If you Google “old age and routine,” you get only two relevant returns: one I wrote in 2008 and another from the Telegraph from 2011.
I did this search after reading a comment from Mary Follett a few days ago at The Elder Storytelling Place:
“I work 3 days a week,” said Mary, “and notice lately if my days get switched, I am off my feed, so to speak, for a week.”
Me too, when my general routine is disrupted. Here's a part of what I wrote in that post nearly five years ago:
”Careful organization might appear boring to many, but it keeps me moving. I alternate brain and physical tasks during the nine or ten hours a day that I’m capable of functioning well and I don’t often vary my routine.”
I am not a slave to my routine, but it seems to keep me balanced and like Mary Follett, my world feels a bit off-kilter if I ignore it. When events require a change in routine, I handle it better if I have a couple of days to plan.
God knows I could be wrong, but the need for routine in old age feels obvious to me, something that benefits elders, that may improve life and yet I've never seen it referenced in the literature of aging I've been reading for nearly 20 years. So I was interested in the Telegraph piece by annanicholas, an ex-pat Brit who lives on Majorca. She titled her story, Is routine the key to old age?
”When I met John Evans, a retired coal miner from Wales, and at the time the oldest man in Britain,” she writes, “he told me that he had always kept a regular pattern to his eating and sleeping habits and stimulated his brain every day...
“Arthur [Cook Merrick] was another believer in regular exercise and having a simple but effective daily routine part of which was keeping up with current affairs...
“The French 113 year-old, Jeanne Calment, an avid reader, rode a bicycle until she was 100 and regularly smoked and drank her favourite tipple.”
Each of these old old people and others in their 90s and 100s whom annanicholas spoke with also work exercise into their daily routines but the point of the the story, and it rings true for me, is that routine was a common aspect of the lives of these people who did not just live longer than most others, but were active and healthy into extreme old age.
Throughout my childhood and adult life until retirement, routine was set for me by school and then work. It was pretty much the same schedule five days a week for half a century, so maybe routine, after a lifetime of it, is just comfortable for me and therefore not really remarkable.
But it feels more important than that, even if I seem to notice my need for routine mostly when it is absent, and that it may be another piece of the puzzle to putting together a satisfying old age.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcy Belson: Old Friends