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DrZoidberg
10-15-2009, 05:20 PM
I'm writing a novel now. The last chapter is seen from an elderly female character point of view. Since this is a huge jump in time between the chapters the differences in behaviour need to be apparent, telling the reader that she is elderly without making it a caricature.

I've got nearly all the dialogue and plot worked out. What's missing is those things that makes the reader empathise with being elderly, to understand her predicament, and how it is set apart from being younger. The small things. Since I'm in my thirties I have no idea.

One note. The style of this novel is unusual in the sense that it is extremely detailed regarding thought processes and bodily functions. If I don't get it exactly right, it'll be embarrassingly apparent.

I'd love a web resource where being elderly is explained. That would be great.

Any help would be much appreciated.

the addster
10-15-2009, 05:33 PM
I'm sure there are lots of websites, books etc. that detail the aging process, but it seems to me that talking to some older folks might be the best thing for you to do. Relatives? Friends of the family? A visit to a retirement community, maybe?

Puma
10-15-2009, 05:39 PM
Boy, talk about being insulting - I'm not over 70 but I'm getting there. How dare you call me (and the rest of us) elderly? :)

One thing you have to understand is - there's no one size fits all - with how people react to age and what they can do. Characteristics you developed for your character when she was in midlife are still going to be relevant unless she's become afflicted with some sort of malady - diabetes, Alzheimers, cancer, artherioschlerosis (sp?), arthritis, etc. You might want to think about that first before you figure out what you're character will be like.

From my experience, there's not much difference in being "elderly" versus midlife except that some things aren't done so fast (and others faster) or at quite the same level of intensity (but others are moreso). Take a good look at your character and figure out what that person would have fought to retain and what she would have been willing to let go by the wayside. Hope that helps. Puma

Bufty
10-15-2009, 05:58 PM
Hey, dude or Doc, I'm 72 and don't feel any different to when I was 22. As Puma states, it all depends upon the individual and their individual circumstances.

Age equals being or acting old or eldery or having problems per se (or vice-versa) just doesn't equate.

DrZoidberg
10-15-2009, 06:17 PM
Boy, talk about being insulting - I'm not over 70 but I'm getting there. How dare you call me (and the rest of us) elderly? :)

One thing you have to understand is - there's no one size fits all - with how people react to age and what they can do. Characteristics you developed for your character when she was in midlife are still going to be relevant unless she's become afflicted with some sort of malady - diabetes, Alzheimers, cancer, artherioschlerosis (sp?), arthritis, etc. You might want to think about that first before you figure out what you're character will be like.

From my experience, there's not much difference in being "elderly" versus midlife except that some things aren't done so fast (and others faster) or at quite the same level of intensity (but others are moreso). Take a good look at your character and figure out what that person would have fought to retain and what she would have been willing to let go by the wayside. Hope that helps. Puma

I do my best to insult those I wish to receive help from :) Sorry about that you, youngling you. BTW, in Sweden, the word "puma" means an extremely sexy and attractive woman.

The main character hasn't been afflicted by any physical maladies (other than the usual suspects, like hyperopia). Her ex-husband (who she meets at a Christmas family get together) on the other hand has had a stroke and is healthwise a complete mess. He's the same age.

The dynamic in this chapter is that she's really bitter about life because she's being hung up on stuff that isn't that important. While he's happy about life since he's better at enjoying the little things. Yeah, I know, not very deep. But this last chapter is mostly about tying up the lose ends

Another dynamic is parenthood. Both their now adult kids ended up repeating the mistakes of the parents, which annoys her to no end, because she told them all about it, before they screwed up. This is a theme throughout the whole novel.

One thing worth exploring is how the world treats the elderly. She lives in a nice old peoples home and is well taken care of. It would be interesting to hear in what way she might be included or excluded from the world of those who aren't retired.

DrZoidberg
10-15-2009, 06:26 PM
Hey, dude or Doc, I'm 72 and don't feel any different to when I was 22. As Puma states, it all depends upon the individual and their individual circumstances.

Age equals being or acting old or eldery or having problems per se (or vice-versa) just doesn't equate.

Thanks, good to know. But I must say, I'm thirty four and I don't feel remotely like when I was twenty two. Maybe I was unusually immature and silly, but me at twenty was nothing I'd like to experience again.

Are younger peoples assumptions about the above seventies, (and therefore beautiful and handsome) an annoying reoccurring feature? When I was a kid I thought people over thirty were fossils.

BTW, I'm technically a dude, since I'm not a real doctor. Dr Zoidberg is a character I like from the TV series Futurama. He's a very bad doctor.

Puma
10-15-2009, 07:11 PM
I'm with Bufty, although my "point" of not changing is 27.

Here in the states, the majority of senior citizens live in their own homes until death. Some (mostly with more than enough money) live in retirement centers that have all the amenities and options of self-sufficient living. People in centers like that may make new circles of friends, but also will retain their old friends. The centers have options of self-sufficiency, managed care, or even full time care - but places like this are pretty expensive. A few older people with problems go to nursing homes where they can have round the clock care if needed. Those are the ones who suffer most from loss of friendship.

In my frame of reference, everyone has / is staying in their own homes - my Dad was in his until he died at age 91, my husband's mother was in hers until she suffered debilitating illness at 88 (up until then she'd been volunteering to help at the senior citizens center.) My sister and her husband are currently downsizing from a 26 room old inn (they ran a bed and breakfast) to a one story two bedroom at ages 81 and 87. My 79 year old brother and wife live in their home - he has some memory problems but still bicycles and snow skiis. My 77 year old brother and wife live in their own home and travel extensively. With the exception of my brother and father, all of these people have / had exceptional mental accuity.

My husband and I are 65. He's had major health problems (physical), but still does what he wants to do, but on a much cut down basis. I retired this year and have spent 6 or so hours a day while the weather was good cutting out brush, mowing, working in the garden, walking in the fields, etc. I'm very active in community projects - and there's still hardly anything I won't try (but sometimes I feel it in the knees and hips after I do.)

So yes, a bit of the casting "older people" as debilitated and deficient is badly overdone. That help? Puma

DrZoidberg
10-15-2009, 07:21 PM
So yes, a bit of the casting "older people" as debilitated and deficient is badly overdone. That help? Puma

Yes, it does, and I might use it for comical effect! Thanks.

PeterL
10-15-2009, 09:42 PM
Middle age is from 20 to 90. The experience of aging is quite individual. There are people who are falling apart at fifty, and there are people who are in very good shape at ninety. I think that you will have to decide how your character aged; whether at a mere 75 she is a vegetable or a mountain climber.

DeleyanLee
10-15-2009, 10:14 PM
True story:

When I was just out of high school, I assisted my mother in teaching ceramics to senior citizens. This was defined by the center as over 55, FWIW. The range of our students went from 57 to 93, with the majority of them in their early 70's.

They were GREAT. Always laughing, talking, poking fun, and some of them had amazing detail in the pieces they painted/glazed.

There was one woman (the 56 yo) who complained about everything and was such a PITA that she couldn't be bothered to get a jar of paint just out of her reach. Someone had to step 'n' fetch it for her.

Then there was a gent who was in his late 70's who had more vim and vigor (he called it 'piss & vingear') than I did at 19. On a bet, he ran circles around my mom (5'5" @ about 300 lbs at the time--so very round) for 3 minutes before sitting down and laughing his butt off. Mom laughed a lot too.

I know an 80 yo woman who's remodeling her garden herself and laid her own flagstone path by herself last summer.

Aging is a very individual thing. Disease will affect it, but my experience is that the person's outlook matters far more in how they age than anything.

JulieHowe
10-15-2009, 11:44 PM
I know a man in his fifties who ended up living in a senior citizen community because he's low-income and in a wheelchair. Within months, he became severely depressed. I knew someone else who had moved out of this same apartment community six months earlier, for the same reasons.

My observation. Older people with a little bit of money in the bank aren't as miserable as those who are living in the projects. I used to visit my friend in this senior citizen community, and it was full of old bats who complained about everything.

My relatives live in a posh retirement community. They have neighbors - one is 102 - and she still drives, golfs and plays bridge. There are sick people, but they're the type who will drag the oxygen tank with them on the golf course. It amazed me to see the difference in the two communities, and I really think it's all about the money. The racial, religious and ethnic groups were similar in both communities, but the older folks who had some money - and my relatives are not rich, just retired civil servants with decent pensions - seem much happier.

Puma
10-15-2009, 11:51 PM
You hit the nail on the head, Deleyanlee - attitude is everything - you're only as old as you let yourself be.

However, I do agree with JulieHowe that money can play a big part in how content people are with aging. Lack of money bites at all ages. Puma

Chase
10-16-2009, 07:43 AM
Let's see. I'm only 68, so I'm not old-old yet. Yes, the old-old folks I know are 70 and way over . . . like 71 or even 72. After that you're just a vegetable, I've heard. Well, not heard, as I don't hear none too good.

For just old (not old-old), how my day starts depends. I mean I have to change my Depends. After that I push my wheel walker to the kitchen for gruel. Gruel is like runny grits, only cold and no butter. The upside is you don't have to gum it much. By then it's noon and no use leaving the table . . . and since they started putting the buckle on my restraints in back, I often can't leave the table.

More Depends and TV in the afternoon. Love that Opra.

Nap . . . zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz . . . Depends.

Then to bed (which is a lot like the nap, only it's not in a chair).

I sure hope this helps with what expect when you're almost 70.

Chase mutters, " Some people's kids!"

Ravenlocks
10-16-2009, 10:19 AM
Don't write an "elderly" person. Just write a person. Putting labels on characters leads to stereotypes.

Seventy isn't all that old. Many people at 70 are still doing the same things they did twenty, thirty, forty years ago. Some are still in the workforce; I worked with a 70-year-old woman at my last position. Your 70-year-old character will have a richer wealth of life experience to draw on than the young folks do, but she's not necessarily going to seem stereotypically "elderly" unless she's had some health problems.

ETA: Forgot to say that if she's retired she may have noticed she misses working (although I can't imagine why anyone would ;)) and the relationships she had with folks at work. Even if she tries to keep up those relationships, her frame of reference would now be different, and she may not feel as close to those folks as before. She may also be exploring new hobbies or looking for part-time work. Also, some folks get very depressed after retiring and feel their lives are meaningless now.

DrZoidberg
10-16-2009, 11:48 AM
Don't write an "elderly" person. Just write a person. Putting labels on characters leads to stereotypes.


I suspect it's very culturally sensitive which terminology for persons over seventy is acceptable versus offensive. I live in Sweden. I simply translated the Swedish term "äldre" which literately translates to "elderly". It's the phase of life after middle-age. It's a neutral term.

Sorry if I offended anyone.

PeterL
10-16-2009, 04:49 PM
I suspect it's very culturally sensitive which terminology for persons over seventy is acceptable versus offensive. I live in Sweden. I simply translated the Swedish term "äldre" which literately translates to "elderly". It's the phase of life after middle-age. It's a neutral term.

Sorry if I offended anyone.

"The phase of life after middle-age" is after middle age, not toward the end of middle age.

StephanieFox
10-17-2009, 12:49 AM
I sell real estate. I have several clients who, at 50, are looking for one-level living so they don't have to climb stairs. I know some who are waiting until they are 55-years old and can move into active-seniors housing. I have no clue as to why they are assuming that physical and mental problems are a given.

I just had my 57th birthday and spent a couple of days before that climbing around on a rope course, 30 ft. above the ground. If you call me 'elderly' I'd kick you in the shins. I am not an athlete – never was – but I am certainly not ready to be an frail old lady.

Most of my friends, including my husband, are nine or more years younger than me. Perhaps that's part of my staying young, but I think it's mostly my bad attitude.

Oh, the term you mentioned for a sexy older woman, "Puma" is "Cougar" in the US. (I am not one.)

Ravenlocks
10-17-2009, 05:29 AM
I suspect it's very culturally sensitive which terminology for persons over seventy is acceptable versus offensive. I live in Sweden. I simply translated the Swedish term "äldre" which literately translates to "elderly". It's the phase of life after middle-age. It's a neutral term.

Sorry if I offended anyone.
Not the point. I would've said the same thing if you'd asked how to write a young person or a female person or a gay person or a whatever kind of person. Just write a person. Labels lead to stereotypes.

DrZoidberg
10-17-2009, 06:41 PM
I just wanted to say I found an excellent resource for this. I hope it is. It sounds good.

http://www.yale.edu/ynhti/curriculum/units/1983/6/83.06.01.x.html

RJK
10-18-2009, 06:25 PM
My wife and I are in our sixties. She works full time from a home office. I'm retired, but consider writing a full-time hobby. I have arthritis, which restricts what I'm physically able to do, but other than that, I don't feel any different than I did decades ago.
Yesterday, I was presented with some under-the-sink plumbing. I cold only stay down on my knees for short periods and had trouble getting up because of problems with my hips. Today, they ache like the dickens, but it didn't stop me from doing the job.

smoothseas
10-18-2009, 06:47 PM
All I gotta to say to you is... don't blink. In two months, you'll be fifty. Then, in four weeks, you'll be 70. Time flies! That's how fast it goes.

vixey
10-18-2009, 07:08 PM
I'm a happier person at *cough-cough* than I was in my 20's. ;)

Carlene
10-18-2009, 08:09 PM
My "elderly" 72-year-old husband drives a Ferrari. It's low to the ground and hard to get into - so my hubby has told me, repeatedly, that when I can no longer get into the passenger side - he'll trade me in, not the Ferrari!

Carlene

aruna
10-18-2009, 08:29 PM
Thanks, good to know. But I must say, I'm thirty four and I don't feel remotely like when I was twenty two. Maybe I was unusually immature and silly, but me at twenty was nothing I'd like to experience again.


So true. I am 58, and I don't feel remotely the way I did when I was 20, 30, o4 40. For one thing, priorities change. For another, I have made sure that I change and grow with the years. So I feel much better now than I did when I was in my 20's and wouldn't go back for a million pounds.




Middle age is from 20 to 90. The experience of aging is quite individual. There are people who are falling apart at fifty, and there are people who are in very good shape at ninety. I think that you will have to decide how your character aged; whether at a mere 75 she is a vegetable or a mountain climber.


...and attitude is everything. I firmly believe that we are in charge of our own ageing process. I know a man of 65 who looks and behaves like an old, stooped, bent man. He has health issues so he can't help it -- on the other hand, he was his whole life long a pessimist, fearful, a hypochondriac, stubborn, fixed in his ways. As he gets older thise attributes seem to grow only stronger, making him age earlier.

I have a friend who turned 100 last July. She lives all by herself in a house in the French Alsation mountains. She is there all winter, and has no neighbours. A woman comes in to cook and clean for her, and she no longer works in the garden, which was always her passion, and since she fell and broke her hip last year (aged 99) she has a stick to walk with. Apart from that she is as astute, positive, lively, intersted in life, as much as she always has been.

My own mother turned 90 this year. I haven't seen her for several years as she lives on a different continent -- still in her own home, looking after herself, feisty and active in politics as she always was. When I talk to her on the phone worrying about "what she is going to do in her old age" she cuts me off saying she has never had a sick day in her life and doesn't want to go anywhere, and if I were to send for her "you would only put me in a wheelchair". She has no other chilldren, no other family members in the whole country but lots of friends and has always taken care of others. So now, others take care of her and they let me know how she is doing. And that seems to be "OK".

I actually look forward to my own old age, as I feel it will be the very best time in my life. I have great ideas as to where I will be and what I will do, and believe me, they are pretty big ideas!

Ageism is probably the most hypocritical of the "isms" as we are all going to get there one day unless we die; so who are the young to look down upon the old? I am convinced that the way one treats the old is exactly the way a person will age themselves -- with grace and good spirits; or the opposite.

underthecity
10-18-2009, 08:45 PM
I can offer some input.

My father is 72 and has Parkinsons. He's becoming more forgetful as he grows older, has more health problems, walks with a shuffle, has lost interest in pretty much doing everything. It's sad to see happen, especially when he used to do so many things. (He used to be an electronics design engineer, built the house, taught me how to do plumbing, electrical, basic carpentry.)

Then, on the flipside, several friends of mine are in their 70s and 80s. They are more full of life and do more things than friends of ours our own age. And a couple of them are quite wealthy; one owns a growing, custom train set that takes up his entire basement. Another owns at least three 1920s cars and a mansion that has five player pianos in it--two of which are reproducing pianos.

I suppose there is an "average" person in his or her 70s, but it depends on health, level of activity, even finances sometimes.

Barb D
10-19-2009, 01:30 AM
My dad is 73. He still works full time as a computer scientist, plus has a part time job. He runs miles every day, and is incredibly fit.

My mom is 71. She takes care of my 96 and 94yo grandparents full time, but when one of her siblings comes in to visit she gets away and travels all over the place. She has more energy than I do.

Neither of them is anywhere near elderly.

Linda Adams
10-19-2009, 03:52 AM
My grandmother is 93. Now age is catching up to her, but even into her eighties, people often forgot how old she was until she would do something and get hurt. She was constantly going from one thing to another, so much so that everyone called her the Energizer Bunny. She would climb up the stairs for exercise (twelve foot high ceilings, so long stairs)--though she did stop doing that after she threw the laundry over the third railing, forgot it was there, and tripped over it, breaking her hip.

Melisande
10-19-2009, 05:41 AM
One note. The style of this novel is unusual in the sense that it is extremely detailed regarding thought processes and bodily functions. If I don't get it exactly right, it'll be embarrassingly apparent.



My mother is 83, and still as vital and joyful as ever. She lives in Sweden, in her own apartement, does all the chores herself and would kick anyone who'd dare call her elderly.

That said, she often brings her age into the conversation herself; like "Not so bad for and old bag, huh?" after she's done bragging about something she has accomplished, or "I still feel like 25, but I don't recognize the old woman that stares back at me from the mirror each morning."

I've also noticed that she is very keen on reporting on her bowel movements lately. (I live in the US and call her almost every day). I can not recall that she found that to be an interesting topic in her 70's, though. She also reports on how often she blows her nose and other stuff that really is TMI, but I feel obliged to listen.

After she turned about 75 or so, she became almost fixated in talking about death and everything that goes with it; funeral arrangements, the deviding of 'the estate' and such. She also started to seek affirmation for how she raised us (my brothers and I).

She often enough refers to Astrid Lindgren (for anyone who doesn't know - a world famous author, the creator of Pippi Longstocking and other unforgetable characters) who called her sister everyday and they started every conversation with "Döden, Döden, Döden" which freely translates into "the Death, the Death, the Death". Astrid Lindgren explained in an interview on Swedish radio by saying that at her age (she was well over 80 at the time) death had become a reality to reckon with and she felt compelled to recognize it but didn't wish to dwell on it.

Well, Astrid Lindgren had found a convenient way to deal with the thought, without exhausting the topic. My mother does, though. I've learned to live through these conversations, though it is really hard to think about a world without her in it.

I don't know if this helps at all.

DrZoidberg
10-19-2009, 01:19 PM
I've written the first rough draft now. The chapter is in three scenes.

It's Christmas day.

Scene 1: The seventy year old protagonist is at her retirement home in the tv lounge on Christmas morning. She's sitting together with a group of ladies, all waiting to be picked up by their families. They're having a discussion which is to establish that the main character is extremely cynical (she used be only a little bit cynical before) and she's still mentally sharp.

Scene 2: Christmas dinner. She meets her ex-husband (who's the same age and has had a stroke and is aphasic, some minor physical disabilities, but otherwise as sharp as ever). Their two kids are also at the dinner. The dinner plays out as the kids being angry with their mother for not encouraging them enough to do the things that they wanted to do. The father is just trying to change the subject and get everybody to get along, while the mother is full of cynical and cutting remarks. This part is to establish that the kids are criticising them for exactly the same thing as they criticised their own parents for.

Scene 3: Now alone, the two parents (now single) are discuss their relationship, love and some deep stuff about their lives. As the discussion goes, (slides into his ability to perform sexually) they end up going home to his place for sex (for the first time in forty years). Not necessarily love, but fulfilling mutual physical needs. This bit is to tie up all the loose ends from before while also giving a bit of a twist.

This chapter is seen from her perspective.

Any advice or input would be much appreciated.

aruna
10-19-2009, 02:14 PM
Scene 3: Now alone, the two parents (now single) are discuss their relationship, love and some deep stuff about their lives. As the discussion goes, (slides into his ability to perform sexually) they end up going home to his place for sex (for the first time in forty years). Not necessarily love, but fulfilling mutual physical needs. This bit is to tie up all the loose ends from before while also giving a bit of a twist.

This chapter is seen from her perspective.

Any advice or input would be much appreciated.

Speaking for myself, and quite a few post-menopausal women I know, the sexual urge often decreases or disappears altogether as one ages, as a natrural process, and without regret. I know that this is not always the case, but usually when women maintain a high libido in age it's when they're in a long term loving relationship -- it's not so much a physical as an emotional need.

As a reader, I'd view your third scene with a pinch of scepticism and disappointment, wondering if you're really giving it a twist just to get in some shocking "old people" sex. It'd be far more credible to me if they had sex because of an emotional need -- trying to revive some of the kinders of old intimicay, for instance. I know your old biddy is a cynic, but I think showing a softer, more caring side to her would be a better twist that just raw sex. But also more difficult to write.

But that's just my 2c. It's your story...

DrZoidberg
10-19-2009, 03:08 PM
Speaking for myself, and quite a few post-menopausal women I know, the sexual urge often decreases or disappears altogether as one ages, as a natrural process, and without regret. I know that this is not always the case, but usually when women maintain a high libido in age it's when they're in a long term loving relationship -- it's not so much a physical as an emotional need.

As a reader, I'd view your third scene with a pinch of scepticism and disappointment, wondering if you're really giving it a twist just to get in some shocking "old people" sex. It'd be far more credible to me if they had sex because of an emotional need -- trying to revive some of the kinders of old intimicay, for instance. I know your old biddy is a cynic, but I think showing a softer, more caring side to her would be a better twist that just raw sex. But also more difficult to write.

But that's just my 2c. It's your story...

It's a good point. It's a balance, and I'm crazy enough to walk the tight rope :) I'm not actually writing the sex scene. It ends with them leaving for his place in her car. Nothing is explicit, only hinted at. I'm not so sure "old people sex" is shocking? People who get shocked by non-standard Harlequin sex scenes, will probably stop reading after the first chapter. I'm a big fan of realistic depictions of sex, with all it's ugliness, emotional desperation, humour and beauty intact. It was their good sex-life that got them and kept them together initially. So it's not such a stretch that they revisit this.

Getting all the scenes right is one of the reasons I'm posting here. It needs to feel real, or it just won't be any fun to read. Not just the (hinted at) sex, but the whole encounter There's plenty of room for improvement.

BTW, the twist isn't the "old people sex". The twist is that she's spent most of the book criticising him, and then she suddenly has a change of heart and stops trying to find fault in him. He's a pretty passive man, who doesn't really have any ambition or interests other than sports and flaky philosophy he's a bit too lazy to fully understand. But he's very loving, supportive and patient. She has the whole book been competitive and incredibly driven to "succeed". The twist lies in her re-examining her life and rearranging her own priorities, which is quite unlike her personality.

aruna
10-19-2009, 03:20 PM
BTW, the twist isn't the "old people sex". The twist is that she's spent most of the book criticising him, and then she suddenly has a change of heart and stops trying to find fault in him. He's a pretty passive man, who doesn't really have any ambition or interests other than sports and flaky philosophy he's a bit too lazy to fully understand. But he's very loving, supportive and patient. She has the whole book been competitive and incredibly driven to "succeed". The twist lies in her re-examining her life and rearranging her own priorities, which is quite unlike her personality.

Fair enough. Just keep in mind that in post-menopausal women testosterone levels are low and so she is unlikely to feel raw horniness just for the sake of it. Make it something in her/his personality that makes them go off together.

RJK
10-20-2009, 07:06 PM
Life is like a roll of toilet paper - the closer you get to the end - the faster it goes.

Tsu Dho Nimh
10-20-2009, 09:47 PM
I've got nearly all the dialogue and plot worked out. What's missing is those things that makes the reader empathise with being elderly, to understand her predicament, and how it is set apart from being younger. The small things. Since I'm in my thirties I have no idea.

What sort of problems or limitations does your plot need her to have? Tell us that and we'll tell you might work.

DrZoidberg
10-21-2009, 02:43 PM
What sort of problems or limitations does your plot need her to have? Tell us that and we'll tell you might work.

http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=4163126&postcount=29

These are all the limitations there are. Most of the story is when they're 20 years old. Then there's a leap to to 30 years old, and then 40 years. This last, and short, chapter is a 30 year leap in time, to when they're 70.