We live in a long street and I can't hope to know everyone in it, even by sight. Some neighbours I do know, who live a block away from us, had a small 'corner party' last week which they invited us to, even though we don't live anywhere near their corner.
I was introduced to a very chic-looking woman who I assessed as being in her mid, possibly even late, 50s. Almost immediately she told me that one of the children Olle was playing with was her 11 year old son. I hope the surprise I felt didn't appear on my face.
Of course, she could have had him when she was 45, even 46. I know a number of women who've had babies at that age - mostly their second, but in two cases it was their first - and only - child. They make my age as a first time mother, at 42 and a half, seem positively young, even though I was well within the 'elderly primigravida' category.
I often see 'older' women pushing strollers or walking hand in hand with young children and wonder if they're the mother or the grandmother. Unfortunately Australian women tend to have such sun-ravaged skin that women I assume are 'older' can turn out to be much younger than me (though the woman at the party had very good skin (unless she was really only 48 and had very bad skin!)) (I suspect not.)
What is 'older' and when does someone go from being 'older' to 'old'? Or from being 'young' to indubitably 'no longer young' ( ie 'older'). I have friends in their mid to late 60s who are very definitely 'older'. I don't think people are 'old' these days until they're at least 75, if not 78.
In some contexts I happily think of myself as 'older' now. In others, I think of myself as being in the middle. Somehow, I can't come at the term 'middle aged'. I don't know how much of that is because of being an older mother, which makes my daily life quite different from most other 50 year old women. A great deal of my time is spent with young children and with other parents who are mostly in their 30s. When I go through menopause, I won't be experiencing the 'empty nest' syndrome at the same cliched time. Like one of those glossy magazine articles about older mothers, I feel as if I have the best of both worlds.
Fifty was a big turning point, metaphorically speaking. I'm 50 and a half now and I've mentally settled into my new age group. I accept that I'm not young any more. I feel positive about people of my age and older. I identify with them. I find their point of view more interesting than the perspective of the average 30 year old - even of the average 35 year old. I feel mostly satisfied with everything I've learnt about myself and life in over three decades of adult experience. I wouldn't go back - mentally. Physically, I'd be happy to go back to about 40 and stay there for a few years. Menopause will probably be the next big physical turning point for me, but it was around age 45 that I first had the sense of things slowing down. It amuses me that people in their late 30s see 40 as such a big deal when from my current vantage point that was when I felt most healthy, most fit. A lot of that was because I ran.
I ran regularly up to the point I got pregnant with Olle. Since then, I've failed to establish that routine again despite a few halfhearted attempts. I'm currently making one of my by now ritual attempts to take up running again.
This time will be different, I hope. For one thing, I've been swimming regularly for the past six months, which has greatly improved my aerobic fitness. When I set out for my first few short runs when I was on holiday, I was able to run for 15 minutes breathing entirely through my nose and felt fine. My legs were a different story - they turned to jelly after a relatively short time. That's the difference a decade makes.
I got a beginner's guide to running from the library (I also own a few running books of my own, which I like to read from time to time for inspiration). It included one of those walk-run programs which I'd previously eschewed. But with the evidence of my increased age hard to ignore, I decided I'd try this program. It's very gradual - in the first week you only run for 30 seconds at a time, in eight five-minute walk-run cycles. I'm finding that easy. But what I do notice is how much more tired I get from exercising these days. In my 30s, I routinely rode my bike for 90 minutes a day and swam a kilometre three times a week, as well as dancing every weekend. I don't remember being tired. (And I don't think that's just a case of 50-year-old lack of memory.)
This past week, I did the first 40 minute walk-run on Saturday, swam on Sunday, did a 90-minute yoga class on Monday, rode my bike for 90 minutes on Tuesday, did the second 40 minute walk-run today. And I've been phsyically tired every day. True, I'm having to push quite a few more kilograms around than in my 30s, which must be partly to blame. I suspect, however, that just being older is a big cause. At the same time, 'just being older' is all the more reason to exercise, as Joan Bakewell, who's in her 70s, wrote in the Guardian yesterday. (Even five years ago I probably wouldn't have been as interested in that article as I now am.)
Another thing to contend with is the immobility which comes with computer use. Returning from holidays, I noted with alarm my body's reaction to using the computer again - lower backache, stiff legs, a spaced out brain and drained exhaustion after a day at work staring at a screen. As I've been using a computer only in the decade of my 40s, it's hard to tell what role it plays in my decreased flexibility and fitness. Probably quite a large one, if I think about it.
Anyway, I'll let you know how the running program goes (having written about it here, I have no excuses for dropping it!)