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Okay, Now I'm Pissed Off About Being Old

category_bug_journal2.gif It was in about 1996, when I was 55 years old that I first realized I wasn't the youngest kid in the crowd anymore. That was based on nothing more than looking around the room I shared with 25 or 30 colleagues all of whom, I noticed for the first time, were young enough to be my children and even my grandchildren.

That visual incident sparked my interest in what getting old would really be like in the coming years but as much as I mentally poked around my body, I couldn't find any other manifestations of age. I could work a full day – even seven days a week for a couple of months while we created a new website – with no more recovery time than in my 20s and 30s.

I could still clean the apartment top to bottom on Saturday morning then, have energy left to prepare a dinner for several friends that night and enjoy the party into the wee hours. My body was thickening a bit in the middle, but I had it under reasonable control and if I looked my age – hard to tell in mid-years – I looked fine to me. (That hasn't changed.)

Age gradually caught up with me in the ensuing 15 years. Energy flagged along with stamina. Too many stairs and steep hills became problematic. I particularly noticed, before I left New York in 2006, that I couldn't carry as much weight walking home from shopping without stopping a couple of times to rest.

Other common evidence of age crept into my life here and there, like falling asleep early and waking hours before dawn; less appetite (not so much that it improved my weight); hair loss on my head; hair gain on my chin and upper lip; age spots on my hands; crepe-y looking skin near my inner elbows; and a general slowing down – particularly, I lack the reserves I once had to push through fatigue when things need to get done.

I have always been good at accepting reality, so I try, for example, to adjust my daytime schedule to fall asleep later. I no longer carry all the groceries up the stairs to my second-floor apartment at once; I make two trips, sometimes three. For those things that can't be accommodated – age spots, for one - I have accepted them and moved on. Nothing is gained by lamenting them.

But now I'm pissed off.

On Monday, the moving company delivered the packing boxes. I have four weeks to pack up my entire apartment and I started on Monday by cleaning out junk drawers. Most people have a junk drawer in the kitchen. I have four of those plus two in my desk and four or five more in various end tables and filing cabinets. A lot of junk.

I had not spent more than ten minutes bent over a low cabinet sorting out the keepers from the drek when there was a twinge in my back. Well, more like real pain when I straightened up and then an ache as I carried the trash bag into another room.

What the...?

It was morning. I hadn't been awake for more than three hours; still had plenty of energy. But I had to rest in a chair for 15 minutes before the ache retreated.

I take relatively good care of my body; I eat a healthy diet, I get out and walk most days and I have a daily stretching and exercise routine. I don't abuse my body and I expect some return for my effort. But, apparently, we are not in synch, my body and me.

Packing takes a lot of bending, reaching, stretching and this work will never get done if it means 10 minutes on, 15 minutes off.

I've put a lot of thought to this since Monday and devised some ways to get the job finished over the next four weeks without damaging myself and still meet the deadline. But I'm not happy about the need to be extra careful and it doesn't seem fair. I'm “only” 69 and I'm betting Darlene Costner and Millie Garfield, who both have about 15 years on me, have something pithy to say about this.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Caroline Romberg: Call Me Coach


Age takes a toll on all of us. Your walking, however, may not be rigorous enough exercise to truly make a serious dent in your stamina. I suggest, once this is all over, after getting a doctor's evaluation and permission, to consider gradually picking up the pace. The reward, for most healthy old people like us, is much more stamina and energy.
I would consider getting a treadmill and a heart monitor and insuring that you reach training heartbeat for a beneficial time span 5 or 6 days per week, or more. Also, a little resistance exercise, can be helpful. People don't realize this is what it can take. I call it energy banking. Good luck, but do see your physician first. (I exercise 1 hour per day six days/week with cardio and weights at cornerstone of program). One last note: Respect your back--you don't want a herniated disc like I got flinging suitcases resulting in surgery. Lift and bend carefully)

Aging is easier to do when it is philosophical or analytical. When it is about creaking bones and waning energy, it is easy to get mad. You were obviously very vigorous at 55. Much more than I am at that age. I expect that even now, you are more vigorous than others your age. Yet, you can't get more out of your body than it is presently willing to deliver. So, please dear Ronni, take dear care as well as baby steps towards your goal. We are all routing for you, but we don't want to hurt your back on the way.

Hi Ronni..Is there a way you could bring those drawers(if not too heavy)to a higher level table? Is there any way you can hire a helper "bee" to lug trash when completed, a neighbor? My age awareness hit me on a first time visit to a specialist. He walked in and I said" Oh my God you are young enough to be my son"..he laughed. I guess I'm of the older doctors are better, more experience etc. etc., but this doc was just super and I was totally satisfied. My birth certificate says one thing, the mirror another, the internal, emotional me is just fine! Pace yourself Ronni, it will get done.

I know how you feel! I made my move just after double knee replacement surgery, and I was 76. I realized I needed to hire packers, and found a company devoted to helping elders move. They packed and unpacked my goods, and that was a huge relief. It was great to come into my new apartment at night with everyting settled. Of course the drawback is the steep cost, but for me, it was both necessary and worthwhile. If you have friends or neighbors who can help, don't be afraid to ask.

I've got 4 years on you Ronni, & I totally agree with you & I'm equally pissed! I think you definately need a little help with the packing & watch the back, too. There is evidence that says your back discomfort is a result of the stress you are having from the many recent changes & is manifesting itself as pain. Whether it's stress or aging that's the cause, what really matters most is that you listen & treat yourself well. The only suggestion I have is that while you're preparing for the move, you continue to downsize & declutter. Based on the moved we made 18 months ago, we have done very well without all our "stuff." Besides, it's very liberating. BTW, all of the suggestions so far are, as usual, spot on. Take care of yourself. Dee

stopstop complaining - your still a baby.
I swear if you think about age, you will feel like that age. I think about 50 and hope I can continue my lie. Makes me feel good.

I'll join the chorus here...walk. It's the perfect exercise. Once you are moved in, give yourself a goal of 4 miles a day in an hour or less. It takes awhile, but soon it's a habit and you will miss the days you can't walk. And if it takes you a year to get to that goal, so what? You had something better to do?


I'm cracking up at some of the exercise recommendations today. Please, guys, don't be offended; they are basically good suggestions, and the heart-rate monitor/training idea is especially useful. But each of us is different and one size--and especially, one size for one gender--does not fit all. In my fifties, I was walking those 4 mph walks daily and loving it; now, I have piriformis syndrome and chronic IT band inflammation that physical therapy hasn't improved. I so deeply envy those who can still exercise walk and hike. Now, walking is not my cure-all. And, I work out daily for an hour in circuit weight training, recumbent bike cardio, stretching, pilates, etc. I STILL have the noticeable decline in stamina that Ronni speaks of. Exercise is mandatory for us elders and positive thinking is life-saving, but nothing is going to fool Father Time. We do each other a disservice when we suggest otherwise.

Glad you've found a workable way to meet your goal, Ronni.

At 74 I try to bring drawer to be emptied and box to be packed as close to the same level as I can. Then I put my body on a chair, low stool, or I stand so that it is not necessary to bend to transfer stuff from one to the other.
One year the birthday gift I asked for was a milking stool. It is twelve inches high, a hole in the middle of the seat for carrying, and four sturdy legs. It is a safe seat for cleaning the cupboards under the kitchen counters. It lives under my desk where I can rest my feet while I read TGB each morning. I am still working on rising up from sitting on my stool in a manner that is near

Stretch, do yoga, stay flexible. Of course, this takes a while to accomplish, so it won't be in time for your packing. But for the rest of your life...

At 65, nearly 66, I am beginning to feel those signs of aging of which Ronni speaks--the sleep issues and easier fatigue. I too have been,if not a gym rat, at least close to one--up til recently was regularly doing Zumba twice a week, weights/stretch and tone a couple times a week, and walking inbetween. It's just getting harder! I am trying to accept these signs of the aging process while exercising to maintain reasonable cardiovascular fitness, but it ain't easy! Have started walking with poles, which gives an overall better workout, and drives up your heartbeat a bit. I recommend these especially if one has back issues, like my husband. He does much better with the poles. (see them at

Ronni, using one of those back/waist corsets (the kind the employees in Sam's wear) might help remind you to use good body mechanics when packing. Otherwise getting a pal to help is a great idea.

I do all that exercise stuff because I love it. But I know there will come a time ...

Thanks again for letting us younger ones in about what aging is really like Ronni.

I hear you. I noticed all that at about age 55 too, and it's been downhill from there. I take 2 Tyl*nol everyday and I do not bend over for more than a few seconds, since I know it will result in pain. Bring those drawers up to waist level - or - sit on a low stool to clean them out. Be careful not to bend or twist your body when you do have to bend over from the waist - it is just asking for trouble. Good luck!

I notice it too, the difference aging makes. It is frustrating. A rancher I used to know said he had to learn to work smarter, not harder. Some people have problems with their bodies their whole lives, but for all of us, it will come with age. I don't think the 4 mile a day regime is good for women, not sure about men. I recommend no more than two and do them briskly. The ones I know who did too many miles end up eventually with knee or hip replacements, feet problems or sundry other difficulties. Overdoing it is no favor. If you could get someone to help you with the packing, that would be my recommendation; so you can enjoy the move fully. If not, then just take it slow and easy. The 'corset' deal is a good idea as my husband uses those when he's out doing the ranch work that requires lifting more than his body wants to do now. He still has to get it done but he gets help when he can.


All I can say in response to you is:

Being 81 is not only Pithy, it's Thitty.

Sorry, I don't have a pithy answer except to say, It doesn't get better.

You have had some good advice. If you overdo and hurt your back you will end up spending more money to get it taken care of than hiring a high school kid to do the lifting and bending for you.

Age gave me spinal stenosis and I have to watch my back. There are lots of different back problems, but pushing yourself when you feel pain is not cool.

Ibuprofin for back pain is another good
remedy. Another recommended remedy is alternating hot and cold packs on the affected area.

Slow and easy is the way to go. If you don't have time to sort it all out, then just dump it all in a box and sort it at the other end when you have more time. I know this will cost more, but in the long run it might be cheaper than ruining your back.

Yup, thank you for reminding me to up my number of leg lifts. I'm so sorry about your back. How about calling in your friends and having a packing party.

I just reached the point where the college girls who work at my local coffee shop think I'm cute. Not that I've been interested in college girls for quite some time anyway, but cute? It feels like I've got about 20-25 years of gathering cuteness in front of me and that the cuteness factor is going to increase exponentially with every one of those years until I'm suffocating in it.

You're only as old as...? Life begins at...?
It's all totally relative. To you, your situation, your heredity, your life style, etc., etc., .
Don't worry, be happy and for god's sake take it one day at a time

Hope you get some help....

I feel your pain. When one has a stroke at age 31 -- as I did -- one realizes the hazards of getting old. I have been having to pace myself for over 30 years now and as I age the the recovery time grows longer and longer. Every time I get overly ambitious, my body sends me a message and I have learned to heed it so, depending on the task at hand, I try to do things in 30-45 minute increments and use rest time to read blogs or make phone calls. It works better some days than others. The biggest thing is not to beat yourself up over it. (And no one is better than I am at that!)

Having had my first Feldenkrais lesson yesterday, I say, Listen to your body. When you're focused on that drawer, you probably don't notice that your body is saying, This angle hurts! Try something else!
I hope "something else" works.

One of the hardest things for me, since I fancy myself independent, is to ask for help. I'd rather attack myself with a #2 pencil, frankly, than do that. I agree with the many comments above that this is what is needed (and what your back is begging for) in this situation.

You've given me something to think about that I haven't wanted to consider, Ronni. As I imagine myself in a similar situation, I have to ask myself if I am doing anything about cultivating a network of friends who want to help me? I realize that I am not and I need to keep this a consideration as I go into my next decade. I thank you for that. I hope you find help and comfort soon and the move returns to the happy adventure we all want it to be for you.

Ronni, it's a good thing that you are moving when you are "only 69."

I didn't start feeling "old" until I hit my late 70's and as time goes by I have less energy and stamina. I'm hoping that after I have my hip surgery I'll be able to do more.

It does help when you are taking things out of bottom drawers to take as much as you can out of the drawers and sort them at a table or as Darlene suggested - dump them in a box and sort them when you arrive at your new home.

If I use a stool to get into a bottom draw, I use one with arms, otherwise I can't get up.

Try avoiding standing up for any length of time - if I do - my back hurts.

When I do any work around the house, it's 30 minutes up and then it's 30 minutes down. Eventually, whatever it is, it gets done

I'll repeat myself - "it's a good thing that you are moving now - when you are "only 69."

Thinking "I'm not as young as I used to be" as I wrenched myself out of a low sports car what came out was "I'm not as old as I'm going to be".

That's been my mantra as I watch my endurance diminish and my recovery time lengthen. I give it to you, with love. It puts a smile on my face every time.

And remember, you don't have to pack everything -- they have scotch tape and scissors in Oregon, too.

I've no more to add to the great advice given here Ronni. I can relate to all you say about feeling pissed off as every year in the garden I can feel the years taking their toll.

I like Ashleigh's mantra.

I think many peoople our age have to learn to quit being so bloody independent! I know I did ... and it has been a ceaseless battle since it began about 15 years ago (I'm 73 and have just about come to terms with it).
I now trade my bookkeeping skills for a nice lady to come and clean my house every couple of weeks (and she does it nearly as well as I used to). I also have learned to call one of my kids, or a younger friend, or the nice guy who does my yard once a week to come in the house and do things I no longer can (or want to do). Come on and join me in the ability to compromise with age a little. Stop being pissed off, it just does damage to your stomach. Save your rage for things you can do something about ... like the environment and the bloody politicians. And this comes from one of the more bull-headed, independent females you could ever hope to meet.

My body may require some comopromises, but my standards and principles never will!!

Heh. I'm feeling your 55 comment but I'm still only 51. When I'm at the gym doing weights and look around, not only is everyone younger except a few older guys who lift, they are all guys! Why am I the only woman my age who likes being able to lift and carry whatever I want? I keep bugging my trainer for more weights, he's finally rewarding me. Ah, new pain... ;^)

Thought you might enjoy this clip from a class that I teach in NYC on Fall Prevention. It was created for a contest that the Chamber of Commerce is conducting for entrepreneurs. You can see what people in the big apple are doing for exercise.
Wish you were here!!!!!

Ronni, I also had that weird feeling of suddenly being the oldest in the place--when I was only in my early 40s. Later I was my own boss, so then it didn't matter!

I felt great and did well until about 64, and after that was hit with all sorts of ailments and physical problems. By my 70s I felt old. Never mind that I had faithfully exercised and walked a hilly course nearly every day. When Nature deems it, or maybe your genes, your poor old bod goes downhill fast. It's nice to think that exercise will keep you young, though.

Now I exercise without overdoing it, get help when I can, and let my standards slide when I can't. It makes me mad, too, that so much is no longer possible. Please take it easy and don't expect too much of yourself.

My big challenge, at 66, is in slowing down as my increasing awkwardness has become a huge hurdle. I had a bad fall during the week and my leg injury pings at me now as I race across to a file cabinet or hit a door on scurrying out.
Tonight (I still work, it is tax season) I found I had to lie down as I was literally nodding off over a file.
I slept on the couch for two whole hours. Solid.
Thanks for the reminder that we are not as agile, nimble and quick as we used to be and need to RESPECT that.
I have a portable plastic milk stool as mentioned above and even if I feel I can reach something now, I climb on the little thing.
My concessions are slow and I need to up the ante a bit. This body has to last me another couple of decades.

Listen to your body. It is telling you to slow down. Easier said than done in your case since your upcoming move to Oregon is fast approaching and you have so much to do getting ready.

Forget about exercising until the move is behind you and you are settled.

From the vantage point of age 80, I can tell you some body parts wear out every week and it is no fun.

No choice but to keep on keeping on.

Thank-you for this post. I am almost fifty-nine, and about two years ago I began to notice that I just don't have the stamina I once did.

I kept trying to fight this, but lately I have been learning to accept it- not easy for a person who was once able to go nonstop sometimes for days on end.

Getting older certainly involves a lot of acceptance and love of oneself.


Oh, thought I would add a couple of tips about lifting.

I have been doing antique shows for years which involves lifting,loading,unloading etc.

One tip is to never carry an unbalanced load. In other words, don't carry something heavier on one side of the body and something lighter on the other side. Better to make two trips or carry balanced loads.

A second tip is when you are carrying something of weight carry it right up against your torso so that it touches you. Never hold it out in front of you so that it is away from your body.

And I have learned to use a digital timer to pace myself so that I don't hurt myself. I set my timer for twenty minutes and do physical work. Then I give myself twenty minutes of lying down or sitting time. I read, work on the computer, etc.

Learning to pace myself has really helped me accomplish my goals without hurting my body. I did hurt my body terribly (sciatica) which put me flat on my back for three weeks.

I learned a lot from that bout.

Good luck.


Hi Ronni,
I don't know if can add any more intelligence than you have received above. However, I will share with you my journey with being totally pissed off at my age to grudging acceptance to almost total acceptance. This is a particularly difficult concept to deal with when you have been a Type A all of your life. When I retired and we moved to Portland eight years ago my grand plan was to play tennis every day, get involved in volunteerism, work part-time in a bookstore, walk every street in Portland and enjoy the unencumbered life where there are no shoulds, musts or imperatives. This worked just fine for about two years and then I had a mild heart attack which meant I had to give up tennis (sob!), building homes for Habitat, long walks, eventually the bookstore job and God knows how many other activities I was involved with. I was totally pissed.
However, I changed my volunteer work to good things to do that required less physical energy. Eventually, I had to give those up too. I ditched the bookstore job, I take very short walks. At each stage I got less and less pissed off and learned to repeat that mantra about life being adjustment.

Today my very gray haired spouse who is 73 (I am 79) and I were taking one of our short walks in our lovely neighborhood. We were holding hands and deeply involved in conversation when a car pulled up and the woman in the car said, "I had to turn around and come back to tell you that you two look so adorable." Well, we had big smiles on our faces the rest of the day.

Dr.Pangloss would have us tend our gardens--metaphorical and physical. It's a good idea, along with our acceptance of the inevitable frailties brought on by the aging process. It's a lousy process as long as you give it permission to be. Keep that permission on a very short leash so that you can be in charge of aging.



You've had plenty of very good advice from everyone who's commented already, so I'll just offer a general observation for any readers who think there may be a move in the future (and that means quite a lot of us as we get older). That move could be made easier by unloading clutter long before moving day.

Your home, Ronni, judging by the pictures, appears to be lovely and uncluttered (except for those junk drawers you're now facing!), but so many people postpone major uncluttering until too close to moving day, resulting in frayed nerves, bad decisions and extra expense. Making the effort to move is already demanding enough that none of us needs to add uncluttering pressures on top of it.

Good luck and best wishes for a painless move!

When teenagers are having nose jobs and boob jobs, what are they going to be carving into when they get anywhere near my age, almost 90? It is time that people began loving their own bodies instead of succumbing to the influence of airbrushed views of hotties on TV and the movies.

It is well known now that the teenage brain is not developed and should not be allowed to choose cosmetic surgery during their delicate stage of development. Luckily one of my idols was Barbra Streisand who didn't succumb to a nose job. She made her profile famous. She gave all us uncertain young girls hope.

It is time we learned to love the skin we are in and radiate our energy and spirit through our eyes so that age
can't dampen us. That's what I do every day after literally more than 300 exercise moves every morning.

I refuse to be identified by my arthritis so there!

Ronni: As a very Type B or even B- person, the slowing down part of aging hasn't been as exasperating to me as to you. The slowed down pace of Hawaii has had the paradoxical effect on me of making me more, not less, productive.
As for exercise: Swimming, walking, and, if all else fails my elliptical machine, are fine. But exercise takes energy, you know. So don't overdo it!!!

I had to smile at recognizing that for the first time...My President is young enough to be my son...

hmm, i think my comment isnt here. i sent it via the reply button on the emailed post rather than comming to your weblog itself. maybe you dont receive them or maybe twasnt pithy enough? Not offended , just curious.

THAT IS WHY I PLAN ON DYING IN THIS HOUSE!!!!! At 66 with energy waning...I have no where to go, no money to go with, and even less desire to do so. Best of luck, Ronni...Loved all the comments...especially suki!!!

Yes! Pissed off is exactly what I feel. I have been through all those things you longer being youngest in the room (what happened to being the same as everyone in the room?), flagging energy, looking down and seeing my grandmother's arm coming out of my sleeve (that crepe-y skin!). But before the pissed off feeling, I feel absolute shock. As in "when did this happen?" And then terror at knowing this is "normal" for my age and will only get worse. Then I get pissed.

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