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Everything Takes So Damned Long When You're Old

The latest episode of The Alex and Ronni Show is at the bottom of this post.

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As noted here in the past, until I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer nearly a year ago, I was lucky enough to be disgustingly healthy.

There were colds and other minor ailments now and then but nothing that kept me down and out for long, nothing that left me with permanent changes to my capabilities.

Not so much anymore. Yes, the doctors say I am now cancer free (whew!) but recovery from the Whipple surgery lasted many months, chemotherapy took its toll on my energy, I had to slack off workouts for too long and recent hospital stays for internal bleeding, a blood clot, placement of a stent, etc. haven't helped.

The bottom line is that everything – everything takes longer than it once did. Yes, yes, I know: just getting older, even without any health difficulties, slows down everyone. Bodies wear out, muscles don't work as efficiently, we tire more easily.

But until this bump in my personal road of life, slowing down wasn't an issue. As far as I could tell, I walked as fast as I always had and particularly after I lost more than 50 pounds some years ago, I could blast through housekeeping chores leaving plenty of time for whatever other plans I had.

No more.

When we get old, I think we understand as never before that our greatest gift is time. Each day now is precious and anything boring that takes up any of that time is stealing hours – even days, cumulatively - from us.

Here are some of the new tasks that eat up even more of my time than a year ago:

Tracking daily medications, keeping the chart up to date as doctors change meds, getting refills on time and filling the pill holders (plural!)

Actually remembering to take the pills at the right times of day (Post-it notes are my friends)

Arranging other events in life around medical visits

Keeping daily records of health information for the physicians

Napping (a lot recently) when my body tells me to stop for awhile

Tracking the cat's medications and trying to get pills down his throat when he would rather shred my skin than swallow.

And those are only some time eaters I can identify. Mysteries abound, such as this one: I thought I could vacuum the entire apartment in 30 minutes. So why does the clock say an hour has passed when I'm finished?

Or why does changing the beds seems so much harder – and therefore slower – than it used to be?

There is only one solution to this time annoyance – something many of you identified last week in that marvelously wise and interesting discussion about aspects of growing old: acceptance.

As Anne said on that post:

”Having just turned 78, maybe I should accept this and live at the tempo I can manage.”

I am not any good at all at this kind of acceptance. You?

* * *

Here is the latest episode of The Alex and Ronni Show recorded on Monday 7 May 2018.

If you would like to see Alex's entire two-hour show with other guests after me, you can do that at Facebook or Gabnet on Facebook or on YouTube.


Have been watching your video, You look wonderful, waouh !! from Chantal, Paris, France

Oh man. Yeah, does this ever resonate for me. Lungs that won't supply enough oxygen for my legs to walk at the pace they still want. Hands that are no longer steady. Realizing hours later that today I forgot to do an important step in my daily routine. An hour a day on a treadmill, going very slowly. Needing to nap.

And even more... constant thinking about my health. I feel if I don't, I will make mistakes with bad consequences. But the preoccupation is stealing precious time, and you're right, it's more precious now than ever.

Acceptance, yes, but I'll raise you one: gratitude. It's annoying to spend 1/2 hour getting in and out of the shower, but it sure beats (fill in the blank). If I can remember to practice gratitude, every aspect of my life looks better. From the outside, I'm an old woman with COPD, high blood pressure, and double vision. From the inside, with the right pair of gratitude glasses, I can be a free spirit on an adventure every day of just experiencing what I can do right now. From that standpoint, even sitting (I'm the driver) in my (own, paid for) car in Austin traffic (on my way to the store where I can shop for myself) can feel like a gift.

It's not easy to practice "an attitude of gratitude". I'm not a saint. However, a recent experience of very scary bad health can be helpful. Just knowing how limited my life can be helps me lower my expectations on myself. I no longer take it for granted that I can read and enjoy this blog and all the comments, for example.

Yes, but with age comes wisdom, and the realization about what's important in life which as you say is time ... and relationships. Good luck with the show!

I am slowing down, have been for a long time. However the decent toward the end is steepening and I don't like it at all. I am resisting. I am complaining and dragging my feet all the way. I've noticed that I now notice all the little actions that I used to not hardly ever notice, such as having to walk the length of the house to get something from the bedroom--seems like a journey now instead of an unnoticed action. What can we say or do about it? NOTHING except accept. You go Ronni. You all keep going--and I shall too, with a little help from my friends.

Ronni, here is another subject I'd like to see a discussion on: the emotional aspects of moving to a senior residence from one's own home. I have recently moved to a continuing care retirement community and am having all sorts of unexpected emotional responses, including grief at the end of a way of life and nostalgia for my old home. I'd love to hear other people's experiences.

Amen, amen. I'm way older than you, Ronni, and I'm taking a wild guess that I'm way slower. Let me count the ways.

I'll spare you that, but thank everyone for sharing. It never fails to comfort me
to know that I am not experiencing the Golden Years alone.

Yup, no matter what, it all takes longer despite lists, calendar notations, and post it notes. Your smile is delightful.

Dear Ronni,
To "Acceptance" I'd add Adaptation and Appreciation. I knew a psychotherapist who lost her sight when she was in her teens. When confronted with a newly blind client who said "I can no longer do ...." she would say "You have not finished your sentence. How about "I can no longer do....the way I used to." I am constantly having to find new ways to continue to be me. This morning ,it was figuring out a way to swim without aggravating arthritic pain in my arms. And appreciating the patterns sunlight made on the water and the fun watching folks of all ages, ethnicities and fitness levels go through their routines. I was not rushing through my exercise regimen to get to the next thing. Just hanging out, looking about. Here to celebrate another spring - and, I hope, my 82nd birthday in July. Hooray!

My husband had a bad stroke 10 years ago and he just gets slower and slower. I take him everywhere, so I have to be patient - otherwise, we fight. I suppose it benefits me in the long run, as I am often short of breath if I try to do thing too quickly. At this stage, I am just grateful for fairly good health and being able to move!

I certainly agree with your comments about everything taking longer. Doesn't help that I really *need* a serious nap every day...some of which probably has to do with having MS now. I used to be revived by a 20 minute nap, when I was younger. Now I sleep for an hour in the afternoon, but often only for 6 or 7 hours at night, so it averages out to 7 0r 8 hours out of 24.

Anyhow, that's not what I really got on to say. I mostly wanted to tell you how much I enjoy the 'Ronni and Alex' show. Delightful to see your animated self, and the two of you 'play off of each other' so well, having known each other so long!

I've slowed to the point of doing no more than one major task a day: laundry OR groceries OR dishes OR vacuuming, etc. I have all the time in the world, with no outside commitments, but I'm short on the will power to do much of anything. I don't know if the chronic fatigue is age or my cancer med or some of each, but I've zero energy to do anything. Everything is an effort.

I'm not as sharp-eyed as I used to be (was horrified to see two typos in my last comment -- after it was posted, of course). My attention span is much shorter, as is my patience, and my attention wanders. I procrastinate more, especially with things that cost money. And I'm forgetting things. Nothing serious yet, just annoying little things. Like the name of a tv show I'm talking about, or that actor what's-his-name, or that restaurant we went to (you know, the one with all the dog pictures). Names and words I've know for years suddenly slip my mind.

Oh, and I've gotten way off topic. Sorry about that. My short attention span, I suppose.

Susan, you said it for me. I could have written your comment word for word and it would be an accurate description of my days and life.

In addition to the way my life is now I would add that needing a day of rest following a day of unusual activity is necessary.

Yesterday I had an interview by a man from the "Pima County on Aging" and it made me more aware of what is to come. Eventually I will probably need help with showering, dressing and keeping track of my meds. All of which will be available to me if I live long enough and my body further deteriorates. So far I was assured that I am doing remarkably well for a 93 year old. (I am within days of that age so am calling myself an ancient at 93).

The only help that I need now and is not available is a yard man to water, trim and tidy up my back yard. I guess my bushes and plants will have to survive on their own because the hot summer days have just begun. It will be 102 here today so I don't hold much hope for their survival.

Ronni, you look great and no one would guess that you are just recovering from a very serious ordeal. Your mind is certainly sharp and you are able to think fast on your feet. The video without a script is something I would never dare to attempt. Kudos to you and Alex.

Hi Ronni,
I have been reading your blog for about five years and very much enjoy it. It is the only one I read. I am 73 and have been retired for 16 years. I always have more to do than I have time for - I am writing my second book, I quilt, make greeting cards, love to read, entertain, travel, garden, etc. I have some arthritis and think I will soon need to replace the knees - Don't want to be out of commission but such is life.
Really posted today to share this quote I recently discovered by William James "The use of life is to spend it for something that outlasts it."
Would love to send you some of my handmade greeting cards - if you are interested send me an email with your address. I will be out of town for next 12 days and then have company coming but sometime in June.

I am so glad when I look at my calendar and see there is no -one coming and nothing pressing to do. All of the things you mention apply and especially Darlene's one about needing to rest a day after a busy one. Everything seems to take for ever and I'm gradually learning to accept and adapt to how it is and pare down to what is essential.

I Usually can "accept" the place I'm in (with COPD and blossoming RA). It doesn't mean that I don't struggle to resist it or look for ways to moderate it. I found myself saying "yes, that's me, that's true," reading most of this.

It takes me takes me two sessions with a break between them to change a bed anymore. Throwing out my trash I have to rest briefly outside the place containing the dumpsters for our condos so I can walk back. What that means is I walk too fast going over so I can't breathe right away to go back. I have to learn walk over slower to enable me to just walk back. That's a small measure my lack of acceptance costs me, a time out with the garbage cans. Everything has to be slower. I'm working on it. I used to be very active and busy and so sometimes the whole thing just makes me angry.

I would love to know how you lost such a large amount of weight and what effect it had on your life.

Adaptation is a process, but I don't much like the constraints that have come with old age (at least for me). Beyond the basics of daily living, chores and cat care, what I can or cannot accomplish anymore doesn't much matter in the scheme of things. Still, I frankly admit that I miss the former high-energy, organized, active person I was up until a couple of years ago. 80 is NOT the new 60 for everyone! It is what it is.

Good show --thanks!

I find the way time flies by lately not only fascinating but somewhat unsettling. While I am glad that my hours are not boring, the compressing of days, weeks, and months tells me that I no longer have the "luxury of time."

Ah, yes, TIME. I don't feel slower, I just feel like me.............yet, even with going all out.........including a nap, less is accomplished. I often feel as though I'm really moving fast, but I guess not. And that's okay. I spend more time just looking at the sky, enjoying the breeze, digging in the garden........and reading this great blog!

I truly agree with Bruce. I too am watching this interesting phenomenon and speculating about the *why* of it. It seems at times like the planet itself has jumped a cog on the wheel.

A comment among the silver haired friends I had to leave behind in NV still makes me smile. " Aging is like a roll of toilet paper, the closer you get to the end of the roll, the faster it disappears." Big Sigh!

Now that's a metaphor it would be entertaining to leap into, but in the interest of more genteel behavior for this enjoyed blog, I will resist it. Hey! I had 5 brothers...what more need I say? Perhaps one of the blessings of age is a wee bit of self control. Gad, I hope so!

I like the toilet paper metaphor!

Genius idea, Ronni, about wearing scrubs!

Also perfect for gardening.

I love those interviews with your ex.

Had breakfast this morning with my 94 year old friend who lives in the ILR.

What she misses mist is being able to drive. Life slows down when you can't spontaneously get up and go somewhere.

Macular degeneration is a €£%##%.

I'm only 68 and some of you ladies put me to shame. I admit I bitch and moan and feel sorry for myself about sore knees and plantar fasciitis and this shoulder and that thumb and blah blah blah. I hate thinking about my health, and I hate making the effort to live with it or make it better. I wax and wane with my acceptance of reality, always trying to remind myself that reality doesn't care if I accept it or not!

In the last 2 years my son married and his wife left 4 months later - due, he says, to her drinking and staying out most of the night. Of course, he never would have gotten so involved with her if his drinking etc. weren't equally heavy. Then he went into a severe downward spiral. My husband, who had been diagnosed COPD for 23 years, died from a lower GI hemorrhage after a year of horrific physical and mental decline. I was in pretty bad shape for a year, then began feeling better, but now am mostly feeling "fragile".

No one ever promised me a rose garden - far from it. But I still want one, when I'm feeling like I'm 2. And yet so much of my life is good. I really get so much pleasure and inspiration from this blog, that I just discovered about a week ago. Bless you all.

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