Growing Older…and older…and
During the past month, I have not been on my computer much. In fact, I haven’t even been home this whole time. First, I was in New Jersey for my mother’s funeral. Next, I traveled to Texas, where I visited with my daughter-in-law and son, got to see my three grandsons, and managed to get my driver’s license (I had allowed my old one to expire). Finally, I am in Florida, primarily to have cataract surgery so I can drive at night. A friend had offered her home for the procedure, as both her husband and she herself had the identical procedures at the recommended eye institute.
My friend and I are the same age, and her husband is about 4 or 5 years older. They live in a beautiful ocean-side community in southern Florida. A good deal of the population of this community is well into retirement age. I have been getting a good look not only at myself and where I am in the aging process, but also at the different ways people age. What I am seeing is that there is no such thing as “normal aging.” Each person progresses toward the end of his/her life in a manner unique to the individual. For example, I have seen a man in his 90s who is doing remarkably well by my estimation, but who those who know him say has slipped a great deal physically and cognitively in recent months–so much so that his friends are concerned.
So far, during the week or so I have been here, I have met a lot of wonderful and vital individuals who are twenty years older than I am, yet seem to have fewer health issues and much more energy. Others are younger than I, but look and act older (I think–I don’t really know if I look and/or act my age). I have met 90-somethings who look no older than my conception of people in their 60s (that is, my age), and 60-somethings whose skin looks like crumpled and smoothed paper grocery sacks; octogenarians with straight backs and 60-somethings like me who resemble question marks; 70-somethings with acute hearing and those like me who ask a speaker to repeat him/herself three times before understanding (maybe) what was said; over-60s with general outward symptoms of diabetes and 80-somethings with no signs of ever having suffered from any disease.
My point? There does not appear to be any way to predict how each of us will age. It appears that genetics determines whether we can live longer; knowing our genetic affinities may help us to plan our lifestyles to extend both our years and the quality of the later years.
Relating to quality of life, I think I may be behind on modifying my lifestyle. For reasons I will not share, I did not properly exercise after surgeries during the past 10 or 15 years. Actually, make that 20. Had I been physically able to pursue a more active recovery after each major surgery (especially the 3 back surgeries), I would have fewer difficulties with back and abdominal musculature. I am certain of this. However, I also believe it is not too late to make changes in my lifestyle, and I am beginning to take advantage of every opportunity to strengthen this old body while I still have the motivation.
Motivation to become more fit is just one of the reasons why I purchased a Fitbit Charge HR this past holiday season (just over two months ago). I am monitoring primarily my steps, general activity level, overall heart rate, and–something more important to overall health than many of us believe–sleep, especially quality of sleep.
Being away from my physical therapist and having limited access to walking and stretching environments, I have been feeling the effects of a lower level of physical activity. Being away from my own bed has affected both the quantity and quality of sleep. Being away from my physical therapist leaves me too “scrunched” and susceptible to pain to follow through on some of the tougher abdominal and back strengthening exercises, too. These, in turn, make it more strenuous (as well as more painful) to stand up as straight as I would like for longer periods and during evening hours. It is a terrible downward cycle that I am in, and so I monitor steps, stairs, heart rate, and sleep much more earnestly than I would when back home. I am, after all, away from all things familiar.
Thus, I am more anxious to get back home to the island, back to a place where I can feel more comfortable about getting in the exercise program I had nearly “perfected” when I had to pack up hurriedly to attend my mother’s funeral. Soon I will be back to a place where I can perfect my lifestyle modification program.
Okay! Time to get some extended walking time into my day!