To grow old together as a couple is a blessing for which I will be immensely grateful

By Nina Steele 

I work for an old people’s charity and have done so for over 7 years. In addition to giving me an insight into old age, this has allowed me to embrace the whole process of ageing wholeheartedly and as a result, growing old no longer feels like an alien transition that many people still fear. I have never feared growing old, but what working with old people has done, is give me a clear picture of what my life may look like should I be fortunate enough to live to old age.

In my work, I meet all sorts of people. The ones who enjoy a great quality of life and are still fit and healthy in their 90s to the ones who unfortunately suffer from every possible illness in their 70s. So on most days, I feel both joy and sadness and the inevitable question is what my own fate will be like one day. Even so, the greatest joy for me is to see those old couples, still much in love and delighting in each other’s presence. Indeed to grow old together is a blessing because most of the old people I have come across, live alone and in most cases, the women outlive the men. According to figures produced by Age UK, the leading charity for old people, 3.8 million of those aged 65 and over in the UK, live alone and 70% of those are women.

My husband is also my best friend and the idea of one of us spending a great deal of their life without the other is unimaginable. Not having children means that all our focus has been on our relationship and the fact that we have a great deal in common means that we have grown stronger as a couple as the years have gone by. It is fair to say that having a great relationship to start with, is what made the transition from prospective parents to a childless couple free from major dramas. And so, as the years go by, we both understand that even though we can count on the love and support of those around us, ultimately, our relationship is our greatest gift. Wouldn’t it be great therefore if we could both die in bed together, holding hands, or at least die within days of each other like those most beautiful love stories we hear about in the media! Yes that would be a great way to go if indeed we were able to choose. But of course no one knows how their life will play out, which brings me back to my work with old people.

What I have learned by working with old people, is the value of stoicism. Some of the people I meet, not only have many physical issues they have to deal with on a daily basis but also, the majority have lost their life partner and have spent many years alone. In spite of that, they have managed to get on with their lives and are making the most of whatever time they have left. The other major revelation has been that it makes generally no difference growing old as a childless person compared to someone with children, in terms of leading an active life. Indeed, busy lifestyles mean that many old people with children don’t see much of them and so have to create their own social life.

For now, I am grateful for the fact that we are both alive and well. We try to live as healthy a lifestyle as possible and are both of the firm belief that you make your own life and the way you live today will determine how you age. In addition, we seem to have inherited mostly healthy genes from both our sets of parents. Whether that will be enough to live to a very old age and healthy is anyone’s guess. Whatever life has in store for us, it will be absolutely wonderful to grow old together and enjoy each other’s company for a very long time to come. And even better if we are blessed with a good quality of life as well!

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