Aging overnight, hey, don’t I get any warning at all?

Remember playing Statues as a kid? You crept up on the person who was it but couldn’t move if they glanced at you. Ah, the games of children, first introduction to stress.

Age can be a bit like that. Glance away for a second and kapow, another chunk added into the mix. I still remember the nasty moment I glanced in the mirror and realized I’d inherited my father’s jowls.  I was barely forty at the time, and I’d turned into Deputy Dawg overnight.

Anyway a couple weeks ago I went on holiday and caught a chill on the beach – as only I can – and for a couple of weeks I’ve been resentfully thinking damnit, one long weekend, and the switch flipped and I got OLD. A bit stiff in the mornings, aching in numerous joints, even a little bit deaf after that hellish double flight back.  I finally went sighing to the doctor after a fortnight to see if anything could be done at least about the ears, because I’m now missing out on half the office gossip, and tell you what, I’m nominating that woman for sainthood. She’s a fresh-cheeked thirty-something, she could have glanced at my chart, recoiled, said yes you’re old, what do you expect at your age? And I’d have crawled out of there and ordered a zimmer.

Nonsense, she said instead. You have eustachian tubes dysfunction. You flew with a head-cold, you’re paying the price, and you should be as good as new in a couple more weeks. It will take as long as it takes.

So then I mentioned the stiffness and aching and she pushed and pulled at my legs and tied them into some pretty fancy knots and said nope, no problems whatsoever, you’re very fit and flexible, you just overdid things. Do a bit more exercise and the aches and stiffness will go away.

More? I hadn’t done any since getting back because I was feeling so ollllllllllllllllllllllllllld. So I started again and let me tell you, if you really want to feel ancient and decrepit, do your usual full exercise routine after a few weeks break. But I do feel better, already. Well, stiff and aching in different places, but I remember those places, they do stop whinging if you keep going.

I hope I’ve learned a lesson from this and won’t automatically hit the pause button when the next symptom, real or false, pokes its head up. I could kick myself. I blether on and on about the benefits of exercise and (fairly) healthy diet and forget everything the minute I feel briefly under the weather.

What are you doing, reading this? Get out there and dance!

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Hi ho Silver! guidelines to making your Indian Summer the best it can be

If you remember Silver, chances are you’re a baby-boomer, fifty-plus (plus plus) and enjoying being this age far more than you ever expected. You should. Indian Summer is one of the most unexpected gifts of our lives, and some of us are so taken aback we don’t make the most of it. I wasted the first couple of years, for sure, but now I’m fascinated by all this unexpected lovely sunshine and making the most of it. Check the list below to make sure you are too …

  1. Splurge occasionally. Buy the best you can afford for those you love, but include yourself: treat yourself to something you’ve always wanted to do.
  2. Take pride in your appearance. This is an oddly invisible age, it’s easy to slip into thinking no-one is looking so why bother except for special occasions? Actually, more people are looking than you realize. Haircuts, manicures, good dentistry, make you feel surprisingly good. Ignore the sillier fashion trends, but keep your own sense of style. It’s part of who you are. Your health – ah, now, your health is priceless. Do moderate exercise, eat well and get your sleep. Keep yourself in good shape. Your summer will be the longer for it!
  3. SING.  Sing as loudly as you can, whenever you can. If you haven’t done it for a while, the creaky croak may be a shock, all the more reason to sing more. Fantastic breathing exercise and it will keep your speaking voice strong and vigorous for the rest of your life.
  4. Lovely quote from Mark Twain: ‘I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.” Yesterday has gone, and tomorrow has yet to dawn. Enjoy today, and don’t stress the small stuff. Do a Scarlet O’Hara. Leave it to tomorrow.
  5. You want dogmatic, ask a forty-something! It’s time to outgrow that. We’ve had fifty years and more to learn that no matter how we push, the world continues to turn, but we also should, by now, know that there really is more than one way to look at life. If you aren’t already a convert, social networks – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and so on – can be lively, and you could meet up with long-lost friends. Keeping in touch with what is going on, staying interested, is important at any age.
  6. Never use the phrases ‘I can’t do that any more’ or ‘I’m too old’ or that terrible one, ‘In my day.’ Your day is now . If you really feel it is time to give up physically challenging hobbies like playing squash at league level, or training for Iron Man (and since older footballers are now discovering walking football, are you sure your hobby is too physically challenging?) find new ones. You can travel, hike, cook, read, dance. You can adopt a cat or a dog, grow a garden, play cards, checkers, chess, dominoes, golf. You can paint, write, volunteer at a local charity, become a collector of odd things that fascinate you, discover the joys of model planes, trains, helicopters. Find something you like and have fun with it.
  7. Always keep love alive. Love life, love your family, love your friends, love your neighbours. If you’ve been offended by someone – forgive them. If you’ve offended someone – apologize. Don’t drag around resentment with you. One thing we should have learned by now, it doesn’t matter who was right. I can’t remember who it was said that holding a grudge is like taking poison and expecting the other person to die, but it’s true. Forgive, forget and move on with your life.
  8. We’re in an age of change. Old friends move away, following their own dreams of living abroad, or are lost to you, and the thought of replacing a thirty year friendship with someone new is, yes, daunting. Don’t grimly go searching for new friends. Instead, find new things that interest you. Meetup.com can offer some options you never even thought about before. In the process you’ll meet others who share at least one of your interests. Friendships are like weeds, they grow in the most unexpected places.
  9. If you are a talker, talk less, and listen more. If you are one of nature’s listeners, talk more! A change is as good as a holiday . . . be less critical, more open. Remember your mother telling you if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all? Well, modern conversation doesn’t work that way, but you don’t have to be mean to be funny. There’s a knack to it. So they tell me, anyway.
  10. If you hold strong beliefs, enjoy them, but don’t waste your time trying to convince others. Live true to your beliefs, and respect the rights of others to theirs.
  11. Take no notice of what others say about you and even less notice of what they might be thinking. Let them talk, because no matter who you are and what you do, someone will disapprove.
  12. Laugh a LOT. Laugh at everything. You’re a survivor, you’ve somehow muddled through to reach one of the best times of your life, and you’re being rewarded with this Indian Summer. Enjoy it!

I borrowed a lot of this from my mum’s only surviving friend, who is roaring into her eighties in an extremely inspirational way and who emailed me her Golden Age rules, without telling me who wrote them. If you are the original author, thank you for some lovely stuff, and please get in touch so I can credit you here. And apologies to the liberties I took, converting your 21 rules to a dirty dozen for Silver Age* life!

*Still haven’t learned whether the perfect name for us Indian Summer people has been coined yet.

 

 

Loose like a goose – baby steps back to physical health . . .

Every morning I run round the block. Then I kick it back under the bed.

If you haven’t bothered for years, the very word exercise conjures up flushed faces, aching muscles and abruptly feeling very old and tottery indeed. Of course if you’re already doing tons of exercise, you should go find another blog to read, because this one is not for you. This is a blog for those who are a little annoyed to find they can’t run for the train anymore without getting spots dancing in front of their eyes. Or touch their toes, although frankly if that was so important they would be on our knees. Or fancy the first warning twinges of stiffness.

It isn’t too late to loosen up, because it is NEVER too late to improve your general condition.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s no exercise regime in this sad and sorry world that will turn the clock back and make you twenty again, but without torturing yourself you can add some pretty simple routines to your day and you will notice the difference, and you will want to thank me.  Instead just buy one of my novels, which are about people our age and quite funny, and will exercise your brain as you solve the murder, and we’ll both be happy, because they are very nice to read with your next cup of tea.)

This is a long road, and you can head along it at your own pace, but you will feel a difference from the beginning.

While you’re waiting for your morning bath to fill up, or the shower to get warm, do some gentle warm-up exercises.  Do not push yourself on any of these: no pain no gain is a crock, when you are starting again after a long break!  However, push yourself a little further every day as your muscles loosen.

I swing one arm, then the other, in big circles, forward, then backward. Seven times works for me, for all of these, so I recommend it. Five, ten, whatever works for you.

Who remembers ‘I must I must increase my bust’? Elbows back, elbows back:  elbows back, straighten the arms. Elbows back, straighten the arms. ‘The more the better to fill my sweater’?  I still don’t fill my sweater, despite years of doing this, but I don’t tuck my boobs into my waistband either.  More to the point, it opens your chest, loosens your ribcage, and pleases your lungs very much.

Hands on hips, gentle twist one way, then the other, seven times. Keep an eye on the bath. You don’t want it overflowing.

Lunge gently, keeping your knee directly over your foot, seven times. Repeat to the other side. I pull hideous faces at the same time to work my facial muscles.  The wind hasn’t changed yet.

If your bath is a slow filler, you have time to trot on the spot a bit. Not exactly onerous, but your lungs are suddenly full of air and all your muscles have woken up.

One thing I learned about twenty years back – even if you are bedridden, temporarily or otherwise, if you think the above exercises, your brain sends the same messages and the muscles tauten and loosen. Not, obviously, as much – but there is a health-improving reaction.

Okay, now you’re in the bath (or shower). Roll your head gently. It not only keeps your neck supple, it stops it thickening.

Look over each shoulder.

Rotate your hands clockwise, then anticlockwise. Make a fist, open, close, repeat. Now play an imaginary piano with your fingers.

While towelling off, clench your buttocks, tuck your pelvic area up, release. And, of course, repeat.

Today, tomorrow, and for the rest of your life, remind yourself that there are two things you will never automatically say again. ‘I can’t’ – and ‘I’m too old’.  You probably can, and you probably aren’t.

There’ll be lots more, but that’s for starters.  And yes, you, the puzzled-looking reader with the bulging rippling muscles, I told you to go read another blog. We’ll catch up with you.