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    Been There, Done That: Eight Decades And Counting By Alice Herb: I Hate It, I Love It

    I Hate It, I Love It By Alice Herb


    Now that I am most obviously a very senior, senior person, I am constantly being asked by other people if I need help. They just grasp my elbow or otherwise give me admonitions on what I should and shouldn’t do. That is at once abhorrent and very welcome.  


    What I hate most is the advice that I get. The worst is people who tell me I should give up driving. Many of them are people who have never experienced my driving- or if they have, it’s been years since they did. They do not know how I drive now and are simply relying on my age. That undercuts my confidence and does me no good. I drove all summer back and forth to my beach house with no issues with my driving. 


    Then there is the constant advice on whether I should go out on a cold day. I get advice that I should order groceries and or have my groceries delivered. But I like to squeeze the tomatoes and love to feel the fabric of the clothes that I buy. Online shopping is horrible if it’s not some standard item that I have used before e.g., bath soap or lotion, or cleaning products. The pandemic has shown me that a lot of stuff has to be shipped back and I don’t like wasting my time with that. I know that this advice is given by people who care about me and worry. I love that but I hate having my confidence undermined. 


    As a staunchly independent person, I hate being helped but I love it when offered and I accept it. It is hard for me to realize how aging has impaired my ability to walk, walk fast or run, much less just walk (and then with a cane). When in my mind I want to accomplish six tasks in one day, I usually only manage two and have to accept that how I want to do things will not be done the same by someone else. Even my excellent hand dexterity isn’t what it used to be and I am endlessly frustrated. I think you, my readers, have similar mixed emotions but I will illustrate anyway. 

     I have a beloved housekeeper who keeps my apartment looking pretty good. It‘s not the way I used to clean my home. I’m sure that my bathroom tiles are not washed every two weeks but then I have to accept this change because she does wash my windows, which I also used to do myself and can no longer do.


    I used to thread a needle on the first try but now it takes me an eternity. If someone is with me, she very often will take it out of my hands and do it for me. Yuk. Same with jewelry. I love necklaces and I have many but if I can’t pull them over my head, I have one hell of a time trying to fasten them. And trying to zip up a dress, well that’s fantasy at this stage. Help!


    I still take the subway because I am too impatient to deal with street traffic. I now have accepted that almost always, someone gives me their seat but that is also a reminder of how old I am. But recently, I tripped entering a train and fell flat on my stomach with my body on the train and my legs on the platform. Before I could cry out, four people had me on my feet and into a seat. They inquired if I was OK. When I informed them that I was okay, two of them kept watch until I left three stops up. Clearly, I was enormously grateful but I hated being so helpless.


    Even at grocery stores, an employee almost invariably helps put my backpack on me. It is necessary because the weight of the groceries makes it very difficult to pull on. But this once again showcases the needs I have that I hate but I love. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, the kindness of strangers makes it possible for me to do many things I would find very difficult. Just recently I incurred a cut on one of my toes. It started to bleed furiously. It took me forty-five minutes to stop the bleeding, get to a medicine cabinet for disinfectant and band-aids, and get the band-aid on my toe. At those times, I just want to cry. Of course, I don’t. Yet It does give me food for thought.


    And what is that? In order to retain maximum independence and mobility, I have to keep moving- but very carefully. No time for falling and becoming incapacitated. At the same time, I do venture out to do my own shopping, travel on my own to appointments, enjoy museums, etc. I follow the maxim of Use It Or Lose It. It is simply vanity not to accept help when needed and get on with life. I can still be vain about “I’ll do it myself,” but this old dog has taken on the maxim of my old bioethics principle – WEIGH THE BENEFITS AGAINST THE BURDENS/RISKS and, without prejudice, look at the answer openly and honestly. Isn’t it far better to go out and enjoy life than be stuck with an unworkable dilemma: Do I love it enough to accept help or hate it enough to refuse? I am opting to ask for help! And have amazed myself as a result.


    Alice Herb is a retired attorney, journalist, and bioethics consultant. Having reached the age of 85+, she’s more than ready to share her experiences and opinions with agebuzz readers. Want to comment on something she’s said? She welcomes your feedback at


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