Friday, 24 October 2014

What's realistic and what's just modern pressure?

Sometimes the media is a curse, and especially social media. It shows me things I don't want to see. Like 80 year old women doing advanced gymnastics on double bars.

It's starting to irritate me as I'm getting a wee bit sensitive about my aging and each day I wake up wondering if I'll be able to do what I had to do or wanted to do yesterday, today.

No, I'm not being morbid. Quality of life, being able to do the things that really matter to me is getting difficult, if not impossible and like so many of these sorts of issues, the media isn't helping. Nor are those folks who say one must just accept things and be grateful and that we are healthier than our parents and so we should be cos the modern world makes it possible. Life expectancy could be beyond 120 years in the near future. Really?

I've noticed an increasing tendency for TV and Facebook to disseminate videos of elderly people who seem to be eternally youthful, capable of marathons and gymnastic marvels and, of course, everyone admires them as some sort of role model. Magazines are full of happy smiling retired people leading full energetic lives and life just goes on, and on like this... apparently.

Facebook had the effrontery to put one of those links to an article that said anyone can get back the muscle strength they had when they were 30. It just takes the right sort of effort. Really?

I think that the media paint a picture that is not that realistic. We are told we can have the muscles of a 30 year old if we really work at it. They don't say that the bones and ligaments won't support that. This insistence on being eternally youthful baby boomers and how we are so much more youthful than our parents isn't easy to swallow. I know I'm more active than my parents were, who never exercised for health, but the reality is I've made much more effort than they ever did yet suffer the same, if not more pain (due to years of effort to stay' healthy') but I feel under much more pressure than they ever did to 'stay young' and I have to work a lot harder in life just to get by, than they, my parents, did. 

You're only as old as you feel - ha. My brain 'feels' eternally young though in practice it's much less supple than it was and just won't memorise like it used to. That's why older folks like me find it hard to learn a new language, that and the fact I'm becoming deaf and can't hear the words much of the time, but the rest is a big disappointment. 

My mother has dementia. I suppose she's forgetting what she's missing. She's a real face of aging. My best friend has prostate cancer and major problems even walking. He's had to buy a special chair just to minimise the pain of sitting still or standing up. Is this the real face of aging? It's worse than I imagined but it's staring me in the face. It doesn't match up with the image.
There's such a gulf between what a few well-gened individuals can do and the rest of us. If effort and determination was all it took, lots of us would be gardening for 6 hour stretches, dancing on stage, carrying our suitcases without much effort, running across the road (remember running?).

Regularly I'm faced with people around my age who struggle to do the basics, like put on their own shoes. Folks who've had their anus removed by cancer, have had to give up all their beloved hobbies no matter how sedentary they are, because of pain and degeneration. Most of my own daily pain is a result of my efforts to stay fit and youthful by gym workouts, yoga and dance in the past. I'd probably have had less musculoskeletal problems if I'd been a couch potato.
My sports doctor once told me, "Frances, there are two types of people; those for sprinting and those for marathons. You're a sprinter. That means nature designed you to be very flexible when young, fast to escape being eaten by sabre-toothed tigers. Now you're middle aged nature doesn't need you to to be like that, you're surplus to reproductive requirements so your collagen has made a rapid exit, and arthritis and tendonitis have made a grand entrance." He's probably right. Some women don't have such a rapid loss of collagen and other post menopausal problems. My mother is an example of that but she was content to be overweight and do no exercise at all.

Any sort of real exercise results in faster deterioration but is it just me or is there a wall of silence out there where the truth is not spoken, where we're supposed to be age-defying boomers. Even that word age-defying on the pots of skin cream says it all. Are we just being defiant? It'll all be rather pointless in the inevitable end.

There will always be individuals outside the norm who can do things the rest of us cannot but my beef is with the pressure and 'expectations' put out there of what aging is all about. Who's telling it like it is? 

I don't know what to expect of myself. I don't know what's normal because each body reacts differently to life but my generation seems to expect or believe they won't be nodding off in an armchair in the afternoons, or avoiding kneeling down to pull a few weeds. Those problems are for old people, not those of us aged somewhere after 50 and less than 90.

On a forum this week late-middle-aged and elderly members were discussing what to do about dead bodies, funerals, can we 'go' eco-friendly, that there's a product in development that will reduce us to non-toxic atoms quite ecologically, being developed. We'll need it, with all us age-defying elders popping off on mass in the nearish future - no room for traditional send-offs in future I suspect.

These photos are of me celebrating being youthful through my life when I was aged 9-57. I wish I'd done even more physical stuff before I was 35.

I know there will be many readers who will disagree with this post but I'm wondering what losses are acceptable and which ones we need to keep battling. I'm losing what's important to me; the ability to fall down and get up again, waking up refreshed, gardening, playing musical instruments, dancing, getting out of bed within 3 seconds. How do we deal with loss through aging? So far aging has not provided the compensations some people say exist.


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