In a recent conversation with one of my grad-school mentors about the experiences of the lives of present-day Baby Boomers, I was invited to interview and write about my 77-year-old, maternal grandmother. I was asked to talk to my abuelita about her life now and how she’s relating to herself. My goal was to gain insight into her experiences as an older member of our society. Listen to the heart of my dearest Baby Boomer.
Alicia: Tell me what is it like to be 77-years-old?
It has been an interesting journey. I have been blessed to see my children grow and give birth to their children. Now, I am seeing my grandchildren having their children. It is so beautiful to see that they are all a part of me. At this age, I have also experienced many losses. Never did I imagine that one of my grandchildren would die before me. I have always believed that a grandma is not supposed to live longer than her grandchild. This was one of the most hurtful losses I’ve experienced. As a 77year old, I have also seen many events in the world take place. Different presidents. Different changes. I have always said, the more one lives, the more one sees.
Alicia: Do you consider yourself a senior? Why or why not?
Yes, I do. Mostly, I consider myself to be a senior because everywhere I go now they tell me I am. They give me the senior discount (laughs). But I also notice a difference in my body which I think are senior like things. It is all a part of life though. I remember being young and worrying about growing old. And now that I am old, I feel at peace. I would not choose to be any other age.
Alicia: What are some of the concerns have you’ve noticed that you have now that you are over 50?
What concerns me? Well, my health concerns me. Not being as strong as I used to worry me. In my younger days, I could fall and I would probably get a bruise or something minor. Now, the bruise will be on my body for a longer period of time, I will be sore, and other times I have gone to the doctor to check if anything was broken. My bones don’t feel as strong as they used to. My mind feels strong but my body says otherwise. Sometimes I worry about leaving my family behind and not seeing my grandchildren and my great-grandchildren live a full life. But I recognize that dying is part of life and I don’t fear it, I just want to see my family continue to grow.
Alicia: What do you do to stay fit?
I keep moving. It is rare to see me sitting. I walk around the block for an hour every morning. I also have my cleaning routine throughout the day and I am constantly doing something. Sometimes, I will walk to the corner store to buy groceries or something that I need for the house. I have never been one to stay still and well I guess that is how I stay fit.
Alicia: Are you concerned at all about being able to take care of yourself or having others take care of you in incoming years?
Umm, I haven’t really thought about not being able to take care of myself in the future. But that is a good point (laughs). I wouldn’t say that I worry about that but I do worry about having to burden my children in any way. All of my life I have been used to being a caregiver. My children reassure me that I am not a burden, but I just don’t want to take away from their time with their partners or my grandchildren. I mean in a way my children are already taking care of me. My adult daughter who lives with me will take me grocery shopping. Another one of my daughters takes me clothes shopping and to my doctor appointments. At this point, it has become more of a norm for my children to do things for me. It felt different and uncomfortable when this started a few years ago, but I have been able to embrace this as my new normal.
Most important, I must acknowledge the wisdom and poise in which my grandmother spoke. In my culture, our elders are the voice of wisdom and are due our respect at all times. So, it is with honor, respect, and great admiration that I write to give voice to my most cherished grandmother.
Finally, allow me to invite you to have a conversation with your grands—mom or dad. You may pick any topic that is important to you. For example, my mentor (also a proud Boomer-Class of 1957) shared with me that one of her undergraduate professors invited her to interview her grandmother and ask questions about her experiences. An African American, she talked about how difficult it was for her, then 87-year-old, grandmother to share some of the hardships that her people endured; she was not an African slave but she was born on a southern plantation.
For me, having this conversation with my grandmother was an invaluable because it allowed me to give voice to my grandmother’s lived experiences, as elders in my family are valued for the wisdom can only come with age. I know that my grandmother was pleased to share her thoughts with me and I’m sure she was proud that I cared enough about her ideas to ask.