Like most of us out here (50% anyway), he is over 65. Actually, he is over 75. He is just entering the ‘mature’ senior cohort of the community. But, it ain’t easy even at his somewhat younger end of the geriatric spectrum. He’s still gettin’ on at gettin’ on. Plenty of time. At 85, he will then join the ‘walking antique cohort’ (WAC’d for short). We already have plenty of those!
(And finally, after that, it is just sorta ‘slow composting’, not really much of a segment. Is it? No one really considers the ‘slowly-composting stage.’)
My ‘neighbour’ ten or so miles away, living on an even more remote island than we do with even fewer people nearby (none), is seriously considering spending winters in a place a smidge more comfortable. By his own admission, “Winters are getting a bit harder.” And, of course, they are. Winters OTG can be a bit grim but it only usually takes a few sunny days here and there to make it endurable and I, personally, think a particularly sunny winter is a beautiful time. Mind you, I am relatively healthy. My friend is not.
I am telling you all this because people often wonder about us aging remote and being relatively isolated. They tend to look at the OTG lifestyle with exaggerated fears, visions of doom and they attribute egg-shell-like vulnerability to anyone over 60. “How long will it take an ambulance to get to you?” (Answer: they cannot and will not get to me. I have to go to them.) But most of what they worry about is simply not likely to happen or even totally true. We are all much stronger than our urban counterparts even when we are sometimes even weaker. Strength is really attitudinal.
But…..well……some of it is also physical. My guy had a major accident five or so years ago. He was left almost non-ambulatory. His body had taken a severe hit and every aspect of it suffered as if he had aged more rapidly than just his years would suggest. A following stroke, a few minor falls and way too many months of reduced physical activity restricted recovery and he was eventually left kinda frail. He still works but is no longer a power, physically speaking. Mind you, he is only frail for being out here where physical demands are common. If he was in the city, he would be almost normal (he still does not need regular professional care, a wheelchair or even a walker. Doesn’t need an oxygen tank, dialysis or major surgery. Not obese. Except for working hard, he is pretty good). He could physically do the Starbucks to doctor, library to friends or pub, TV and delivered pizza lifestyle so much appreciated in the city.
He is now on the cusp, on the fence, on the verge of having to decide if he can still stay out here. And he has decided that he can but just not in the winter. I think he is making the right decision. As he puts it, “Well, I can still do stuff but not so much any heavy lifting or hard work anymore. Winter time always requires hard work from wood-getting, hiking all over the forest and upkeep on the house. I am gonna have to find another way.
“But it is not just the strength required or the stamina, it is the little things like hearing, seeing and, most important, balance. I just don’t have that anymore. And, it is only awkward or mildly difficult when I am on land but, when in a boat, in a storm, in the dark and maybe encountering an accident or a challenge or even just hitting a log, well, then things can start to fall apart rather quickly.
“Last week we were coming down a narrow channel and the current was running at 8 knots or more. It was pretty hairy. Then we hit a log while going full tilt and the entire boat was tipped and we all fell every which way. I bruised my ribs. Of course, being in a small boat (14 feet) was not ideal. Had it been dark or snowing, we might have been really afraid but, as it was, I was left a bit shaken. So, we are thinking of maybe winters away”.
So, there you have it. A 75 year old (and his wife) with all sorts of disabilities hikes through the forest in the winter miles from anyone and heads out to sea in a small tin boat. But they are OK with that! It is only when they hit a log in a cauldron of sea-chaos going through a narrow pass with crazy currents (running like a flooding river) that they decide that ‘maybe’ they should ‘perhaps’ spend winters where it is less dangerous.
He wasn’t sure, tho. Key word: Maybe. They are gonna think on it some more.
I think it is all pretty fabulous. I think it shows courage and common sense. NOT necessarily for their possibly leaving but, rather, for putting that plan as STILL just an option. They are definitely NOT going anywhere this winter. They are still mulling it all over for NEXT winter.
Circumstances can kick you in the cajones, push you down a flight of stairs and then run over you with a pick-up truck a few times but, with the right attitude, all that did for them was to consider their options! That’s great. That’s healthy. There is a real pull, a real yearning for out here. That enduring love of nature, and living the lifestyle, is the real power of being OTG.