Another Aspect of Aging: Lessons learned in My 80th Year

| January 5, 2020 | 0 Comments

A year ago, I wrote an article about how much fun and how interesting it is to grow old. I still believe that, but I have learned that the veracity of that statement tempers as time goes on. My current belief is that as long as the body cooperates, the sky is the limit. Sadly, the body doesn’t always cooperate.

            Here are some drawbacks that are real dampers:  hearing.  If you cannot hear, you feel left out. You have no idea what the conversation is about, or you think you do and make a totally inappropriate remark. Either way, you feel isolated and frustrated. You begin to suspect people think you are “losing it,” as someone so tactfully pointed out.

Another damper is sight. As long as you are able to have cataract surgery or wear corrective lenses, this is more an inconvenience than a real handicap. Nonetheless, if I couldn’t hold a book in my hand while devouring every word printed on its pages, I am certain I would go mad. I am lucky in that myopia allows me to read with my naked eyes. If I want to see a movie, a play, a wedding, or a grandson’s sporting event, I need glasses. Actually, binoculars would be better.

Most old folks still have a good sense of smell and touch. What becomes harder is fluidity of movement. I have never been very athletic; I loved horseback riding and skiing and had little use for other sports. I loved walking in New York City and in San Diego; the steep hills such as Bandini and Torrance made my legs feel great. I took for granted the ability to run up and down stairs, to bend over to pick something up, to leap up from the floor; I only realized these activities were becoming less frequent when, late for an appointment I dashed into a building to catch the elevator before it left.  Somehow, I slid across the lobby on my side like a baseball player stealing second base. A nice woman held the elevator for me. “Are you all right?” she asked me.

“I’m better than all right,” I replied looking around me.  “This is the first time in possibly 20 years that I actually got up from the floor without planning every step! I’m great!” It was, sadly, the last time I changed levels so rapidly.What I have realized in this, my 80th year, is that enjoying one’s age becomes more complicated as bodily systems break down. To move the way you once did, the body requires more effort.  That ease of motion may never return. 

What I have realized in this, my 80th year, is that enjoying one’s age becomes more complicated as bodily systems break down. To move the way you once did, the body requires more effort.  That ease of motion may never return. 

Apparently, arthritis begins in many people at age 20.  I know I have had it in every joint for at least 50 years.  I never noticed it until last February.  Fortunately, my HMO was prepared to deal with my issues (which affect people who are young as well!) To mitigate the symptoms of old age (or diseases such as fibromyalgia which I don’t have), I was sent to physical therapy, acupuncture, exercise, and was given an epidural.  Still the discomfort remained.  In fact, the more it hurt, the less I did, which led to weakness, which led to more pain.

Finally, my HMO sent me to a pain management class run by pain psychologists and a physical therapist with extensive experience in pain management. The class has not only shown me that I have been and still am extremely lucky physically, but it has also taught me ways to alleviate pain.  We are learning fascinating facts about pain and how and why it manifests itself as it does. 

Most important, we are learning is that moving is essential.  Stand up if you’ve been sitting.  Stretch.  Walk around.  Change activities.  Pace yourself.  Do one chore for a short period of time.  Go back to it after you have done something else for a while.  This keeps the body parts from getting stuck in one position.  (If you don’t run your dishwasher, it will break!)

When you are old, everything takes more time—getting dressed, fixing a meal, doing most things.  It also means forgetting things.  Punchlines disappear easily, but that has been true for me forever.  I have always had problems finding my car in a parking lot, but age has taught me to note its location carefully, and even though my current car doesn’t honk to tell me where it is, I seem to lose it far less often than I did my cooperative Prius.

I am learning to accept the drawbacks to aging and to conquer or learn to adapt to them.  While I may have several physical issues, I am doing something to mitigate them. Between water exercise and following what I’ve learned in pain management, I am learning that I can adjust to accommodate my body and I don’t have to sacrifice having a terrific time while I do.  Getting old is still fun!

As we age, exercise becomes even more important and beneficial to our physical and mental wellbeing.

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Category: Health & Fitness, Life Style

About the Author ()

Barbara Strona is a native Californian who grew up in the Mid-West and Los Angeles. She and her architect husband, Carl, came to San Diego in 1968 and have lived in Mission Hills since early 1971. Barbara received a Bachelor of Arts from Scripps College with a major in English, and a minor in Art. She attended UCLA graduate school and received a General Secondary Credential. She taught English in Los Angeles, Pennsylvania, and at Point Loma High School. She has been a Realtor specializing in residential sales since 1984. Her passions include her job, reading, writing, foreign languages and foreign countries, animals (feathered or furry), theatre, and her family: husband, two adult children and two grandsons.