Belly Fat
Elders and Hunger in America

Being Old is Time Consuming

Crabby Old Lady is worn out and it's not because she has been extra special busy lately. It's just ordinary living that takes up more time than it did when she was younger. Or, maybe, it's the consequences of ordinary living that weren't there years ago.

Take grocery shopping. Except for rare occasions when Crabby is cooking for guests, you would think her food needs would be minimal. For most of her life – in New York City – she carried her purchases home without a problem and gained some walking exercise in the bargain.

These days she drives but on many trips she can't carry the groceries into the house in one go. It's two and, occasionally, three trips to and from the car. Okay, she'll admit there is the walking itself and that's not a bad thing but Crabby usually has better uses for her time than hauling bags from the car.

Sleeping or, rather, lack of it is another time eater. Because many days Crabby Old Lady wakes after only four or five hours without a chance of going back to sleep, she is up at ungodly early hours and wears out by 2PM or so.

A nap eats up another couple of hours and then – and THEN, it's twice in one day she needs an hour to get mind and body functional again. Plus, here's a catch: without a nap, Crabby would fall asleep at night by 7PM and be wide awake at midnight. It's happened. Oy.

We have discussed here how our stamina and energy are not what they once were. For decades, Crabby whizzed through weekly house cleaning finishing by noon on Saturdays. Now she spreads it over an entire week – kind of never-ending cleaning, one room a day – but even so, she often needs to stop and rest between chores.

Cleaning house is boring enough. It's worse not being able to finish in the time Crabby has been accustomed to all her life until now.

And walking. As she mentioned, Crabby has always been a walker although in New York, it is just the way one lives and not “exercise.” But these days, Crabby's feet ache if she walks for more than about an hour, even leisurely as in window shopping and browsing a book store.

It's not pain and Crabby is not afflicted with bunions, corns and her feet are not deformed (just lucky, she guesses) from decades of high-heeled shoes. It's just that her feet get tired so she must stop and sit for awhile when she would rather be moving and getting things done.

Hair too. For most of Crabby Old Lady's life, shampoo and a brush were all she needed to keep her hair looking nice. A couple of minutes in the morning and she was out the door.

Now that her hair has become so thin in front and at the crown of her head, it takes a good deal of arranging to be presentable without looking like a female version of a guy's bad comb over.

Crabby loses the most time, however, to elder forgetfulness. You know, the same old stuff of finding yourself in the bedroom – or kitchen, or bathroom – wondering why you're there. Or being halfway through telling a story to a friend and losing the point.

And way too frequently, Crabby forgets the third item she wanted at the grocery, goes home without it and THEN remembers what it is and that the recipe won't work without it.

Back to the store. More time gone.

So far, Crabby doesn't have a condition or disease in need of regular attention that for many elders requires additional physician visits; prescriptions filled, counted and taken; treatments required; special diets, etc. But she can empathize with what must be frustration at the time taken up with care and maintenance.

There are dozens of other elder time eaters that may not consume more than a couple of minutes each but add up over a day or week.

[EDITORIAL NOTE: There is - well, was - an additional thought Crabby intended to insert here, but she's forgotten it. If it comes to mind, she will enlighten you in an update.]

There is no earlier era of Crabby's life that she wants to relive or return to. Through no effort on her part – it just happens – she has found each new period, decade, year to be more compelling than the previous one.

But Crabby doesn't think many people consider how damned much more time it takes just to be old and sometimes, just living an ordinary day wears her out.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Joanne Zimmerman: Hair Today


I am right there with you :)
Small home for 3 years and thought less work.
I am never done.
Everything takes longer...

I hear ya. On the days I don't work, I bumble around. I can't figure out how I can work; standing on my feet for hours at a time, but I can't seem to do it anywhere else. I suppose the flowers are the motivation for me. If I didn't have that, I'd never move out of my chair.

You're singing to a member of the choir.
A broken neck cut out long walks and bicycling, and I carefully plan my shopping.
Now I spend more time reading and writing. My mother says, "You have to take the bitter with the better." I always listen to my mother.

Dear Crabby. Start by buying really good new shoes. Spend a fortune that you don't have after days of research that takes more time that you don't have. Buy them half a size larger, and insert Dr. Scholls Double foam shoe inserts....they are the secret of every beat cop and security officer.

If you aren't so tired, dear Crabby, your day will go better. Just don't nap at your computer like me with that regular head snap accompanyment.

How right you are. One of my daughters lives close and when she sees me, she invariably asks, "What did you do today?" or the variation "What are you going to do tomorrow?" The "bumbling around" Kenju mentions looks utterly worthless when put into words.

Remember making lists and checking the things off as we got them done? Well, I can now make a list, which takes about as much time as doing half of the things would have taken. Or maybe I can just go stand in front of the refrigerator wondering what I want. (I used to yell at the kids not to stand there with the door open, but now it's a fun thing to do) I do want to mention that you've inspired me to fight ageism everywhere I find it! Thanks.
Barb at Alchemy of Clay

All of the above plus nowdays I feel like I'm occupying someone else's tired body......I'm feel totally unprepared to be old. :)Oh well. Dee

O dear! I wish I were 70 again, like Crabby. Here at our retirement community, we 80 year olds who are still mobile and driving cars, going to theater and opera, lament among ourselves that mere hygiene takes forever...the shower, shampoo, minor cosmetics, taking all the pills every day, all consume lots of energy. But we do it and still have a vigorous life in the remaining time. Thank goodness it all slows down slowly. Most of us have learned to use the computer, to be on social media, to keep current. At least one sits down to do most of that. However, an afternoon nap is a must.

Mage, be careful with those computer naps. The keyboard imprint on your face is a sure giveaway if you have to suddenly answer the door.

Now that I think about it, the naptime bedspread imprint seems to take longer to go away than it used to...

Then there's the ruinous recovery time if you get sick or injured. The couple of days it used to take to snap back is now a couple of weeks or even months. Mage is right about the good shoes.

Oh boy, can I ever relate to all you relayed, Ronni. Only I don't get one room cleaned a day. I am doing well if I dust the entire room. Sigh!

Yes, the inability to sleep soundly is a big issue with me. To offset this I have gotten a prescription for an Ambien generic that I take every other night. I do this to avoid getting hooked on them.

My biggest issue is that my hands have quit on me. I no longer have the grip I used to. I'll be holding something with what feels like a normal grip and then will drop it for no apparent reason. As a result my cursing rate has increased quite dramatically.

Yes, this age gives 'compelling' a whole new slant!

You have given me hope now that I realize so many of my struggles are not unique to me: it is so true that misery loves company. Thanks for being there, Ronni!

I'm 'only' 63 and am in pretty good health, but I can already feel the loss of energy that I used to have in my 40s -- even 50s. And I try to just accept it because I know we have less energy the older we get. But once in a while it just irritates the H out of me. LOLOLOL GREAT column!

I liken it to a car. The older your car is, the more time you have to spend with maintenance. Same with your body.

But don't give up on your feet. I had plantar fasciitis a few years ago, and I got custom made orthotics from a podiatrist. They were expensive, but she said they would last five years and I made them last seven, then replaced them.

I buy expensive walking shoes that are deep enough for orthotics and I replace them every three to four months--always buying them on sale. The uppers are not worn out but the cushioning is going and I need all the cushioning. To me it's well worth it to have good shoes because I walk 3-5 miles a day, and that in turn seems to give me more energy.

This describes the pattern of my days and nights as if you had interviewed me for this post. How comforting to know I'm not alone in this phase of aging.
Thanks, Mary Flock

All I want to do is sleep...

Sounds a lot like me these days. Especially the grocery store thing. I can get though the store and load up my cart just fine. I start to droop a bit if I have to stand in the checkout line very long. Then I heave all the bags out of the cart and into the car, feeling I'm almost done. Finally I get home and have to haul all the bags into the house (2-5 round trips, depending). But still not done. Have to put everything away. That's an hour and a half, during which I handle every item at least four times. Gotta be an easier way!

Post-stroke I am tempted to adopt my late Mother's approach to the to-do lists that Barb Rogers mentioned. Mother claimed she only wrote something down once she had completed that task. And then she promptly checked it off. At the end of the day every item on her list was checked off.

No matter how much I try to simplify my life, I never seem to get things done the way I would like to.
No matter what else is going on I exercise, though. It's important for keeping me in a good mood, and I sleep well at night.

Good shoes and inserts are very helpful. They have fixed my plantar fasciitis, which I probably brought on myself by ceasing to use them at some point in the past. At 62, my feelings of slowing down and tiring sooner than I used to have been heightened the past few years since taking on increasing levels of care of 90 yeard old in-laws. Until two years ago they had stayed in their own home, which is good-size, with a large yard, and kept it looking good. They were remarkably independent until they suddenly weren't. Now my FIL is gone, and I have been full-time caregiver for my now almost 93 year old MIL. She is still so task-focused that it puts me to shame. She wanders around asking what she can do, meaning what work can she do. Unfortunately, she has about a three-minute attention span, so giving her things to do is one more time-consuming job for me. One of these days, when the caregiving comes to an end, I hope to no longer spend so much of my days on housekeeping, meal preparation or related tasks, or personal care for myself or others. I would like to spend it on birdwatching, reading and gardening. Unfortunately, my husband has been an insulin dependent diabetic for more than 30 years, and since it his mother who developed dementia, I am growing increasingly concerned about what the future really holds for us.

Thanks Ronni, for the good description of my days!

I have been known to take a short car nap in the parking lot at the Costco if I get too exhausted from shopping. Sometimes I have to get my dry goods on one day and my refrigerated goods another day because I get too worn out. Grocery shopping is like doing a marathon.

I hear you. I totally agree with you on this one. I can't seem to make it through the day without a nap.

Hey, we older gals have earned the right to amble our way along the rest of the way. Usually I'm the odd ball, cuz my friends are all SO BUSY. Not me. The clock is ticking, and if there's something I want to do, I'd best get crackin'. It's nice knowing other gals feel the same. Nice blog.

Well, finally I have found my "crowd". I've never felt I fit in anywhere, but surprise (!), age has included me. Maybe I was old from the start and just never realized it! LOL

Have been noticing lately how long everything takes of late so it's comforting to know I'm not alone. Yes, grocery shopping...used to go almost every day. Lately it's every 5-7 days and as pointed out, it's not over when you exit the store. Holy cow, I need a nap! Have been known to leave the bags on the kitchen floor and just go lay down. One drawback, my Corgi searches them and recently silently inhaled 1# of Black Forest Ham. :( Lesson learned. And YES to good shoes!

Also yes to orthotics -- my physocal therapy got them for me, and my gait suddenly made me feel like I was 30 again....

Here I have been thinking I am the only one in the country who takes forever to clean a condo! Thanks for the heads-up.

I see myself in most of your blogs except for the one from much younger folks. One recent solution is hiring a young friend to take me grocery shopping.She drives, loads, unloads, puts away and sometimes prepares some of the food. If I'm very clever, I can save enough at the store to pay her $15 hourly fee, and she's great company, too. I get the walking exercise, have fun, and choose my gluten free food carefully, which I can't really ask someone else to do.
And yes, it's a full time job now just to take care of my physical self--feeding, cleansing, medical appointments, and exercise.

I work. I'm getting older and slower, so I work on Sundays to catch up and stay ahead. It's working, for now.

we males have to check in, too, like John above.

i plan out mowing the yard like it's a chess game. first the front and then in to rest awhile (hot in Illinois this summer).

then on to the side yard and part of the back yard.

my god, man, we're not talking about the east slopes of some golf course, I say to myself. there's less than 800 s.f. of yard here.

but i get it done and enjoy a nice herbal tea on our deck with my wife afterwards.

if the phone rings rings.

I can relate upon occasion, but so far at least, I haven't found my usual daily routines much more difficult than they were 10-12 years ago. (I fully recognize that I'm super fortunate to be in good health.) I may not clean quite as thoroughly as I used to, and I no longer stroll around in 4" heels (well, actually flats are more like it), but at 75 I work part time, volunteer 5-10+ hours/week and keep up with household tasks.

I haven't stopped to contemplate what I can't do or how long things take--objectively, I know I'm older and some tasks take longer, but it hasn't stopped me yet.

What a delightful and refreshing column! At 84 I can
and do relate to practically
everything mentioned. It also comes as quite a relief, I thought I was just becoming a self centered old 'rhymes with witch'.
Thanks everyone and keep the flag flying!

Very educational column--Here I thought, I was a slow coach,going for Indian grocery one day and American grocery the next and forever planning what excuse I can give myself to postpone the laundry to another day.

Like Barb, I'm a die-hard list maker. But I try to list what's been accomplished instead of what I expect myself to do. Exact same thing, but one makes you feel inadequate, and the other gives you a pat on the back!

I also loved Emmett's post. Sounds like he's figured out his limitations, and injected some joy into his retirement and aging....

At 81, I feel shocked and "insulted" that my body and interests (hobbies, etc) have slowed. Hecky-pooh. Oh, to be 50 or, gosh, even 70 again. However, I have much for which to be grateful and need to keep reminding myself of that fact. Life is good, and it is (somewhat) comforting that we're all going through the aging process together. Love your blog ~~ you feel like a wise "old" friend.

Just thoughts: a cart with wheels to haul groceries from the car; mega doses of Vitamin B.

Perhaps some glucosamine-chondroitin?

Perhaps you have already thought of these things and found them not useful; if so, I beg your pardon.

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