Wednesday, February 26, 2020

On aging with grace

I've said for years that I want to age with grace. Now I'm there - aging - and the grace part can be challenging.

I've gotten used to healthcare professionals saying, "Well, this issue of yours is part of getting older." Like cataracts, not-so-good night vision, and sometimes forgetting people's names. I've had these issues for several years now, and I've resolved what I can and more or less accepted what is here to stay.

Now I have knee, back and hip issues, and I am not there yet with being graceful about them.

I've bought shoes with excellent arch support, and custom orthotics for those shoes, and my feet no longer hurt when I walk. That's a good thing.

I've been seeing a physical therapist, Paul, for several months. At his suggestion, I now go down stairs one step at a time, with the bad-knee leg descending first and the other leg descending to the same step. Like a toddler when they're first maneuvering on stairs. It takes longer to get down the stairs now, but my knee doesn't hurt. That's a good thing, too. Every now and then I try my old way of descending stairs, and sure enough, my knee hurts.

In Tucson, where we live in the winter, I have only four stairs to negotiate. In Seattle, where we live the rest of the time, there are 14 stairs. I struggled with them last summer - especially when carrying a laundry basket up and down - so we're remodeling our daylight basement this summer, turning it into a studio apartment for us, while the upstairs is rented out.

My back and right hip is a different issue.  I've realized recently that when I am on my feet for more than a few hours, I'm in trouble. Like last Saturday, when I went antiquing for three hours in the afternoon and then worked a volunteer shift at the asylum seekers' shelter for four hours in the evening. My back and hip hurt for three days, sometimes waking me up at night.

I talked to Paul today. He says I can stretch my back and my hips, and I can strengthen my core (I have exercises I do every morning for those things). But he says I also need to pace myself and honor my body's requests for rest. If I go, go, go - as I have for many years - my body will be unhappy and it will tell me so.

Paul also said the body works best when it is mobile - sitting, then standing and moving around, then lying down, then sitting. Variety. He says antiquing and similar activities (like Costco outings), where you walk a few paces, stop, turn your body to look at labels, walk a few paces more) is the worst kind of exercise. Paul calls it "strolling". That's why you see everyone in the checkout line leaning on their carts to ease their backs. So, starting today, I'm using the timer on my phone to remind me when I need to get up after sitting for half an hour, and take ten minutes to do something else. This practice is  a change for me even though I've known about it for decades. I need to modify my daily lifestyle habits. And I will do that. Because now it's not just a good idea. It's a pain reliever.

It's likely to be several years before I need a knee or hip replacement, and I'm grateful those options are available. Paul said this morning, "Do you know what people did 100 years ago? They went to the rocking chair."

Not me, not yet.

Here's one of the items I bought when I went antiquing on Saturday. It's a reminder to me as I age with grace.


JudyC said...

I'm right there with you on the hip and back thing, though not the knee. I have trouble making it through preparing a meal. I'm finding water aerobics helpful and sort of fun. Problem is I have osteoporosis so I need weight bearing exercise that water does not provide. So I alternate land and water. Sure hope we can avoid that rocking chair.

Meg said...

I just had my annual physical today which included a discussion about how “the parts wear out”. My situation is similar to yours with knee and back discomfort. Am off for an X-ray tomorrow, and have another round of PT in my future. I have gone to exercise classes at the YMCA very faithfully for the 10 years I have been retired, and have always been very healthy. - Did not see this coming, and now have to acknowledge that the years are catching up with me!

ain't for city gals said...

Paul sounds like a good guy you want to have in your corner!

Linda Reeder said...

Yes, and yes, and yes.
I am a self pusher. I don't like to quit until a job is done. I vastly overdid it in the yard this last week, and that left me hurting. I rested Tuesday so that I could manage going to the Northwest flower and Garden Show today. We were gone all day, and much of that time was that worst kind of walking. I hurt often-my legs, my knee, my stiff back. I did rest and made it through, and even had a decent time, but tomorrow will be another day of recovery. I am going down hill way too fast, and so far I am not feeling graceful about it at all.

Olga said...

I hear you!

Starting Over, Accepting Changes - Maybe said...

My knee started hurting a month or so ago. I am still in the denial phase and try to ignore it as much as I can.

DJan said...

You are so lucky to have Paul to help with all these aging problems. We all have them! My ankle is giving me fits these days. :-)

dkzody said...

I love what your physical therapist said, so much so that I copied it and put it on my Facebook page. I have friends who tell me they get their exercise my strolling through Costco. Ha! I've never believed that to be worthwhile exercise.

Joared said...

Who’s grace? (I know, that’s a corny query, but the devil made me ask.), That’s what therapy often requires — changing behaviors we’ve had for most of our lives — so easy to understand and describe, but often much harder to consistently achieve. Keep at it, as sounds like you have the right attitude. I, too, find myself needing to change and adapt to my body having different needs.