Aging happens to everyone….if they live long enough. Joints slowly get arthritic, skin turns into a prune, and a bathroom nearby becomes a necessity. I have known women who fight the onslaught of “old age” every step of the way, and more power to them if it makes them happy. Unfortunately the years move on without your permission and even the boors who make disparaging, ageist remarks on the web, when they disagree with a post, will one day face that reality.
In a few short weeks I will be acknowledging the 80th year since my birth and will still be attempting (somewhat in jest) to convince my daughter that I am an old lady. I finally acknowledged that as a reality this year, the tipping point being when said daughter “encouraged” me to get a hearing aid…she was not happy repeating statements that were not clear to my ears, so to the audiologist we went. The visit resulted in my wearing obnoxious ear buds that actually do clarify some speech, but also make items like the water faucet sound loud and tinny! So I now freely admit to old age.
My daughter, however, keeps sending me links to stories of individuals even older than myself doing marvelous things, and points out my daily routine as evidence that I cannot use age as any excuse! Oh yes, my daily routine: feed and water five horses, duck and goose, three chickens, three barn cats, two goats and two sheep.
Turn horses out into turnouts or the arena, clean three stalls, make sure fly masks and fly sheets are on the right faces and bodies. Have lunch with three dogs perfectly willing to share, take a nap, and go ride my horse. Of course there are the normal bits of doing dishes and laundry, and unloading horse bedding and hay bales when necessary!
Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing positive about skin thinning to the point where a small hay scratch draws blood, carpel tunnel from years of office work causes arthritic hands to feel prickly, the wearing out of once flexible joints makes getting out of bed painful and initial steps difficult, and it occasionally dawns on you that the slow disintegration has not only begun, but is well underway!
However, remember the power in positive thinking, and there is the old mantra of “use it or lose it”. I once was tasked with teaching an elderly lady with self limited mobility…60’s maybe?…how to drive her car using controls tailored for disabilities. She could not reconcile herself to the pain she felt every day in her back, and was unhappy that the doctors found no cause. Sadly, she refused to try and ended with both legs amputated because they atrophied. Hard as it may be, and for some it is, admittedly, harder than for others, there is still magic when you keep trying! I hobble out to the barn every morning using a walking stick,
this is discarded as the welcoming nickers come from the barn’s inhabitants. I stuff my pocket with carrot bits and start to work. Before the first hour is gone the most egregious stiffness and pain has receded to a mere awareness of the underlying weakness that is now ever-present. There are soft muzzles to touch and requests for a treat to answer. By the time I return to the house I am greeted by three exuberant canines who are quite ready to share my lunch!
A few years back I woke up one evening in ICU. According to the one witness my horse had suddenly become a bucking bronco (probably an unexpected, acute pain episode) and after dumping me dragged my body and stepped on my arm…hoofprint visible! The ICU doctor informed me that I should never get on another horse…cue laughter! I stated my mantra to this very ageist doctor, everyone dies. He thought I was crazy, I wondered if he gave the same advice to a teen age skateboarder, or a twenty something skier, or any of the youngish or middle-aged athletes and risk takers who showed up in his ICU. Of course I would ride again, just not Java, who was retired and expired of natural causes two years ago. As you can see from the photo below, determination and a lovely daughter, along with a uniquely wonderful horse, proved me right.
Age is not a disease. Yes, it can make one susceptible to certain diseases, and as machines wear out so do bodies. Youthful beauty erodes over the years and joints moan their distress. But the sunsets are still beautiful, the birds are still singing, the roses in the back pasture burst forth with lovely color in the spring. My time on Mother Earth becomes more limited every year that passes, but I can look back and hope those children I worked with grew to have lovely lives, that those adults I taught were able to use what I gave them, that the animals I have saved and nurtured make up for those I inadvertently neglected or left behind, and that I have done as little damage as possible to the people I have known and the planet we exist on. I can also look forward to each day of bird songs and horse nickers, attempt to drink in all the beauty that exists in my world and accept the dark spots as part of life. Everyone living a long life ages, everyone dies. My hope is that we all look back on a life filled more with giving than taking, loving not hating, and face destiny with philosophical acceptance and grace. And please remember, aging is not a disease, it is a progression, and seniors ask only for respect and recognition of their dignity from those who will also age as the years roll by.