At 96 years of age, Jenny leads a more active and independent life than many other people decades younger than she is. She seems the very definition of successful ageing – so what could be her secret?
In Jenny’s case – not necessarily a perfect start in life. Her father died while her mother was pregnant with her, and she was born so premature and small that everyone thought she would not make it. But she pulled through and a long marriage, 2 daughters, 4 grandchildren and 9 great grandchildren later, she is still a busy bee who loves to host parties. And whenever someone needs something, she rises from her chair so fast that no one in the younger generations has a chance.
Her daughter Randi, 69, has a sense of what may make her mother such a champion. “We grew up in a time and place with little organised activity, no car, no public transport, so we had to walk, cycle or ski everywhere, including school.” Now retired herself, Randi recalls how way back then, it was thanks to her mother Jenny that she could build up her own career. Whenever necessary, Jenny looked after Randi’s children, getting them to school, feeding them, and playing with them.
And life does not seem to have gotten much quieter for Jenny since then – she goes to senior dance on Mondays (“I started when I was 90 and I will continue, it is so nice there”), the swimming pool on Tuesdays (“I have been doing that since the 1980’s and I really like it, it is so nice to be able to move so freely”), and Strong & Steady training on Wednesdays (see Real World Stories Episode 2 for more information on Strong & Steady). She could have had a day off on Thursdays, but she has enrolled in yoga (“A bit more focus on relaxation, but we sit rather than lie on the floor – I wouldn’t dare that anyway”). She also works as a volunteer at the church coffee where she sets the table. And let’s not forget her weekly knitting club, or the waffles that they make while there. “I’m a bit too restless to sit around quietly, that is not my thing, although I can’t manage like I did before.” Randi raises an amused eyebrow at her mother. “But you still do everything yourself! You even wash the windows and try to clean the house yourself, as others don’t do it well enough.” They both smile and Jenny adds: “I don’t need any organised help from the municipality, just some assistance of the family every now and then with the computer.” Although that might soon be a thing of the past as well, as Jenny has signed up for a computer course and already manages her economy online herself. “She is a big inspiration for us daughters. The more we manage to stay healthy and active, the less help we will need from others or healthcare services.” And Jenny is living proof of that.
“Despite her high age, our mother does not cost society anything.”
One does not get to live close to 100 years without some significant loss along the way. Jenny lost her husband 11 years ago and had to say goodbye one by one to all her childhood friends. But also here, she has a refreshingly positive perspective: “I made so many new friends, there are so many nice people everywhere.” Randi adds:” You are also very curious which is a strength in life – your unwavering lust for life.” Jenny has given a lot to her daughters and grandchildren, and they now give in return and pass it on. “We are who we are thanks to our parents; nurturing friendship in families is important.”
While many of us were struggling to get back to work from the home office and mix face-to-face meetings with online and hybrid events, this particular family went on a mountain trip together in Rondane Natural Park in Norway last autumn. Thirty-six family members of various ages, including Jenny and Randi, gathered and enjoyed a fantastic trip together in good weather. “Even though there was quite some COVID going around with all the hugging” Jenny recalls, smiling fondly at the memory.
So, if there is any secret to be learned from Jenny’s story how to age successfully, it has to be to stay active and involved with the world around you – peppered with enjoyment and a good dose of lust for life.