Since the news is so universally depressing these days I’ve abandoned looking at it as a source of inspiration for my return to regular blogging. So I now look for some fluff pieces and see if I can poke a little fun at them. As I read other people’s blogs and they’re out doing all these fun things I can only envy them that they actually have something they’re doing to talk about. I’m not getting much inspiration from my (lack of) activities so I’m reduced to commenting about what others say.
So, in that light, I found a good starting article, 5 Ways Your Body Actually Improves With Age. Since I’m definitely in that “age” category I thought I’d take a look. The sub-title of the post is even more fun, as a pessimistic, to poke at: It’s not all downhill after 50. Oh good, so it’s mostly downhill but not entirely, or as the articles says:
It’s easy to buy into the myth that everything really is headed downhill
Well the easy to buy into part is clear enough but myth is harder sell (am I just imagining my body is falling apart?). But lists are always great to poke at so I’ll just crunch through the list with my comments.
1. You might have fewer migraines.
Not a problem, never had any. But good news for the people who do, if this is true. Of course migraines are now going to be replaced by chronic joint pain, but after all the article is saying it’s not all downhill, so this is something to cheer about.
2. You can probably go longer between shampoos.
The article makes the claim this is due to shrinkage of oil glands, fine assuming it’s true. When I saw the headline my instant reaction was, sure, less hair, less need to wash. I’m getting close to where it’s how dirty my scalp gets, not any hair covering it, that determines my need for shampoos. But score one for the article, perhaps though not for its reason.
3. You’ll have fewer colds.
Now this is interesting, basically claiming you acquire immunity over the years. True, but cold and flu virus are very sneaky at constantly mutating so I’d have to see some science to demonstrate mre immunity. And what about a common counter-claim that overall activity of the immune system decreases with age (or in my case with increasing neutropenia). Well, haven’t had too many colds lately (but then I rarely did when younger) so maybe true.
OTOH, maybe it’s just not being around a lot of people at work or worse around your kids who are walking carriers of infectious diseases. So again maybe true by default. My mother, like many people, believes that cold (low temperature) brings on colds (an infection). Perhaps, cold weather may dry out nasal passages and make them more susceptible to the virus, but most medical opinion of this is simply that cold locks us indoors with lots of recycled air from heating systems and puts us in closer proximity to infection carriers. So maybe in that line the best reason you’ll get less colds is just that, less exposure. OTOH, more than likely you’ll also spend more time in doctors’ offices and even hospitals, filled with other sick people, even better than pre-school as an infection transmission vector. So let’s call this one a tossup.
4. Your teeth aren’t as sensitive.
For me this is true but for a simpler reason, most of my teeth (still got some) are made of synthetic materials mostly on top of root canals. Yep, less sensitive. You could probably achieve this method of desensitizing your teeth, at a younger age, but just a batch of the Hollywood smile enhancing time in a dental office.
5. You’ll feel happier.
Tough call on this one, hasn’t happened for me yet, but maybe I’m just not old enough yet as per this quote from the article:
In fact, the poll showed that 85-year-olds reported greater happiness than they did at age 18. Just goes to show, there’s still plenty to look forward to.
Oh good, only 15 more years to go before I get this benefit. It’s not going to help much, though, that global warming will be much worse and the Repugs will probably have finally killed Social Security and Medicare leaving the 85YO’s out the cold, where maybe they’d hope they’d get bad flu and die instead of the suffering being inflicted upon them so the Kochs can have more money. Oh bad boy, this wasn’t supposed to be about our broken politics, so let’s stick with the fluff.
So I just recently had to deal with my 100YO mother requiring a care facility, which she hates. She tried to avoid it and did so successfully for a while, but after numerous falls and now some chronic illness there really is no choice. In dealing with her (far more upbeat than me, somehow I never inherited that part from her) I watched over the years how her life steadily was reduced, activities she enjoyed in the past no longer possible (sorry optimists, losing vision, hearing and mobility kinda takes away doing marathons). But then simple things somehow got better. After her teeth were gone and she ended up eating the equivalent of baby food she’d smile and say how wonderful the glop was that would probably gag me. Even in the nursing home where she now has to be fed a special diet (really unappealing) she still raves about the food. Good for her! Finding any joy she can is great.
So maybe what age really means is coming to terms with reduced expectations. Remember all those things you were going to do? The time has passed for most of them, so you either did them or you didn’t, but now you’re out of second chances. So your choices and options shrink. Perhaps for a while you’re gloomy about that loss, but then perhaps also learn to value, more, the ones you’ve got left. Maybe a day with only mild pain is a good day.
In my view, watching both my parents (and now seeing myself) aging sucks. Sure it can be better or worse though based on how you can handle it. Today’s elders have it fairly good, the first generation (and probably the last) to have society protecting them with some safety nets. And at least those of my parents’ generation had the hardship of the Depression to teach them to be prudent about planning for old age, plus not too many the Wall Street 2008 style scams to destroy their retirement. But it’s going to be tougher in the future, at least in the regressive U.S., so you’d better plan for it.
Now I face a dilemma. Due to my weight control kick (ample number of old posts here about that) I’m actually, in a few ways, in my best fitness shape ever. Sure when I rowed crew at 20 I was more athletic than today, or even doing a triathlon at 40 my getting-older body could achieve a pace I can’t do today. But I’m lucky, thus far avoiding joint degradation and emphasis on exercise to control weight has allowed me to actually pass my old distance records on walking.
But I know this is going to last much longer, time (and possibly the exercise itself) takes its toll. If I’m not at my peak for walking distance then I’m close and it will be all downhill soon enough. So I want to do a long walk, caught up in the romance of something like the Camino de Santiago, but probably something different than that. Unfortunately I’ll have to do it completely alone and with any form of support and that’s how to manage. Fortunately if I scrimp somewhere else I can afford it. So my age clock is ticking, do it or forever lose the chance and have thre regret I didn’t.
I was generally a bit too conservative (personally, not politically) to do some of the wild, footloose-and-fancy-free things of my generation. Yep, missed out a bit, but I also DID DO things a lot of other people didn’t do. So I don’t have a lot of regrets of missed opportunities. And I think bucket lists are silly, it’s not going to matter when I lay dying how many countries I visited.
But here’s an interesting thing I’ve learned. When you do something for the last time you won’t know it’s the last time. I’ll never go backpacking again and I sure didn’t realize that when I went backpacking for what turned out to be the last time.
So I’ll add a sixth item:
6. Carpe diem. (seize the day). Aging will teach you that you don’t know when something is over. Health issues, financial distress, life’s other curveballs can strike you at any time. If you want to do something, do it now because if you put it off to a better time you may have lost your chance.
So I guess I’d better talk that walk, I’m not getting any younger.