Commit yourself to stretching boundaries and living life to the fullest

Other Side of 50


 

Andrea Gallagher

Is our world shrinking as we grow older?

A few weeks ago, my husband and I went to visit my sister in Del Mar.

Though I love my sister and we are very close, I knew we hadn’t been to see them in quite a while, but I was shocked to realize our last visit had been in December 2019.

I was in disbelief. How could that be? Well, of course there was COVID, which kept many of us at home, and then there were challenges finding a dependable and caring sitter for our dog, who is blind and deaf.

It was not as if we hadn’t seen my sister and her family during that time. My brother-in-law’s business takes him to our neck of the woods every so often, and he and my sister will stay with us when that happens. And my niece and nephew, both adults, live in Los Angeles and come to visit periodically.

But still, the last time I was at my sister’s home was three and a half years ago?

I asked myself why we had not visited in all that time, and I realized with great regret that my world has become a whole lot smaller these past few years.

I have a vivid memory of our last visit and being stuck in crawling traffic from Camp Pendleton to her exit in Del Mar. What should have taken a little over two hours as the crow flies took us three and a half hours. I also remember some crazy drivers weaving in and out of traffic at breakneck speed without signaling and coming perilously close to our car in the process. Exhausting and scary.

It just didn’t feel like something I wanted to do again anytime soon.

My sister came up with a strategy that was the key to a less stressful trip. Per her suggestion, we checked the Waze app on our phone. The app provides real-time updates on road conditions, and we used it to find the time with the shortest commute. It only took us two and a quarter hours each way. And because the traffic was very light, we did not encounter nearly as many crazy drivers. It was a great trip and it reminded me how much I missed visiting her.

Recently, I have begun to think about other ways I’ve cocooned or retreated from experiences that life has to offer. I go out to eat very close to home—even Calabasas is too far for me. I haven’t been to the theater in a long time, and I have not taken a vacation other than a “staycation” in years.

In my younger days I traveled everywhere and tried many new and different experiences. My solo parasailing flight was exhilarating, and renting a beach house with my girlfriend was fun and stimulating. I loved to dance at weddings and events, but I feel too self-conscious to do it now.

Drifting into a smaller world as we age is common. Our lives get simpler, sometimes due to decline in health or mobility, but often just due to the comfort of routine. I am convinced the pandemic has triggered a mindset into this comfort zone for me, and I need to readjust.

There’s no reason I can’t do many of the things I once enjoyed. The barrier is mental, not physical, and until it does become physical, it is vital to my life experience to embrace activities, even if at first they feel uncomfortable.

I wonder how many others are in the same boat. The experience of social isolation during the last few years really messed with a lot of us. I am fortunate to have friends who are great role models for getting out there and experiencing life.

I won’t be saying “no” to a lot of things in the next year. I am going to stretch my boundaries and live life to its fullest. That way when I do suffer declines in health or mobility, I will have great memories to look back on.

Andrea Gallagher is a certified senior advisor and president of Senior Concerns, a nonprofit agency serving Ventura and western Los Angeles counties. For more information, go to seniorconcerns.org or email agallagher@seniorconcerns.org.