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| Family First Feature |

Well-Earned Wisdom

 Insightful women over 65 share their reflections on aging gracefully — and how to find happiness at all ages and stages

 

On Family

Your family is your greatest treasure. If, when your children are growing up, you can make them feel that their home is the best place to be, the place they’re always wanted, you’ll foster their self-esteem and happiness. They’ll take that feeling with them when they build their own homes. Best of all, they’ll keep returning for visits, making your house noisy and messy again — and you’ll be the happiest person in the world!

—Mrs. Tzortel Katz,Eim Bayis, Beis Dina Rochel, a.k.a. Gateshead “New” Seminary

 

As you get older, you learn to take a deep breath and pause before reacting to anything. Learn to appreciate what you have, rather than look at what you’re missing.. If you look at those who have less, you will  feel incredibly rich with the relatives you have.

—Mrs. Dina Moseson, Yerushalayim

 

As I experienced more of life, I realized that I’d wronged some of my children in my younger years. I didn’t want to leave it like that, so I did some soul searching and wrote each child a letter, verbalizing both my love and my regrets. I made the apologies I owed them, and I’m so glad I did. I feel like now my kids don’t have to worry “What does Mommy really think of me?” because they know the answer.

—Mrs. Chava Prager* ,Flatbush

 

The family is baruch Hashem growing and branching out; I like to help them stay connected. Having two families over together for Yom Tov and watching the children play together gives me a lot of nachas. Occasionally, I invite over a few grandchildren in the same age group. If you can’t manage too much hosting, getting everyone together for Chanukah and Chol Hamoed gatherings helps, as well as a group chat where everyone can post their kids’ milestones and news. I won’t mention the chat they have without me, as in “Who is going to Mommy for Shabbos?” “Not me, I don’t want to go this time...”

I also believe it’s important to stretch yourself, both physically and mentally, giving everyone attention and visiting every child at regular intervals, even at the expense of your own comfort. I shep nachas watching my kids run their own homes, and I get to know the einiklach much better on their own turf.

—Mrs. Esther Perl, Monsey

 

No longer are we the diaper changers or even the PTA moms — but we can enjoy being the savta par excellence. It took a while to adjust, but when I realized that a fun savta is a gift I can give my grandchildren, I focused on building relationships with them. We’ve been on hikes together and played endless board games. And of course, I’ve carefully chosen and delivered endless birthday gifts.

—Rebbetzin Malka Kaganoff, author, educator, and lecturer, Yerushalayim

 

Although our children are the center of our lives, we are not the center of theirs. We have to make our own lives relevant and not expect our children to entertain us. We made our mistakes when raising them (gasp!) and we have to allow our children to make their own, without interfering unecessarily. Ahem... it’s not like they’re asking our advice! I made up my mind long ago that I would not be the “story” at the young wives’ table when they were discussing mothers-in-law. Look away and forgive, always. Give and give some more.

—Mrs. Sarah Moses Spero, wife, mother and grandmother who spends her days enjoying being a part of her children’s lives and tries not to get in the way...

On Friendships

I’ve mellowed and so have my relationships. As an older person, I’ve become much more accepting of people as they are, with whatever foibles they have. My friends and I know each other’s shortcomings, but we’re here to accept,  encourage, and support each other.

—Mrs. Dina Moseson

 

Friendships are so valuable. Enjoy the old, but always be open and ready to make new friends. Easier said than done, because most of us inevitably get set in our ways and shy away from change as we age. If you can bond with new people, it expands your horizons and helps you stay young and growing.

—E.S.

 

When you’re a young mom, your friends might be the other mothers in the playground and the mothers of your kids’ friends. Once they all grow up, you can zero in on those friends whom you want — not just for convenience, but those you want to spend time and can grow together with. There may be challenges and lonely times ahead, so make sure you keep up with trusted friends whom you can confide in.

—Mrs. Chava Prager

 

Who has time for friends when you’re young and busy with life a.k.a. children, sleepless nights, and trying to hold down a job. But keep in touch. Then, when life is a bit less frenetic, you can take up the thread with your old, dear friends. I’ve also found that family can become friends — my sisters-in-law and nieces are fun to spend time with.

—Rebbetzin Malka Kaganoff

 

One of the greatest gifts (besides good health) is a good friend with whom you can “let your hair down,” have a good schmooze, solve all the world’s problems better than any politician, have a good laugh, and even learn to laugh at yourself. Laughter makes one happy, relieves tension, and opens the mind to better attitudes — and there’s no better person to do it with than a good friend.

—Mrs. Katz

 

Nurture friends and remember that they may have to be there when family cannot. Sometimes we’re alone, either by choice or by circumstance. Let’s be there for each other. That sometimes means lending an ear and holding a tongue. At times, the only thing we can do is listen. That’s big. Connections count.

—Mrs. Sarah Moses Spero

 

There’s place for both family and friends, and one can’t replace the other. Old age isn’t simple, and there are times when you need someone to talk things over with. A friend in the same age bracket, a little bit removed from your family, is wonderful. I kept up with my friends even through very stressful times, and I’m so glad I did. Friednships are so valuable, hold on tight.

—Mrs. Esther Perl

 

On Health and Beauty

Growing older makes us wiser and more adept at living. It also causes us to fall apart. Silky skin creases while other body parts crumble, necessitating constant care. Only our sheitel retains its pristine beauty (atop our greying hair).

Therefore, I, a woman who even on her wedding day applied only a drop of lip gloss, now boast a collection of magical bottles and tubes (plus a few packets of vitamins for good measure) to enhance my natural beauty. Eis la’asos l’Hashem. A woman should look like the queen she is!

—Mrs. Yaffa Ganz, author of dozens of books

 

Unfortunately, from age 60, if you don’t watch your weight, it creeps up on you. You can’t keep eating the same way you did until then and think your weight will stay stable. So we have to be mindful of what we eat. It’s widely known that exercise is key to maintaining fitness, good for your memory, and good for staving off osteoporosis. In your younger years, you may get your daily exercise more naturally by running after children, going to work, doing errands, but as you get older, you have to make a conscious effort to keep moving.

—Mrs. Chava Prager

 

Recently people have been asking me how I have such soft skin. Truthfully, it’s genetic; I’ve inherited it from my mother a”h. But lately, I’ve started to drink hot lemon juice every morning, and that seems to help too.  (I had squeezed the lemon juice and frozen it before Pesach, so that kick-started the habit).

—Mrs. Esther Perl

 

Keep your interests going as long as possible. Keep an active mind and an active body. Flexibility and balance are important — my exercise teacher has us try to balance on one foot with our eyes closed. Obviously, there are no guarantees, but you have to do hishtadlus.

—E.S.

 

I have to keep reminding myself about my health when it’s time to pass on the chocolate.

As for beauty, let the mirror or a good friend be honest when the coif, clothing, or makeup is too much — or not enough. No one has the right to be a natural beauty. Walking around in a robe and snood (all day!) with no makeup on is a crime. No one wants to look at that, least of all me. And that’s why my makeup budget (what budget?) looks like it does. I’ll try any cream, powder, or blush that promises to erase wrinkles or time. I know full well it will do neither, but that doesn’t stop me from trying.

—Mrs. Sarah Moses Spero

 

 

I’ve tried to eat healthfully and keep my body fit through leading an active lifestyle, walking, and exercise. In addition, I believe that stress wears down the body, and maintaining a calm, stress-free life assists greatly in gentle aging. We cannot control external stressors, but we can modulate our own internal reactions. Of course, I believe in davening. Davening to Hashem for continued good health and gratitude to Him for my good health that He has granted me until now. As for beauty, I’ve made peace with my wrinkles, even if they signal that I’m  a senior citizen.

—Rebbetzin Malka Kaganoff

 

On Life Balance

Over 65 is a wonderful time for volunteering, if you have the time. My friends who have moved to Lakewood are packaging stuff for the Lakewood Bikur Cholim on Thursdays, and they look forward to the fun and camaraderie of working together with friends from all over who have moved there.

—Mrs. Gruner

 

Life does not balance, nor is it fair. There are either too many pounds for not enough height or not enough weeks for too many tasks. And sometimes that gets reversed. But by now, honestly, you should be doing what works for you. No one else matters, and no one else really cares. You can stop apologizing for who and what you are. If you want to take shortcuts, go right ahead. I don’t have to prove I can cook anymore. I don’t bake because there’s a part missing from my mixer — just don’t tell anyone that the missing part is me.

My relationship with my Creator has become more and more personal. We’re developing a better understanding — or at least I am. He always had it. No one owes me anything — least of all the One Above — and living with unrealistic hopes cheats me out of the joys of everyday living. Sometimes I have to raise the bar by lowering my expectations. It works. I promise.

—Mrs. Sarah Moses Spero

 

Your personality doesn’t change, so you remain whomever you always were, whether primarily a home-maker or a businesswoman or anything else. If you’re still employed, you may be walking on eggshells at your job, in fear of being replaced by someone younger. That is a very tough and unwelcome pressure which many of my contemporaries face.

You probably have to slow down a little, which means that you have to prioritize or give yourself more time to do what’s important to you. For example, if I want to host a Yom Tov, I can still manage the cooking, but can no longer do it in a three-day marathon. I can’t handle the stress, and I can’t handle it physically. Instead, I start in advance and do a little each day.

—Mrs. Esther Perl

 

Life balance is the biggest trick at any age. We need strong core values to decide what we want to focus on. Not everyone has the luxury of feeling “I have an extra hour, what should I do with it?” But if we know who we are and what is important to us, then when we finally find that hour, we can make good choices. Some people volunteer in hospitals, some say an extra few perakim of Tehillim, some go out with friends. During your “busy” younger years keep alive the vision of who you want to be.

—Rebbetzin Malka Kaganoff

 

What helped to bring me to where I am today is something I learnt during my seminary days: “Haovar ayin, he’asid adayin… daagah minayin — The past has been and the future has yet to happen, so why worry?” We only have to live and deal with the present. Each day brings with it both opportunities and challenges of all sizes, which have to be dealt with as they present themselves.

If you’re fortunate, in your younger years the day is given over mainly to family with not much time to be involved in matters outside the home. But as the children grow up, little windows of free time appear. There are so many opportunities for either helping others or learning new skills. Whether you study something academic, or take up an enjoyable hobby, learning will keep you mentally and physically active. Keeping busy — without exhausting yourself — is the key to keep yourself from getting pushed into old age.

—Mrs. Katz

 

I find things balance themselves out. On Succos and Pesach I tend to be very busy hosting my children (although COVID taught us we can enjoy those alone too) while on Shavuos, it’s only us. We have some Shabbasos with three couples over and others just my husband and me. It naturally balances, and all times are enjoyable.

—Mrs. Chava Prager

 

On Self-Fulfillment and Happiness

As I age, I realize more and more that my problems are bigger than me, and I turn to Hashem. The first three steps of the Twelve-Step program ring true to me now: I am powerless to ‘manage’ this; Hashem can do anything; I will let Him.

—Mrs. Chava Prager

 

“Are we happy yet?” First we have to figure out what happiness is and how important it is to adjust our mindset to up our HQ [Happiness quotient]. Happiness is a challenge, and learning how to be a happy person at a younger age will assist you to maintain that emotion in the coming decades. My personal definition of happiness is a combination of enthusiasm and serenity. Rav Hirsch points out that simchah is a similar word to tzmichah — spiritual growth brings true happiness.

—Rebbetzin Malka Kaganoff

 

It’s easy to become complacent when you’re older. But if we’re still around,  It’s our opportunity to continue working on ourselves.  By now, we know ourselves pretty well, and are ready to accept ourselves for whom we are.  We can hone in on our strengths and work through our weaknesses. And we can also be there for others, which is perhaps the most self-fulfilling aspiration

—Mrs. Esther Perl

 

No one can give me happiness or self-fulfilment — they’re up to me. I can’t live anyone else’s life, nor do I want to. Being kind to myself often sometimes means giving to others. If I don’t, then I’m the one who gets cheated. No one wants to be around someone who’s self-absorbed and self-centered. Loneliness can be debilitating, and if I don’t find ways to fill my heart and soul, I can never be happy. If I am always looking to someone or something to make me happy, I’ll spend my days always looking for more when the truth is that it was within me all along.

—Mrs. Sarah Moses Spero

 

You’re as young as you feel. Some feel old in their fourties, others, like my parents-in-law, were young in their nineties. They continued to live life to its fullest, traveling abroad to their children’s simchahs as long as they could. My mother-in-law attended siddur parties and school plays into her nineties, her presence a gift to her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She continued to go to shiurim, including shalom bayis shiurim which a family member gave. “I can always learn something new,” she said. She’s my inspiration.

On the other hand, you cannot pretend you aren’t getting older. Don’t dress like a young woman half your age — you’ll be mutton dressed up as lamb. Acknowledge the aging process which is actually a gift, be comfortable in your lace-up shoes without teenagers telling you that you can’t wear them, and, above all, count your blessings on a daily basis. HaKadosh Baruch Hu has allowed you to get to this stage, and you’re fortunate to be here.

—E.S.

 

GROWING OLD GRACEFULLY

Yaffa Ganz

 

Smile, Love,

Forgive, Laugh.

Give, Sing, Speak softly.

Make someone happy.

Keep your expectations low

and whatever you receive

will be a joy.

Don’t notice the things

you need not see.

Act as though today is

your last day on earth.

(It may be, for all you know.)

And Daven.

The more, the better.

G-d is listening.

Come to think of it,

it’s not a bad way

for Living Young either!

 

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 746)

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