Older: Much Better Than Expected

My dad did a lot of things really well, but growing old was not one of them. Quite literally, up to the day he died, he was bemoaning his age and its comparative disadvantages.

“Useless” was how he viewed and described himself, despite my protests, because he no longer could do what he did when he was younger. Dad had been a hardy, outdoor kind of guy who loved hunting and fishing, and his forty-some year career in heavy construction had him outside most days, even in winter.

Now, emphysema, congestive heart failure, and other conditions for which he took twenty pills each day had taken their toll, and he longed for the days when he was “useful,” able to help people and get things done. In his defense, such complaints are fairly common, and it is all too easy to long for days when we felt better.

But I did make some mental notes about his “useless” comments, and resolved to do some things (and begin to think some things) that might help me as I grew older, which, some day, eventually, I hope to be.

The first is to take care of my physical self. Many older adults feel horrible about not being able to exercise because they didn’t exercise when they were younger adults. They imagine themselves out there burning off that second helping of pie a la mode, forgetting that you can’t out-train a bad diet.

Most people don’t enjoy exercise, and don’t have physically demanding jobs, so it’s important to trick yourself into an exercise program. How? Pick an activity you truly enjoy, and work towards it. Mine is bicycling, but there are many more, including tennis, golf, racquetball, and 10k runs. The goal keeps you motivated. Yes, just do it.

The second thing I resolved to do was not to let age sneak up on me. After all, it happens gradually by definition, so why are we shocked at the face staring back at us in the mirror? In practical terms that means not lifting sofas by yourself, making two trips rather than one, and not taking three steps at a time. It’s not that hard to do. You just stop pretending you’re sixteen.

Number three on my list has been not to be too prideful to ask for help. That’s related to point number two, but it’s more than that. It is a mindset that takes reality into account, and a decreased capacity to do a host of things.

As we get older, offers of help may even increase, but we can be too vain to accept them. I try not to be. The man who once owned the house across the street died when he fell off the roof. He probably should have let that handyman clear the gutters. See how this works?

Additionally, there actually are some things to enjoy about getting older, but I’ll save that for next time. I’m going to take a little nap.

“Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say,
‘I have no pleasure in them.'”
Ecclesiastes 12:1

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