In 2017, 95-year-old Doris Carnevali joined the 31.7 million U.S. bloggers in launching Engaging with Aging.
Here’s why. “If you are a ‘Yet-To-Be Elderly’ (YTBE),” Doris says, “it may serve as a departure point for finding your own ways of looking at aging or relating to older relatives/friends. If you are already ‘Being Elderly’ in one or another stage of aging and want to see how someone else is reacting to the experiences, you can compare notes,” she explains. Since then, Doris has authored more than 150 blog posts. Her Engaging with Aging blog stands out as realistic, encouraging, credible, conversational, insightful, and timeless.
In our youth and midlife, we do not think about our capacity to get out of bed, climb stairs, or carry in groceries. Aging, however, impacts these areas and captures our attention. We can ignore, deny, or adapt. When the blogger’s hands lost the strength and dexterity to wring out a washcloth while bathing, she discovered a bath mitt did the job. Such adaptations illustrate what can be done when facing the moving parts of aging. Both agers and caregivers can benefit from her tips and insights.
Doris often says to herself in the face of an unexpected change, “Oh, so this is how it is.” Followed by, “Now, what’s possible?” With head in the clouds, feet on the ground she wrote, “When my balance had become increasingly tippy, I ‘parked my ego,’ ordered a walker, practiced with it in the house, and eventually braved appearing with it outside.” The blog reflects her quizzical and positive, “What’s possible?”
The author possesses credentials. She retired as an Associate Professor Emerita in the School of Nursing at the University of Washington where she had co-edited three textbook editions of Nursing Management for the Elderly and authored several other books. Looking back on those academic years, she describes herself as an “unknowing outsider” to the lived experience of the elderly. “Now I feel as if I had been a pilot flying over the city of aging, assuming I knew how the residents lived. What an illusion! Now, I’m ‘an insider.’”
We find not a teacher, but an elder person chatting with us about what aging really is. In one post, “Becoming One’s Own Lab Rat,” she highlights how our age-related changes (ARCs) impact daily living. “What hadn’t been in the literature was what specific age-related changes did to my daily life—the impact areas,” she wrote. “Anyone who thinks of old age as a time of stagnation just hasn’t been there. The demands of practical, creative observing, thinking, and acting are ever-present.”
In her blog posts, Doris reminds us that aging is a journey we all share, but we each do it at our own pace and in our own way. We experience specific ARCs like slowing reflexes. She encourages us to notice how they impact our daily living. Each of us adapts. Some ways work well. Others, not so much. We may need to alter our way doing of things like splitting tasks into pieces. Some age-related changes call for mantras:
- “Nose and Toes” pointing in the same direction to keep our balance while walking.
- “Focus, Focus” to keep our attention on what we are doing “in the moment.”
- “Center, Center” to maintain stable standing as balance becomes more precarious.
When asked what she hoped would happen to her blog after she dies, Doris said, “I have neither expectations nor aspirations. It may end up being just one old lady’s views on Engaging With Aging.” At 99, she keeps delivering experiences, insights, and wisdom that can serve endless generations because “growing old” will always be with us.
James J. Tracy holds a doctorate in clinical psychology. He held academic appointments in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science at the University of Washington Medical School and in the Department of Psychology before moving to full-time clinical practice. He currently writes and speaks on age-related topics.