Muddling Through
GRAY MATTERS: Preserving Social Security

How Quickly Old Age Comes On

category_bug_journal2.gif It's done. Or close enough. I've emptied every packing box (except the books which must wait until I figure out shelving). I've put everything in its place. No pictures are hung, but that's the fun part – figuring out which goes where – which takes some living time to decide.

Sometimes, in short bursts and for what I think are good reasons, I get fanatical about a task, and although I had been moving forward with unpacking at a reasonable and steady pace since Monday, yesterday, it came upon me suddenly, was the day to be finished with it.

For six hours, from 5AM, I didn't stop except for a glass of water or cup of coffee for fuel. I emptied, organized, stored. The footstools finally turned up so I could fill top shelves in the kitchen and bedrooms. I even made the bed in the guest room.

Until six hours later, at 1PM, when I collapsed.

It is amazing how quickly old age appears. I recall getting from my teen years to mid-sixties without noticing much change in my physical capabilities. That's half a century during which, gray hairs and some wrinkles aside, I could tote boxes, climb hills, clean house, paint rooms and whatever else I deemed necessary without needing to rest unduly.

But the fatigue I felt at midday yesterday invaded every part of my body; back, arms and legs ached. My mind was empty except for the single goal of reaching the room where I could be horizontal. I don't remember ever being that tired.

So how is it that we toot along for 50 years of midlife, our bodies up to whatever tasks we put them through and then they rebel within a space of five to ten years? During all those midyears, nothing much changed in what I could do. Now, compared to the length of my life, it seems to have braked from high-speed to crawl in one sudden burst. I was expecting a slower downhill race.

A two-hour nap was enough to keep me going until dinner time yesterday and I feel fine this morning. The restorative power of sleep has not waned yet.

New photos next week, including Ollie the cat, possumlady.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mary B Summerlin: Meghan Again


I think we do too much most of our lives but because our bodies are in good shape, so to speak, we abuse it but don't always know it. I mean abuse in the sense of overuse and our body can work harder to deal with it. But after many years we've used up all the reserve power and we find we're working with a noticeably restricted amount of "energy." Each of the organs have been overused and since we can't see that happening, it comes as a shock. Just a thought.

I remember that feeling from my recent move in mid-March to an elder share housing situation with my friend Louise. I've always been one who unpacks very fast and has everything done in two days.

You describe the exhaustion well. But the beauty of it is to rest and then wake up refreshed with good energy again.

Two weeks after I moved I broke four metatarsal bones and wound up first in a wheelchair for a month, then a walker and now I am hobbling happily in an orthopedic shoe. That experience has given me a new perspective and great appreciation for the freedoms of mobility we take for granted until it is not available to us.

I don't have the energy I once did, but with exercise, rest periods and healthy diet I still am blessed with a good stream of energy.

I rely upon pacing myself these days, resting and napping, lying on the couch looking at the clouds between tasks. Ahhhh....

Enjoy it all.

What? A cross-country move with a partly drugged, partly angry fur friend within weeks of a home sale and a purchase, tossing and packing, living in multiple temporary quarters, unpacking seemingly nonstop, and then getting a second wind after a... two-hour nap? Excuse me. You put Hercules to shame. Incredible. Whatever you're putting in your coffee/tea, I want some;-) Way to go, Ronni!

For me, the symptom of aging that shocks me (a little) is not the getting tired -- but the slowness of recovery. I can still do most of what I've done for the last 50 years physically, but my body lets me know I am not to repeat that exertion for a longer period. I just have to get used to it. I chafe at the reality.

I echo Tamar--your fatigue might be partially age related but I suspect also has a lot to do with the cumulative stresses of the move.

I feel the impact of aging (I'm 61) in specific parts of my body rather than a loss of overall energy--last spring I and a friend painted my living room and hallway, a job I'd done by myself 15 years earlier. My younger self did the job with minimal aches and pains--this time around my lower back and hips let me know they did NOT like all that bending and squatting.

At age 70, I look back on the period in my mid 40's when I was in college, teaching, and taking care of a household and family while feeling (then) that I was not working very hard!
I've been spending time with age peers, and I am shocked at their health problems. I know my turn will come...
You do push yourself too hard, Ronnie. Once you are out of the survival mode, you should find your accustomed energy returning.

Tamar's right. Stress wears you out on all kinds of levels, and your last month or so has been stressful on all kinds of levels. Yes, we do slow down as we age, and the wise thing to do is to rest when we need it. You're home now, Ronni. That's the important thing.

It doesn't get better. My last move I was in my early 70's and I did everything myself, just like you, Ronni. I had my new house completely finished in a week; pictures hung, everything stored where I wanted it, and I don't remember being all that exhausted.

Maybe it's because I broke my hip, but I can no longer do a simple chore like cleaning my curio cabinet without having to rest. I tire very quickly and need to pace myself for everything I do.

Nonetheless, I can still do most things, even though I do them slowly and have to do a lot of resting. So even though we continue to decline, we can remain active barring a serious illness or injury.

"I was expecting a slower downhill race." Ahhhh! How achingly true. I'm with you all the way, except my recovery is not as yours. It's takes me longer & yes, I do have about 5 years on you. However, like some of the others, I appreciate the time to "look at the clouds" & smell the coffee. It's taken me some time & vexation, but I'm getting accustomed to this daughting task of aging:)Dee

I've just caught up with Ollie's and your adventure and mightily pleased for you that all went reasonably well and you are settling in. And it's lovely that Ollie recognises his familiar furniture and smells and has snuggled down.

Our Yin and Yang are suffering our redecorating inside at the moment and letting us know they don't fancy the upheaval. I don't think they'd be as adaptable as Ollie were we ever to move.

I am the same way. I didn't really begin to see the effects of aging until 55, but I still had plenty or energy and motivation to do whatever had to be done. Not now, though. I discovered this morning what I need to spur me on: 2 cups of regular coffee; they allowed me to plant flowers and weed for 3 hours, go to the grocer, walk around TJMaxx and work on the swimming pool chemicals. I will probably collapse after dinner and wake up at 4am in my recliner.

I stayed strong and active until around 65,and then physical problems came on fast. Now, 12 years later, I have very limited energy. We learn to pace ourselves and rest a lot more. Most of the work gets done, albeit slowly, but we do have to hire help sometimes. Don't push yourself--all of us want you to last a very long time!

I also think stress was the big bugaboo. Your body knew it was finally over and said, "Now I need a looong nap!"

I'm with you Ronni, I find the old afternoon nap has become a huge necessity to recharge the rusting battery.
Also I was travelling this week (nothing like you!) and the 5-1/2 hour flight did me in.
Retirement, which was never on my radar, is now becoming a distinct possibility....

I've reached the point to where I have to work off that doughnut by actually playing tennis instead of watching it on television, which used to work just fine.

I'm "On the Road Again" so afternoon naps aren't an option but I do limit the time at the wheel to 2.5 hours at a stretch. I drive for 2.5, walk a little, stretch a little, drink some coffee or water and drIve some more. I've covered about 2000 miles so far in my truck (Austin-Montreal via Madison) and I'll be doing at least another 2K before the summer is over.
As one of my role models ( John Wayne) would say "A man's got to do what a man's got to do" and that goes for women too.
Just keep on truckin' and never stop.

Wow, what great comments. Tamar, you made me laugh out loud.

At 59 this is just too scary to think about. Is my inclination to leave a quick note and run the heck away from the topic normal at this stage of life?

Tamar is right! Aren't you slightly demamding a bit too much? Even when I was 40, this kind of adventure would have made me shudder!

Although I agree with you that the body changes as we age, I also agree with those who emphasize that you have just done a highly intense bit of work, from flying out to Portland to choose your home, to selling your home, to packing, being in transit, moving in, unpacking. WOW. High stress (you know that stress scale) for anyone at any age.

Nothing wrong with taking a nap either. At any age.

Glad you are unpacked. And hope you have a few fun things non-move related to do this weekend. blessings, suki

I told you before...I don't think I could make this kind of move at this time in my life; and certainly not as beautifully as you've done it Roni. But I'm like you...I would need to get it done and organized right away too. It's a lot of work, but you sound like you've got everything under control. As exhausting as that can be, sometimes you really need to do it for your own benefit. Now I hope you can just take it a lot easier as you finish up the little things. Congratulations and cheers to your new place sweetie. ~Joy xo

P.S. Extra hugs to Ollie...

I'll be 70 in September and I'm just now getting used to the new 'me'. I was extremely active until the age of 68 and then it all changed, seemingly overnight. Of course we're all different and although I wish I could have remained a marathon racewalker forever, it's not going to be. (could have been the 30 years as a sheetrocker that caused the change in physical well being...maybe?)

I am now trying to remain detached and objective about the decline and I try to see it as interesting...why not? I've never done this before so I might as well enjoy it as best I can.

At the same time I am discovering new adventures for my ego and I paint. And I nap.

I agree with La Peregrina:it was most likely the 'AAaahhh...' of relief at reaching such a significant end point that made you feel so extra tired. Like those runners who make a really good run for the finish and then buckle at the knees just after they breast the tape. But a wonderfully swift recovery time, even so. I always find that after a major effort I have at least one low energy day when not much gets done.
Can't do naps though. Hate them. If I try to nap, I wake up feeling like a stewed owl. When we travel in countries that do siesta, my partner loves it. (He's the world's champion napper.) I just have to read a book and wait till the world wakes up again, the shops and cafes raise their shutters once more and 'normal' life resumes. (But then I am hungry for dinner at 7.00, and in those places they don't even start thinking about eating again till around 9.00 p.m. Not a good fit for me at all.)

TAMAR said it all, Ronni....I get exhausted just thinking about moving - never mind crossing the country.

Tamar's comment was funny--how much we expect of ourselves, and maybe how much less we are tolerant of 'eldermuscles'! I played tennis for 2.5 hours the other day and my wrist was in a sling for 2 days and still hurts when I turn it. Never an early riser, I seek the dark downstairs guestroom bed when hubby still rises with the dawn.

Rest and enjoy a bit, Ronni! Cats can teach us all a great deal--don't they sleep 14 hours a day or some such?!

I am so looking forward to pictures of Ollie the Cat! He must be a happy boy to be settled in a new forever home-- with you, of course, Ronni.

Calling TGB Cat People: Tazzi, our approximately 13 year old Maine Coon mix was diagnosed with CRF (chronic renal failure) last week. It's not lost on me that Tazz and I are within 5 years of each other. I'm 73 and she's approximately 78 in human years. So far I'm fine, but once again it looks like my husband and I will be saying goodbye to a much-loved feline companion. We've always had cats, so it's not a first for us, but it doesn't get any easier.

Have any TGB readers been in a similar situation? We very much want to add a few more months (at least) to the life of our CRF kitty; however, ONLY if she can have a reasonably good quality of life and doesn't suffer. (We're following our vet's instructions for hydration, special food, etc.)

Age does come on quickly. When it hits we almost nearly, truly, cannot remember what youth was really like. It seems dreamlike. The sad truth is that we all have expiration dates and never before have we had these communication media to share and assess. Makes it better, I suppose, to talk ourselves down as the boat sinks, maybe play a little piano and sing along the way; What else can we do? One idea, is let's save Social Security.

I was just complaining this morning to my husband that I've entered un-puberty: that time when your body is changing just as fast and as drastically as it did at 13...only without the bonus of suddenly having boobs. I mean, they are still there...down there, somewhere, lower than I recall their being, but...where was I?

So, remember how you woke up one morning and you'd grown nine inches taller and your eyebrows had suddenly changed? Well, like that, only its the hips that are nine inches wider and the eyebrows are...hmmm, yep, lower and sparser. And I'm as brainless and fatigued by all this change as I was then.

Just thinking about it is wearing me out. I need a nap.

All I wanted to do was rearrange my house a little...and so I did. Never mind that I had to do it myself. After all, I've done this sort of thing many times before. And so, the wood dining room table was lugged into the kitchen along with its four chairs. The butcher block work table in the kitchen was moved and fit perfectly into the corner. The desk in the spare room exchanged places with the 'ol Singer sewing machine base with its glass top that was in the living room.

Ahhh, things looked much better! That night I went to bed feeling quite pleased. This 68 year old body is still capable of getting the job done, I thought!
My body, however, was anything but content...when I woke up in the morning I felt as if a truck had run over me...from head to toe, I ached. To make matters worse about a week later I had a fall. Fortunately, no bone breakage but I've been suffering from sciatica pain ever's been well over a month!

So, what's the lesson to be learned from all of this? Slow down...things don't have to get done right away. Ask for help...I no longer have to prove my independence. And finally, be patient. Getting older requires a lot of patience...especially when it comes to healing.

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