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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Zest for Life: 85 Years Young and Still Inspired and Inspiring

In my blog post yesterday, I wrote about: "Overcoming the 'I'm too old to change' Mindset" and gave a fictionalized composite account of "John," who was in his 50s and used his age as an excuse to cover up his fear of changing. Today, I'd like to focus on my neighbor, Katherine, who, at the age of 85, is still inspired by life and inspiring others. She's an excellent example of someone who is in good health, has a zest for life, and who doesn't use her age as an excuse to avoid change in her life.

First, let me say that Katherine isn't her real name. When I asked Katherine permission to discuss her in my blog, she's so modest that she couldn't understand why anyone would be interested in her. Once she got over her surprise, we agreed that I wouldn't use her real name or too much identifying information about her. When she and I talked about what keeps her open and looking forward to new experiences in life, Katherine told me that she's always been a curious person who wasn't afraid of change throughout her life. She's still healthy, mentally sharp, and enjoys walking a few miles a day and practicing yoga daily. She also said that she doesn't hold grudges and she's learned "not to sweat the small stuff."

Until she retired, Katherine was an elementary schoolteacher for most of her life. Retirement for Katherine doesn't mean sitting on a park bench feeding pigeons. She's still an active volunteer at the local elementary school reading program. She still loves working with children and instilling a sense of curiosity and wonder in her students. She has a strong social network of friends, many of whom are 40 years younger than her and find it challenging to keep up with her pace.

Aside from inheriting healthy genes (both of her parents lived into their 90s), you might think that Katherine has lived a charmed life and this is why she has such a good attitude. But, far from it, Katherine has had her losses and misfortunes, including losing her first husband, the love of her life, to cancer when they were both in their 40s. This was a loss she thought she'd never get over, but she had teenage children to raise, so she attended psychotherapy to deal with the loss, and she channeled her grief into doing volunteer work with a local cancer organization to help others who lost their loved ones to cancer. She remarried when she was in her 60s and lost her second husband five years ago, which was also a tremendous loss for her.

Aside from losing both husbands, Katherine has outlived many life long friends. She felt strongly about each of these losses, but she was determined that she wouldn't allow these losses to defeat her emotionally. She's one of the most resilient people that I know.

Katherine's attitude toward life is that she takes "each day as it comes," a variation of living "one day at a time." She looks at the changes that life brings as opportunities to learn and grow. At age 85, she knows she's not going to live forever. But rather than worrying about how much longer she might live, she focuses on making whatever time she has worthwhile for herself and others.

And what does Katherine say to people in their 40s, 50s or 60s whose mindset is "I'm too old to change"? She tells them, "Life is short and precious. Live life fully while you can. Learn to change and grow."

At 85 years young, Katherine is still inspired by life and still inspiring others around her. We can all learn a lot from her.

I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist who provides psychotherapy services to individuals and couples, including contemporary talk therapy, EMDR, clinical hypnosis, and Somatic Experiencing.

To find out more about me, visit my website: http://josephineferrarotherapy.com.

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006.