Aging and Changes in Physical Abilities ~~ The Journey ~~ 12
This is chapter 12 of a 16 chapter series, written by sixteen hub authors of varying ages, backgrounds, and life experiences. A new chapter will be published each weekday by another author and linked to the previous and next chapters at the bottom of each hub. Additionally, there is a list of all The Journey chapters published to date just before the comments section at the bottom of the hub. Enjoy!
"By speech first, but far more by 'writing,' man has been able to put something of himself beyond death. In tradition and in books an integral part of the individual persists, for it can influence the minds and actions of other people in different places and at different times: a row of black marks on a page can move a man to tears, though the bones of him that wrote them are long ago crumbled to dust." ~~~ Julian Huxley
A Look at Aging
“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now.” ~~~ Rainer Maria Rilke
"The great events of world history are at bottom, profoundly unimportant. In the last analysis, the essential thing is the life of the individual. This alone makes History; here alone do the great transformations take place...in our most private and most subjective lives we are not only the passive witnesses of our age, and its sufferers, but also its makers." ~~~ Carl Jung
Introduction ~~~ We would all surely live very different lives if our years were unlimited, if they stretched out before us with no end in sight. Sometimes we begin to adjust or re-prioritize our goals and lives when we realize that more than half of our allotted years are now behind us. This reckoning and rearranging of one’s life is not based on fear or trepidation, rather it is founded upon the realization that in every life there are opportunities for good choices, better choices, and best choices.
Culture, society, the demands of family (who are well meaning) and earning a living often pressure us to choose the good, and this is not necessarily bad. But aging, more importantly, "aging well" may mean that we have the time, the resources, the wisdom to set the “merely good” aside in exchange for what is “better, even best.” When and how those choices are modified and altered will probably be different for each of us, but hopefully, shifting our attention and energy from the good to the best is something we will all endeavor to do more and more as the years go by.
The Question ~~~~ For all of us growing older involves a diminishment or compromise in our physical abilities or it eventually will. That leads us to consider that our lives do not stretch out before us endlessly. How do these realities affect the way you live?
ThePianoGuys ~~ cover ~~ Rolling in the Deep (Adele)
"I have enjoyed greatly the second blooming.... Suddenly you find - at the age of 50, say, that a whole new life has opened before you. ~~~ Agatha Christie (1890-1976)
"Friendship is not a reward for our discrimination and good taste in finding one another. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each of us the beauty of all the others." ~~~ Clive Staples Lewis
Her answer ~ I’m powerfully motivated to stay ‘capable.’ I live alone, relying on my own capabilities, so they require realistic attention. I’m going for 100 and wish it to be a vigorous time of my life. This means DOING certain things NOW. Things done for health and vitality at 80 already require attention.
Obviously, I’ll not be growing younger, so this is a great age to be with enthusiasm, and no meds or chronic illnesses. Just lucky? Not really. I was born & remain half blind. My bones were fragile: broke if I slipped on a wet sidewalk in my youth; - I had plenty of broken bones. At 24, varicose veins were worse than the doctors had seen in anyone of any age, requiring ‘stripping’, a procedure leaving pain and problems in its wake. I endured bad consequences of poor decisions & circumstances. In other words, it’s been an ordinary life. But awareness, endurance, triumph and a modicum of wisdom are its legacies. The lessons learned to choose better are working. It’s a reality-conscious way of life and the way I live mine and will continue to live it while it continues.
His answer ~ I do not consider that the diminishment of my physical body tells me that my “life” does not stretch out endlessly. My belief is that the spirit within each of us never ends and that everything we do here ads to the great body of knowledge and experience that is the universe. So, having this belief I do not consciously change the things I do physically, but of course there are things I cannot do as I age physically. As this happens, I continually seek new things to keep busy, and seek knowledge that I can share with those following.
His answer ~ I have been fit most of my life up until 50 years old. It's then that I had to compromise by watching my diet and my consumption and intake of unhealthy food and drink. I've felt the most part of aging with the soreness of certain joints and therefore had to address that issue. I have cut back on certain exercises and increased with moderation on others. I find watching what I place inside of my body is beneficial indeed as well as certain vitamin intake. I don't worry about my health, I simply become pro-active about any aches and pains and work on decreasing them. I LIVE my life with a positive attitude and that certainly helps me get through each day. I find most problems with the elderly starts with their thinking and how they react to any mental or physical problem they may be faced with. Staying POSITIVE is critical to better health.
Her answer ~ A 2004 accident left me with physical challenges, forcing me to think about a future that arrived before I was ready, bringing early retirement and significant lifestyle changes. I selected a durable power of attorney and prepared my living will.
For months I went through a mourning process. Pity party over, I became pragmatic. Long self-sufficient, I had to learn to accept help gratefully. Fortunately, my situation grew no worse, and some aspects improved.
I’m blessed to have family living nearby, including a son who cheerfully does outdoor chores and repairs to “this old house.” Downsizing to a condo or apartment is in my future, and I’ll welcome less space to maintain. When my doctor recommends I stop driving, I won’t protest. Acceptance of change is the key to “getting on with life.”
Increased longevity means many of us may need assisted living arrangements in later years. I accept this possibility in advance, and my wishes are in writing. Advance preparation makes such transitions easier on families, and that’s important to me.
"It is only by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure. The very cave you are afraid to enter, turns out to be the source of what you were looking for." ~~~ Joseph Campbell
"It is a mistake to regard Age as a downhill grade toward dissolution. The reverse is true. As one grows older, one climbs with surprising strides." ~~~ George Sand (1804-1876)
Her answer ~ The reality of diminishing anything is a rude awakening. Some of the physical things you did just a few years ago are still doable but much more difficult. It seems each ten years of life you lose a little of something. When this happens you start to realize, "Hey, I'm human and I'm getting older!" (I refrain from using 'old' cause old is a state of mind.
Knowing that time is bringing us closer to our creator gives pause to how we are living our lives. I want to make sure that all my loved ones know I love them. To me, that is the most important. I make sure I say "I love you" every time I say goodbye. The rest I can deal with. Instead of five mile hike, it's just a three mile hike, instead of roller-blading around the neighborhood, it may just be a block or two.
As physical things get more difficult, reflection takes it place. We reflect on what we've done and what we still have time to do. We become more caring and more aware, so I guess my answer to this question would be the affect on my life is to become more loving and more reflective.
His answer ~ Karl van Bonstatten (1745-1832), who lived a good long time for his era, said: "To resist the frigidity of old age, one must combine the body, the mind and the heart - and to keep them in parallel vigor, one must exercise, study and love."
The reality of aging is something we all live with, but as the years go by, there is no avoiding the reality that our physical abilities will eventually diminish. I deal with that by eating a healthy diet, exercising as regularly as possible, and I have taken various vitamin supplements for over thirty years now. I joke that I owe my continuing good health and vitality to black coffee, red wine and vitamins, all of which I have some of daily.
I keep a copy of The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock, by T. S. Eliot handy and read it regularly. When I see that line about "how his arms grow thin," I grab my weights and do some curls.
"Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter." Mark Twain (1835-1910)
His answer ~ If I could have looked in the mirror 20 years ago and see myself as I am now, I would probably say, "Tom, you should have taken better care of yourself." I am far more worn out from work when I get home these days. I do a lot of physical labor but I love working with my hands. I take pride in my work.
Retirement just doesn't fit who I am. Even if I hit the lottery, I would still work in some way. I climb ladders almost every day in my current job. I climb a bit slower now but I make it to the top just fine. Over the years, I've learned to deal with stress in different ways. As a younger man, I lashed out at the world. Now I sit back and try to understand...then lash at the world, a little gentler.
I've tried to picture myself at a hundred years old. A tired old man who was ready for death long before his hundredth birthday. I ran through the gauntlet of life in my youth. The gauntlet has changed now that I'm older but my determination hasn't. I've become less tolerant of intolerance and more tolerant of my own failures that haunted me for years.
The reality that I'm growing older doesn't bother me much. Little fears run through my mind occasionally like Alzheimer's, dementia, cancer and other life destroying diseases. I have a greater fear of being a burden than of dying. I often choose bliss over brains for the sake of my sanity. I love the peace of life and I do enjoy the fruits of my labor.
I've tried living day by day and I could do so if I wasn't so obsessed with the whole picture of my life. I see the sweet faces of my wife, children and grandchildren, wondering how their lives will change without me. I will live on in their hearts....maybe there will be no change at all? Love is endless.
Her answer ~ Accepting limitations is not easy. There are some things I'm not going to do in this lifetime no matter how much I may wish it otherwise. However, there are compromises I can make and indulge my younger self who still lives within this aging body. It's true that I will never be a prima ballerina but I can play the music and dance in my living room. I can go to an evening ballet class structured for all ages and yes, there really are such things. The question I must ask myself is whether or not this is of paramount importance to me. It is time to prioritize because there are only so many hours in a day. Do I really want to go on that photography trip to Guatemala and how much am I willing to sacrifice to make that happen? Do I want to learn a new language? Jump out of a plane? These are the things I ask myself but when all is said and done, what I want is a little house by the sea where I can write a novel and curl up by the fire in the evening with a good book. Instead of finding all the reasons why I can't possibly do that right now, I decided to make it happen. The house is waiting for me and I am driving 3000 miles to fulfill a dream. By the time this is published, I will be there.
"Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful you let other people spend it for you." ~~~ Carl Sandburg (1878-1967)
"We must strengthen, defend, preserve, and comfort one another, We must love one another. We must bear one another's burdens, We must rejoice together, mourn together, labor and suffer together." ~~~ John Winthrop
His answer ~ Honestly, if I allow it, I get severely-depressed at knowing that "I" cannot run with my grandchildren because of this "beast," Accelerated Fibromyalgia, and do other things with him and his sisters, who are truly "gifts" of God. I can only work to remain focused on what I 'can' still do like verbally-encourage them and coach them in teachable moments. Do I feel good all of the time? No. Can I live with the feeling-less changes that come over me that affect my body and emotions? Yes. A moment at the time, for strength is not measured by one heavy lift, but several small lifts.
Her answer ~ I don’t know when exactly it happened, but at some point it dawned on me. I have fewer days left than the number I’ve already had. It does change things. If my husband and I can pool our pennies and go on a trip, we go. We can fix the roof when we are too old to travel. We aren’t guaranteed good health, so we are not going to take it for granted while we have it. The kids all got their college educations, and now that is done, what else really matters? We feel a freedom to choose our financial priorities now instead of the way they are pretty much set for you when you have a young family. In this economy we’ve felt compelled to be a financial safety net for our grown children, but I think we can to do less of that as they are standing more on their own. I believe you should always have a dream, but over the years, they do get pared down some. If I’m going to become a world renowned author, you know what? I actually have to write something. So I’ve made writing a priority instead of just a sideline activity. Maybe I would have sooner if there had been a HubPages twenty years ago!
His answer ~ The evidence of my diminished physical capacity is a clear reminder that I am a mortal and finite being, whose days on earth are numbered. This physical evidence in conjunction with the Biblical reality that “It is appointed for a man to die once, and then the judgment”, gives me a sense of urgency to do as much good as I possibly can and to love the Almighty with all of my heart, soul, and mind.
Because I know that death patiently awaits and that judgment lies just beyond the grave, I know the things I do while I live on earth will be the basis of my impending judgment. I know Jesus will be my advocate before His Father’s throne, so anyone who reaches out to embrace Him in this life, will be in good hands in the life to come.
My answer ~ We are growing older, that is for certain. Knowing that, I try to make wiser choices, distinguish between the urgent and the important, the good and the great. That means being more selective about the responsibilities I accept, more cautious about additional duties. I spend less time straightening the house and more time with family and friends, having a good time and messing it up. Surprisingly, I find that I read fewer new books, but find myself re-reading older ones that have been particularly meaningful at some earlier point in my life. I listen more and interrupt less; my opinions and judgments are not as important as I once thought. Great, beautiful, and inspiring music, although, always important to me, has taken center stage in my life, along with language which nourishes my heart and soul.
I am still curious about everything, but not everything deserves my full attention. Thankfully, it has become less necessary, that what I say receive everyone’s full attention; I am still working on maintaining a healthy, but not overweening ego. I have a practice which may seem depressing to some, but does not depress me; it helps me prioritize and maintain balance and is very freeing. Now, before I make an important decision or begin a new project, I ask myself, “If I only have five more years left to live, do I want to spend them doing this?” Then everything becomes exceedingly and abundantly clear.
The String Quartet ~~ cover ~~ Clocks (Cold Play)
"To keep the heart unwrinkled, to be helpful, kindly, cheerful, reverent - that is to triumph over old age." ~~~ Thomas Bailey Aldrich (2003)
"Perhaps one has to be very old before one learns to be amused rather than shocked." ~~~ Pearl S. Buck (China, Past and Present, 1972)
His answer ~ Great question. I think it's like a forced shift of focus for us from the physical to the mental/emotional. We're more physically strong when younger and more mentally (and hopefully emotionally) stronger when older. I have friends who still carry a wistfulness of youth with them as they age - the "glory days" mentality. I don't criticize, even though I don't understand why someone would live in yesterday instead of today. I like to understand, and I like to be prepared. So those combine to create a curiosity for me about aging and death. I'm not afraid of and I look forward to both. I'm not trying to hurry them along, but as they creep toward me, I'm going to smile and peacefully accept them. So I ran my first marathon last year, to prove to myself I could do it, and because I know as time goes on, that will be a harder and harder goal. In my sunset years, I plan to devote more and more of my time to writing and intellectual pursuits, which match up better with physical decline.
His answer ~ One day at a time is how I live my life. As I wake up each morning, I utter a prayer of thanksgiving for another glorious day of life. As I place my head on my pillow each night, I thank God for His grace in granting me another day of sobriety. I recall my childhood bedtime prayer as if it were learned just yesterday:
“Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord, my soul to keep.
And if I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.”
During my waking hours, I drink the savory juices of an abundant life. My ears are tuned to the music of God’s symphony. My eyes are open to the many miracles of God’s creation and His presence. My hands are extended in readiness to be of service to others and comfort them in their trials. My feet dance daily the jig of joy which I have been blessed to feel. I live life as if each day is the last.
"Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards." ~ Soren Kierkegaard
His answer ~ At age 76, I realize these things more and more. For most of my life, I've been an avid hiker and quite active in other ways. I live in the Northwest and spend times in and around Mt Rainier National Park and on the Olympic Peninsula. In recent years, my head has told me I can still climb mountains. Then my body says, "no way". Hip replacement, major back surgery, and other ailments have entered into the picture. I still hike, but at a much slower pace and with a different (senior) group. Probably when I was in my 20's and 30's, it seemed that life stretched out endlessly. I had four sons and was quite involved in their activities. We hiked, camped, traveled, and generally lived the good life. I've blended into the aging process such that I enjoy it even with decreased physical abilities. I like being able to relax more and I like the slower pace. It is also such a pleasure to watch your children grow and develop and have their own children. I have ten grandchildren and a new great grandson. I have no desire to keep up with them and like being the grandpa figure.
Of course, I don't like the aches and pains that come with age, but this is a great time in life. We're all going to pass on at some point, but we sure don't want to dwell on that aspect. There is so much to enjoy today.
His answer ~ The wonderful thing about growing up is that we progressively let go of trivialities, things that don’t really matter and we give more attention to the things that do. I suppose it is like a natural theory of conservation. I have less fuel, but, I’m not going as far. There is less waste at my age, because my car doesn’t accelerate as fast, it doesn’t go as far and it doesn’t carry as much baggage. However, a well planned excursion, with the top down, my gal in her seat and some cranked up tunes, still provides me, one hell of a ride. As most of you know, I am a natural at nap. I discovered long ago that it is a gift and its occasional employment lengthens both my day and my attention span. The nice thing about driving at reduced speeds is that you actually see where you’re going. If you go real slow, you can simultaneously see where you are, where you’re going and where you’ve been. No wonder I’m tired. You try being in three places at once.
"In spite of illness, in spite even of the arch-enemy sorrow, one can remain alive long past the usual date of disintegrating if one is unafraid of change, insatiable in intellectual curiosity, interested in big things and happy in small ways." ~~~ Edith Wharton (1862-1937)
Das Ende Isvada Conclusio’ Wniosek L’extremite’ Casgliad Sonuc
"In all of our lives, it is ultimately the Journey, not the destination that matters. Many destinations are never, can never be, attained; sometimes the days and years of the Journey are all we have. Lived purposely, wisely, joyously, the Journey will surprise us and be more than enough." ~~~~~~ Theresa Ast (1996)
Conclusion ~~~ Time can be viewed as an implacable enemy who robs us (but this is neither constructive nor slows the passing years), or time can be embraced as one of our dearest friends who reminds us to choose wisely, to embrace life fully in all its vagaries and imperfections, to hold family and friends close telling them often how much they mean to us, to marvel at the Creator and his infinitely inspiring and breath-taking creation, to explore new and wondrous things by traveling across this amazing planet we call home or by traveling inward to discover and appreciate the things of the heart, to make peace with less than stellar choices made long ago, to revel in music and art and design and beauty, to appreciate language, the words of others, and even the words we are fortunate and blessed enough to pen ourselves. Selah.
The sixteen authors who participated in this series, The Journey: A Look at Aging, all have two things in common: 1) all are fellow Hubber-writers, and 2) all are 'of an age' which qualifies them to speak first-hand on the subject of Aging. We're not all at the same stage in the aging process. We are in our fifties, sixties, seventies; one of us, Nellianna, who compiled our fist chapter is eighty. We are a cross-section of real people with varied life-experiences, willing to share some thoughts with you about our lives, and the aging process as we understand and have experienced it.
PREVIOUS CHAPTER: The Journey: A Look at Aging ~~ Chapter 11
Question: “If you could write a script that described your life, what was its driving force or the principle which gave you direction. Is it what you want to be remembered for?" http://cjsledgehammer.hubpages.com/hub/The-Journey-Chapter-11
NEXT CHAPTER: The Journey: A Look at Aging ~~ Chapter 13
Question: “What was your most important, fork - n - the road - moment? With the wisdom that comes with experience, would you make the same choice? Why or why not?“ http://gerg.hubpages.com/hub/The-Journey-Chapter-13