Aging in Place May 2024

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“Retirement is not for wimps.” “Aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength.” Do you remember these quotes from my column on Ageism in March? Recently, I read an article on singer/songwriter Billy Joel and a particular song he wrote in 1977 called “Vienna.” Amazingly enough, 47 years later, not only is it one of his most popular songs still listened to, it is relevant to us older folks today as well as in 1977. Why, you ask? Because the message is clear, here is why:

The story goes that Billy Joel was visiting his father in Vienna, Austria, many years ago and saw an old woman sweeping the street. He questioned that she had to do that kind of work, and his father replied, “No, she has a job, she feels useful, she has a place in our society.” In America, we tend to push aside the elderly, but in many other countries, the elderly are revered and respected and contribute to society in many unrecognized ways.

“Vienna” is a metaphor for growing older. It is not something to dread but something to embrace. You can still have a productive and peaceful older life. It is not encouraging listeners to grab the bull by the horns (ie, carpe diem-seize the day); it suggests that everyone take the time to smell the roses. “Vienna” is a literal place, not the city in Austria, and represents the decades that we have lived through to reach this place in our lives and what we are doing about it. There is so much life to live in old age. A verse from the song:

But you know that when the truth is told
That you can get what you want
Or you can just get old
When will you realize Vienna waits for you?

So, we are not wimps, but we are embracing a new stage in our lives filled with opportunity and roses. Be sure to take care of yourselves, respect yourselves and what you have to offer, appreciate yourselves and value yourselves. Reach out and connect with friends, family, and neighbors and try something new – make a new friend, volunteer, or extend a hand to someone in need. Make today different than yesterday or what will come tomorrow. Stand proud that we have all made it this far and still have far to go. We have wisdom and experiences, stories to tell, skills to share, and many ways to contribute in our communities, feel and be useful. We are reaching for our “Vienna.” 

Don’t forget to smile and laugh. It does the heart good.

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Susan Noack
Susan Noack has lived in Tualatin for 15 years. Before retirement, she was a development director/event planner for non-profits. Now as an “Aging in Place” senior, her passion is being an advocate for seniors and giving back to the community. She is a member of both the Meals on Wheels People and Juanita Pohl Center advisory committees and chair the Tualatin Area Aging Task Force committee.