December 20, 2022

Acceptance is The Real Test of Aging

 



Watching (and feeling) my body age is not much fun. Bags, sags, and wrinkles are what I see. A loss of muscle mass means the rear end seems to have left town and the area under the biceps wobbles more than is proper. Thank goodness someone else does the lawn cutting and landscape cleanup.

Even though I go to a gym three days a week, there is no halting the cosmic joke of decay that is my future. Certainly, the time spent in physical activity means that inevitable slippage is occurring a bit more slowly than in someone whose only exercise is using a TV remote. And, for folks with serious medical issues, my complaints seem petty.

But, my point is simple: I must make peace with what is happening. Obsessing about my aging body and erosion of capabilities only leads to frustration or, even worse, resignation. Even if I spent several hours a day on my physical conditioning I may slow the ticking clock a bit, but I am not going to stop it, and certainly not reverse it. 

Recently, Betty was at a physical therapy session. She was wondering if all the work she does with the trainer will have that big an impact. Will she be able to do at least some of what she once did?

I was pleasantly surprised when she reported what the trainer told her: make peace with new limitations and changes in functionality. The twice-a-week PT time plus exercises the other days of the week will not be a magic bullet. As we age we can manage our physical changes so they have less of an impact on our day-to-day. But, it is very important for mental health to accept what you can and cannot do.

That message resonated with both of us. Certainly not giving up, but acceptance of what is possible is one of the keys to aging. Bemoaning the gradual lack of energy and stamina does not help, Make the necessary adjustments and enjoy things as they are, not as you wish them to be. The honesty of the trainer's words were ones we had to hear. 

The amount of money Americans spends on trying to look young and deny reality is staggering. In 2022 Boomers are expected to spend over $170 billion dollars on anti-aging products and procedures.

We have all seen the older man with a comb-over that starts just above one ear, or the woman with so much plastic surgery her face is tight enough to bounce a quarter. We probably all spend some money on vitamins and supplements that most studies show are unnecessary if we have a decent diet and exercise regime. We join a gym, go for a few months, and then stop for a whole variety of excuses.

My hair is thinning and there is some serious scalp showing on the crown of my head (actually, more than just the top).  In fact, my eyebrows and ears show more aggressive hair growth than my head. This is what I am programmed to look like at this stage of my life, thinning hair and all.

Can I bench press my weight? No. Is there any reason I should aspire to? No.

Can I run a marathon? No. Do I want to run a marathon? No.


Is my pulse, heart rate, blood pressure, cholesterol, blood work and lung capacity all good? Yes.

Do I intend to continue to go to the gym for workouts? Yes. It gives me a boost of mid-afternoon energy.

I am learning to accept the reality of the limitations that an aging body imposes on me today. Hopefully, I will be smart enough to do the same as the calendar marches on. 

As Betty's trainer noted, acceptance of what is and modifying what you attempt is so important. Much like the previous post said, aligning expectations with reality is key.

Wise words.

Just walking the dog is often enough

22 comments:

  1. We get old, or we get dead. That's all there is to it. Do we focus on capabilities or limitations? This is the first year that I hired out the snow removal in the yard, a job that used to take me 6 hrs to complete. Now a young fellow shows up with his blade-mounted quad and knocks it off in ~20 min. I still have steps, deck, walkways to do but it's made such a difference to how my body feels. Part of my purpose in this life stage is to look after myself. That includes tending to my physical wellbeing by exercising even when I don't feel like it, knowing that I'll be better for it when I'm done.

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    1. Look after myself, physically, emtionally, and mentally. Mona, you have the answer!

      I remember the first time I invested in a snowblower. We lived in a snowy place and I just couldn't face doing the driveway with a shovel any longer. It seemed like an expensive extravagance, but it saved my back and my sanity.

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  2. This is Chris. Thanks for this post, it was thoughtful. I am going through some vision issues that are difficult to make peace with. Aging is certainly not for cowards.

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    1. I like to remind myself that aging is not for wimps. As you say, Chris, we need courage to accept what is and make peace with reality.

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  3. Well stated. Mom's wise words: "don't be angry about what you can't do, be Grateful for what you CAN do". These words from a woman who asked me to walk her across her home with her walker just 40h before she died "because she could". :-)

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  4. Your mom had it figured out. Thinking about what you can't do is simply wasted energy that could be spent on what you can.

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  5. This is a post whose time has come for me. As Mona says do we focus on capabilities or limitations? During this past year, I realized many of the things you discussed. I'm glad I got my 9,000 around the US in this year. Next year will focus on much shorter trips. I'm pretty sure I got another year of ┬ÁRVing in me, but after that who knows.

    Gotta focus on what I can do now, not what I could do just a few years ago.

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    1. It is a difficult discussion to have with oneself, but a necessary one. Otherwise we run the risk of missing out on experiences still to come. And, there is the possibility we become a grumpy old person!

      Merry Christmas, RJ.

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  6. Can I recommend a wonderful book about aging, our limitations, and thoughts on enjoying and getting the most out of our “later years?” Being Mortal by Atun Gawande. I read it several years ago and got a lot from it, but have been feeling lately like it’s time for a reread.

    Some days I can acknowledge and accept the aging process and the changes it’s bringing (some too rapidly); other days, not so much and this book goes a long way toward putting things in perspective.

    Laura/The Occasional Nomads

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    1. Happy holidays to you and Brett.

      Being Mortal is available at our library. I will put it on hold. I always appreciate a book recommendation from someone whose opinion I trust.

      Aging is not for the faint of heart. I am open to every advantage I can grab.

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  7. It’s Atul Gawande, not Atun. Sorry! Laura ( Happy holidays to you all as well!)

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  8. It's challenging to accept some of the indignities of aging, but overall I feel lucky to be as healthy as I am. My 90 year old mom (a Jack Nicholson fan) always says, "What if this is as good as it gets?" Not the worst motto, I guess. She often ends our conversation with "As good as it gets", and I can't argue. She is in good health (for 90) and still lives independently. One of her struggles has been outliving many, many of her loved ones...parents, siblings, husbands, and one daughter. But as a retired nurse, she's been very clear on what she wants and doesn't want as she ages out. A good role model on many fronts.

    Also have to agree that Being Mortal is a wonderful book.

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  9. A vote for mom' attitude. Raging against the storm is just a waste of breath.

    Another nod for Being Mortal. How did I this book for so long?

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  10. Another good book for any age: Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach. Paraphrased quote from book (because I can't find the exact quote right now): A moment of radical acceptance is a moment of genuine liberation. This seems in keeping with your excellent post.

    Also, I find that NOT accepting reality is just too exhausting to keep up.

    And of course, the Serenity Prayer is always a good reminder to accept what we cannot change.

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    1. The Serenity Prayer should be required memorization. In just a few sentences it says it all.

      BTW, I have just started reading The Untethered Soul.

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    2. That's great. It's about time for me to reread it, so we can talk about it later!

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  11. Well said! I've been doing chair yoga, which is mostly a fancy name for lots of stretching. No huge changes, but all of the sudden it's easier to put socks on! Small victories.

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    1. My physical therapist gave me several chair-based exercise for my hips and knees. They are working.

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  12. I heard someone say once... "When you are under 50 and you hurt something it gets better. When you are over 50 and you hurt something you have to live with it."
    Fifty might be a little bit young to say that but it's not far from the truth.

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    1. 50 is a bit on the young side. In my case I really didn't notice things like stiff joints or bursitis until my late 60s. Even now these problems are mostly irritants, not major hurdles.

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    2. I agree with you Bob but as I am in my late 60s (for one more year) I find the saying more and more relevant. Still mostly irritants but they no longer go away like they used to.

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