Walking Into a Senior Center

Taking my first class at a senior center and realizing this is my new peer group. 

Photo by Philippe Leone on Unsplash

I started a class with some friends the other week. At the local senior center. It’s beginning Qigong. Lots of steps to remember. I’ll see if it’s a fit for me and if it feels like a good thing for me to do. I do, though, enjoy being part of a live group class again, after all the pandemic’s zoom classes. We feel each other’s energy, laugh as we all try to master the moves. Some more gracefully than others.

I am shocked that I belong here now. At a senior center taking an exercise class for seniors. That means me! 


When did that happen?

Suddenly, I am part of the group that I used to look at from the outside in, as an observer. Slowly wondering what it would be like when I reached that age.

I blinked, turned around for a second, and found myself there. The group of others now includes me. 

I am still trying to wrap my brain around this new phase of life that I find myself in it without remembering having stepped over the threshold. I wonder if we should have some kind of ritual where someone carries you over the threshold to this new part of your life. Marriage into the seasoned version of yourself. Walking into your new home of age and wisdom. 

I look around. I seem to see a different version of myself in the mirror than what I see in the others around me. Yes, there are times that I do see the changes that aging brings, but most of the time I still have an internalized image that does not match what I see in the mirror.

How to begin to accept this new status and time of life without taking it as a sign of being less than, of being in continual decline, of being marginalized and all that this brings with it. That is the challenge.

Yes, I am a senior. Yes, I have age related changes, and will have more to come, God willing that I keep living for a while. 

Yes, there are ways that I have become more invisible. That has its good and bad points. I feel free to do more of what I want, since no one is really looking anyway. But there is a bit of nostalgia for the attention that I used to get as a woman. Relief mixed with a twinge of sadness. The bittersweetness of aging. Of life. 

I am now no longer a part of the work force. I need to remind myself that I have my own brand of productivity. Writing. Painting. Things that bring me joy and that are sometimes, to my delight and surprise, enjoyed by others. 

I am free to be more myself. To find who that has been all along and now has the freedom to come out and play more. I call this coming back home to myself. I just didn’t realize that it would take this long to get here. Or that I would be this old. 

I say more of what I think. Not only is my skin thinner, so are my filters. And it’s ok. I don’t care what others think nearly as much. I am still aware of not wanting to hurt anyone intentionally, but I am also no longer willing to sacrifice who I am at the cost of my soul. I have had enough of that.

I move more slowly. That seems to have creeped up on me as well. I get out of bed more slowly, bend more slowly, see that I am less flexible than I used to be. I laugh at myself when I catch how I carefully step into my clothes. Things I never gave a second thought to before. 

I am aware of dangers of falling and take more precautions. Falls can lead to fractures which can be the beginning of a slippery slope. New things to think about and to be conscious about.

My neighbor and I both live alone. We keep an eye on each other’s homes, making sure that we still see signs of life. Are the lights still coming on and off? Have we seen each other that day? It’s a bit funny, and important. I have known several people who were found dead in their homes after several days. I want someone to be aware if I am not around anymore. 

I have longer visits at the mausoleum when I go visit my mother there. Realizing that I will at some point be among their ranks. Not in that particular place, but among that new peer group. I think that I had better start the conversation now.

 I try to say yes to invitations more often. Being an introvert, I need to pay attention to when I need alone time to recuperate from too much stimulation, but I also realize that the time to do things, to experience things, to try new things, is now. I don’t know how many nows I will have left. 

I appreciate each moment more. I am in awe of things that I was too busy to notice much before. I can sit outside and be delighted in watching the birds and squirrels enjoy the peanuts that I leave for them. Giggling when the jays call me in the morning letting me know that I am late with their breakfast. Running outside to keep the birdbaths full and fresh. It has become part of my purpose. To nurture and nourish nature as it nurtures me. 

I treasure what I would have thought of as brief, but not meaningful, interactions with others. Now a random connection with a stranger, an encounter that goes more quickly to deeper levels of thoughts and feelings, is such a gift that keeps reverberating inside of me for quite a while. It is so very meaningful now. It nourishes me with the warmth of the connection that I feel. It can sustain the lonely places inside me for a while. 

I cry more easily and more often. I have always been sensitive, for which I am grateful. These days, the feelings can flood over me in a moment when I am triggered by something. And I let them be. Such a precious part of being human, these feelings that we can have. I thank them. And I do my best to simply let them flow through me. Why would I want to push them aside or deep down inside? There is time enough later to be dead. 

I am still here. I am still alive. And I want to be as alive as I can be. To live as fully as I can. To cherish each moment. Each sacred breath. Each connection, both to parts of myself that I may have neglected in the past, and to others who are on this path beside me. 

So, yes, I am now at the senior center. Laughing, dancing, moving, living. Still here. Still alive. Still so very grateful for it all. 

4 thoughts on “Walking Into a Senior Center

  1. Oh, Jo! I am on this journey as well. However, unlike you, I cannot bring myself to embrace/welcome any of it. I am kicking and screaming. And you know I do that well. It hit me hard when I began working in a retirement center many years ago. I worked in a continuum of care community so I witnessed all levels of acuity. My office was closest to the nursing home/rehab and some things would startle and scare me. I cannot stop this journey. I hope I am independent, healthy and somewhat sane for a very long time.

    Yes, I know, still the control freak! One day at a time.

    Take care.


    1. We each have to take this journey in our own way, our own time, our own style. So, Mary, I’m here beside you, my friend. I have times when I kick and scream… And times when I quietly sit with it all. Laughter, tears, shock, all of it…. Part of the package! Thanks so much for your response! I wish independence, health, and enough sanity for us both as we navigate this all!


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