Written By: Molly Kavanaugh
“I am deaf. And it’s a huge pain in the neck. And that other four-letter place.”
So begins a blog by Frances Kolarek, who minces no words in telling her neighbors at Collington, a Kendal Affiliate in Metro DC, what she thinks about hearing aids.
“When I suggested to a fellow resident that hearing aids might be a good idea, he said, ‘Oh, but they make you LOOK so old.’ This from a person wearing trifocals and carrying a HurryCane. Look old? Get out your abacus and count. You ARE old. And, you are not ‘hard of hearing.’ You are deaf.”
Frances, who turns 98 next month, is also old, along with funny, well read, a writer, a museum goer and a computer nut.
“I’m on my fourth or fifth Mac now and can put together a three-fold brochure, make up a 12-page newsletter with cropped and sized pictures, stuff it and send it to the printer by e-mail. Pretty good for an old woman, Hanh?” she wrote in an email.
Frances has lived a fourth of her life at Collington, moving there after the death of her husband, Joe. The two met at the Times-Herald newspaper in D.C., where Frances was a reporter and Joe a copy editor. The couple relocated to New York when the Office of War Information hired Joe. Frances got a job at Time magazine as a researcher/reporter, then as a stringer in Prague where Joe was stationed.
“But after Joe was named Press Attaché, Ambassador Steinhardt suggested a conflict of interest, and I quit,” she wrote.
After stays in Guinea, West Africa, Bonn, Germany and other foreign cities, the couple moved back to the United States, and later retired to an island in the Chesapeake Bay.
Beginning to Blog
Once settled at Collington, Frances thought she’d write a book about aging. She began gathering material from newspaper clippings and books, but decided that the “whole aging picture” was changing so fast her book would be outdated the minute it was published.
But not a blog.
Frances started blogging about a year ago, and posts when she has something she wants to share. “A Celebration of Age” is the theme of her blog.
She’s written a couple blogs about sex. “Medical authorities who study the effects of sexual intercourse assure us that it offers only benefits. The danger of stroke during sex is minimal, they say, and it’s good for your heart. Yes. Good for your heart physically and emotionally.”
And more than a couple about the benefits of laughter (“Lighten up and laugh at your ‘old fogy’ tendencies”), and the joy of growing old at a retirement community like Kendal (“Note to prospective residents: Come while you still have the energy to move, adapt and to enjoy this place.”)
And she shares advice.
Advice from Frances
In her 30s, while living in Belgrade (then Yugoslavia) Frances met an American woman in her 80s who was visiting her daughter. The two women got talking over dinner, and like any good reporter Frances peppered her with questions.
“Upbeat about aging, she did admit that the loss of one’s friends through death was a distinct drawback. ‘It can get lonely,’ she said. ‘If I were to give one piece of advice to those facing old age, it would be: Make young friends throughout your life. You are less likely to lose them.’”
“Make young friends! Those words have stuck with me, and I have tried to follow the advice,” Frances blogged.
Several young friends have helped her stay up-to-date on everything tech and others have driven her back to her old D.C. neighborhood for dinner.
Ideas for her blog come largely from her reading materials, which include the New York Times, Atlantic Monthly, New Yorker, Smithsonian, New York Review of Books, and the Mayo Clinic newsletter.
She ended our email interview with her own question – and answer.
“You know what my purpose is? To see ‘old’ replace ‘young’ as a word of envy, a goal to be attained.”
Written By: Molly Kavanaugh