hair departing from areas where you’d welcome abundance, to it turning up on your chin, crepe-y skin to skin tags, and learning of an admittedly hilarious affliction, called a senile wart. (My twin sister, five minutes older, had one removed in her 50s, and was insulted and horrified to discover its name.)

The difference for me on aging, from last year to this, is likely a common one, a global recognition. Due to the unsafe ability to travel, I’ve become much more aware of the limited number of years that I have left to travel easily.  If I think of it too often or too long, I can nearly panic. When will travel be safe!

Family and many friends are thousands of miles away. Although I love where I live, if I’d had a crystal ball, I’d have looked seriously at moving closer to those I love."

—Ann, 69, British Columbia
"I’m a 70-year-old woman who, 10 years ago, sold everything except what I could fit into the back of my pickup and moved from Cape Cod, Massachusetts to Santa Fe, New Mexico. It’s been a crazy ride, and now, just when I was ready to [...] sell everything, buy an RV and become a nomad, COVID threw a huge wrench in my plans. So I’m stuck in Northern NM.

Just about everything Jo Ann said was an exact match to what I’m going through. Deathly afraid of COVID, worried about [Social Security], worried about being alone. I have no family. How would I handle a major health crisis? I suffer from depression and what’s happening now is not helping. Anxiety about the country is at a high.

There are a lot of us out there alone who feel they have much more to live and give but no one is interested. I’m not one to go to senior centers because I don’t feel I would meet people there who are not done living and experiencing adventures [...] I do not feel 70.

Did I say I hate these two words: 'elderly' and 'seniors'?"

—Judy, 70, NM

Listen to This: Audio We Love

If you got to the end of today's episode and thought, Where can I hear more Jo Ann Allen?!, first off—yes. And second, we've got great news for you. Jo Ann hosts her own podcast called Been There Done That, where she interviews other Boomers about the lives they've lived, and the stories they've got that shouldn't be forgotten. Her second season just kicked off, featuring some excellent conversations about trans identity, policing, and the Vietnam War. Go subscribe!

And if you want a deep dive into some theories of age discrimination, check out anti-agesim activist Ashton Applewhite's interview with Kara Swisher on an episode of Recode Decode. She talks about how capitalism benefits from ageist stereotypes, why sometimes, older people can be the worst ageists of all, and why she decided to write a "manifesto" against ageism, called This Chair Rocks. "There are only two inevitable bad things about getting older," Applewhite says. "People you’ve known all your life are going to die, and some part of your body is going to fall apart. But not all your body and not all your friends, and we never hear the other side of the story."

Coming Up on Death, Sex & Money
We're not done talking about getting older! All this month, we're sharing new episodes with people over 60, and next Wednesday, January 13th, Anna and Jo Ann will cohost a live call-in special on public radio stations across the country about getting older. It's from 8-10 P.M. Eastern time—check your listings to see if your local NPR station will be carrying it. And if they're not, never fear: you can catch the whole thing streaming live on our Facebook and Twitter pages. 

To get reminders about the call-in special and new episodes, just text the word "aging" to the number 70101. 
"Because the stories you produce are what help me get through difficult times like the one we're all living in right now."
—Emma, Vancouver, BC

Thanks to everyone who helped us reach our fundraising goals in 2020! 🎉


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