What to Call Old People
INTERESTING STUFF – 8 September 2018

A Mystery of Slow and How Do You Dream of Yourself?

No statistics today or links or research or quotations from experts. Just a couple of observations I'm wondering about, mostly just for fun or, perhaps, some enlightenment among us.

One of the things I have done all these years to inform this blog is monitor the ways I am changing as the years pile up. It's not as dumb an idea as you might think as the one lesson I know for sure is that if it – whatever “it” is at a given time - is happening to me, it is happening to thousands and, probably, millions of other people.

A limitation to that monitoring turned up after my cancer surgery 14 months ago: I sometimes can't work out now if a change is the result of that big-time interruption to my life or just a normal part of getting older.

For example, the crepe-y skin that has appeared almost overnight just about everywhere on my body – even my knees – turned up during my recovery. It is due to expected loss of muscle mass, so I put that in the cancer box.

The reason for a new slowness, however, is up for debate.

It's not, as far as I can tell, that I walk more slowly or even need to rest part way through an activity – I've pretty much recovered my energy. It's that I seem to so easily stray from the business at hand. The internal monologue goes something like this:

Oh, look here. I've been searching for that book all week.

She sits down on a stool and flips through the book for 10 or 15 minutes)

That's not a one-off. Such distractions happen while making dinner, too, or halfway through sorting laundry or (more internal monologue)

Did I remember to pay the cable/internet bill? I'd better check.

Sees headline about Woodward book and clicks link to read about it. When finished, she clicks the next headline about the Senate Kavanaugh hearings. One hour later:

Okay now, what was I doing before those news stories?

Even with that thought of getting back to the original task, it is not unlikely I'll recall that I didn't take out the trash earlier so I do that or telephone a friend or do something else until I take myself in hand and concentrate again.

This stuff can happen off and on all day. It seems to take forever now to get through my daily to-do list. It's not that it's longer than in the past. In fact, it's often shorter due to some adjustments I've made to what's important and what isn't.

Nevertheless, I rarely, these days, am able to check off all the items and it is due mostly to following distractions wherever they lead me instead to finishing what I've started.

That might be a result of a lot of anesthesia over the past year affecting concentration or, it could be reduced executive function in my brain - not uncommon as we get older.

Is this familiar to any of you?

It is well known, of course, that everyone dreams but you wouldn't know it by me. Even when I occasionally wake with the wisp of dream in my head, it is trailing off by then and gone before I can grasp it.

So it was a surprise, a few days ago, when I woke with a picture, a short video really, in my head of me getting off a motorcycle and leaning it against a red-brick wall.

While doing that, I noticed a man about 10 or 15 feet away, leaning against the same wall. He had clearly been watching me ride up and smiled in an appreciative manner.

I couldn't miss that he was gorgeous and maybe about 10 years younger than I, not so much that it would necessarily be an impediment to – whatever.

Nevertheless, I went on my way in the opposite direction, immediately had a thought that I shouldn't pass up saying hello to someone as attractive as he was and turned to walk back toward him.

Then I woke up. (What a shame.)

It should be noted that I've never ridden a motorcycle, except once as a passenger, and my response to the man in the dream, reversing my direction, as mild as it seems to me now, was more brazen than I recall being in my dating years.

I'm not interested in interpreting the dream – I don't believe in that. Here is what has been on my mind about it since that morning:

I was the age I am in waking life, 77. I was aware of that in the dream, it was a feature of the dream, and in a passing moment, I was pleased at the grace I could feel in my movements as I got off the bike.

Because I rarely remember dreams, I don't have a history of what I have felt about myself in dreams. Age or capabilities have not been features. I just was. More, perhaps, that I was my internal self, I think, rather than being a certain age or recognizing any particular physical sensations either of youth or old age.

What I am wondering is how you experience yourself in dreams. Are you ever older or younger or different in some ways from what you are when awake? Has that changed as you've gotten older?


I think I'm my current age in dreams--and I love those younger men dreams!

It's called my 'makeshift meandering mind.' No worries over it here. Often it's during a repetitive chore or something. It might be because I'm bored with what I'm doing. Or daydreaming which isn't only for schoolchildren.

A small timer that doesn't automatically go off is now in a few select places or I will carry one, sort of an "Attention!" alert, as distractions have enticed me enough to forget the tea water boiling in the kitchen (timer is now always put on when using the stovetop), which might remind me to water the flowers outside, which might remind me to replace a recently broken vase, etc.

And speaking of that, there's a brain scientist whom I heard on Pacifica radio - Eric Kandel. The only part of what he said that stuck with me was that walking is the activity that regenerates brain cells by promoting a body chemical that promotes it, your brain isn't capable of creating new cells. The other day I mentioned this to my acupuncturist who concurred, adding that a mental exercise should also be included, such as counting by 3 from 100 to 1. Listening to music won't do it.

We always can learn something new, even if it's accepting that we're old and forgetful.

Your dithering about among tasks may be new to you; but, it pretty much describes my life! If I think of something that needs to be done, I need to do it before I forget it altogether. My husband thinks this is nuts. He has been a life-long list maker. He carries bits of paper and a writing implement with him everywhere! Life-long, when I make a written list, I have usually gone off without it. Mental lists help me - especially if I make a mental note such as, "When I see Suzy, I have 3 things we must discuss." Knowing how many items are on my list helps me recall the items.

As to age: I've been given to understand that most of us dream that we are younger, as we age. It is mostly true for me. I think I stopped aging, in my dreams, at about age 42. Only on rare occasion do I dream that I am old (which, at age 80, I absolutely am!)

I've recently noticed a patch of dry, hard skin above my left knee. My legs have been crepe-y for several years, now, and my neck? It's been crepe-y since I was 30. Of course, the neck is worse, now.

I feel I've lost a certain kind of focus. I too set a timer while doing any cooking. I do manage to take my assorted medications mostly at the right times but recently when an extra was added for a temporary problem the whole thing fell apart and it was a week before I was back on schedule. My mind just ambles off at times.

I dream a lot and mostly remember enough to be interesting. Occasionally I'm about 10 years old in my dreams but mostly I'm in my early 40's. No idea why. My thoughts and actions in my dreams reflect regular old 76 year old self and I'm often aware I'm dreaming. Sometimes I dream a solution to something that is bothering me. I have several dreams that repeat. Being back at work. Visiting my grandparents houses. I've revisited a non-exsistence town so many times in my dreams I think I could draw a map of it. My dreams are in color and sometimes have music. I wish I could record that music; I never can recall it only that I enjoyed it.

I'm a 74 year old widow. I take Klonopin every evening for anxiety and insomnia so my dreams are very vivid, and once in a great while, memorable.

In my waking life I have short light blonde hair. In my dream life I become my original self with dark brown hair. I'm always young, even if my grandchildren are in the dream.

My dreams generally fall into two categories: I'm moving into a new house (a fresh start?) or I'm having a first date with a young guy (wishful thinking?).

When I remember a dream, I'm just grateful I'm getting some REM sleep!

The mental doings are for 'while' walking. I'm going to look for other thinking ways as I love solving puzzles in life, and I'm close to having this one in memory, so it's veering off its intended mental challenge of being a worthwhile journey vs a goal to meet. Bleh!

I have definitely noticed the slowing down and I am ten years younger than you are. Over the past two years, I have noticed this slowing down. Also the very strange thing of when I move my arm a certain way, all these wrinkles appear on it.
Every year since I turned fifty, I have noticed at least one aging change in my features. I look on these with interest, really. At this point, my jowls are dropping. I play around with the idea of doing that minor face lift and I might. But I also feel a bit embarrassed that I would consider this. I mean, how vain! On the other hand, we live in such an ageist society and being widowed, I am not ready to move into the shadows. The quandary is that mentally and emotionally I am ageless (until I start to lose my mind, I suppose, God forbid). And yet, it is my physical appearance to which most people out there respond.
As for wandering distraction, yes old age, and studies have certain confirmed this, but also our internet which has one thing after another that I greedily want to read and know about.

I went through chemo and radiation this year and when I get tired or distracted I wonder if it's a result of that or just my age. I can't quite remember what I was like before.

Oh yes, it's a little like going to Google for one thing and ending up with something completely different through following those interesting looking links. My day happens just like yours. It may be part of getting older but I wonder if it isn't more about freedom: to get up late or early, to dress or not, to shop or not, to read or not, to blog or not. All the "free" choices we have as retirees because our days are no longer circumscribed by deadlines, requirements, bosses! Lovely.

As to dreaming, I'm conscious of myself as being in the dream but I have no idea who/what/how I look. Odd, never occurred to me, so now I'll see if I can pay attention (that's an oxymoron, in so many ways).

Thank you for the article on 'slow'! That and the comments that followed have reassured me that I'm going completely dotty. What a relief. And like you, I also began to attribute a lot of it to the large amounts of drugs given to me during and following surgery and a 4-day forced comma just over a year ago -- along with the fact that I'm 81 years old.

You and the very heartfelt comments from other devotees of this blog have been a blessing. I had begun to be really frightened. Your blog has helped me many times over to grasp the fact that I wasn't alone in the world with the changes and nuances I had begun to develop. It's truly comforting.

And I too am really beginning to appreciate my long-time habit of keeping shopping lists and t0-do lists. It sure helps.

Ooops typo above... really meant--
Thank you for the article on 'slow'! That and the comments that followed have reassured me that I'm NOT going completely dotty.

Miki Davis

Ronni, like you I wonder if some of the changes I've noticed are simply natural aging or the result of my cancer experience and drug I'm still taking. My hair has gotten terribly thin. A shorter attention span for sure. And I forget names or specific words that I've known for years but suddenly can't recall at the moment. My days are so much alike that I often wonder "Did I do that this morning or yesterday?" And I sometimes have to check my computer to know for sure what day it is. No padding on my butt anymore makes sitting on hard or firm seats very uncomfortable.

I have realistic dreams, always in color, and I think I'm usually my actual age in them. I honestly don't recall. One weird recurring dream was of my car being stolen. Always my real life car, right down to the correct mileage on the odometer! Go figure. But that was my beloved Mazda coupe that I had for 17 years. Hasn't happened since I got another car.

I've been a list-maker all my life and put most notes on my computer/phone calendar so I get reminders/notifications. The grocery list, however, is always handwritten. It just seems too "foreign" on my phone. Still keep a notepad and pen within reach so I can write down dates, times, addresses before putting them on my calendar. Don't trust myself to enter info quickly and accurately on the computer.

Somehow I seldom remember my dreams - so hard to answer that question.

I have had the "distraction" problem for years. It might be worse now - hard to really tell. I often get distracted by starting to do something on the pc, seeing something interesting to read, and even a few seconds later totally forgetting what I was originally planning to do.

I'm very much "I better do it right now or I will forget type person".

Lists don't seem to help even on the phone as I forget I made one so forget to consult it. Or I only remember as I'm going out the door of the store.

I have never remembered dreams and am glad to hear I'm not the only one.
I was beginning to wonder if I even dream at all. Is that possible?
I also have no memories at all about my childhood. I assume I have somehow blocked them. It's always interesting when chatting with a friend, and he/she says, "I remember when I was (age)....". I never know what to say.

I used to be a jogger. Daily 1-hour "runs" were normal for years. An illness caused balance issues that necessated the use of a walker, a cane, and, thankfully, are no longer required, but during the early daysof the illness, I dreamed often I was again running. Nurses said that was often the case when one cannot walk. Do our brains stimulate us to keep on keepin' on or just give us a few moments of happiness? Since I've been walking without assistive devices, I've not had any running dreams. Lots more walking,though. Thanks for the info. about walking helping to create brain cells.

P.S. I read a wonderful IMO article this morning written by Francis Wilkinson for Bloomberg about the Republican Party. That article and the New York Times op-ed piece by "annonymous" give me hope that Ship USA may get back on course.

I didn't go thru the ordeal you did, but I still have the "slow gear blues." Your post today & the comments gives me comfort knowing I am not alone on this "ageing" journey. And thanks about the tip that walking helps create brain cells. I needed that to continue my daily mall walk with family & friends. Have a great w/end. Dee:):)

Cleaning house has always resulted in remembering something else that I need to do. Particularly vacuuming results in a going through a what do I need to do.
Who needs to concentrate while vacuuming or cleaning up the kitchen? My mind wanders and solves problems and has often saved me from having a problem i.e. paying a bill that is due that day, etc.
I look at it as a positive. I just come back to what I was doing. It's great when you have many hats to wear.

I have "Adventure Dreams". I don't know what age I am but given the level of athleticism I achieve I 'd say in my 20's or early 30's. I am in a canoe forging raging streams, driving a Jeep or Land Rover over crazy rough terrain, hiking through rugged trails... I am never afraid but rather always figuring out how to get through the next challenge. There are only a few people with me - never anyone I know. I love my adventures! I am an active 69-year-old lover of the outdoors but well past all that wildness in my awake state. 😊

I goofed and used the wrong word, thus giving an erroneous notion. Brain cells can't regenerate; other already-existing cells in the brain can be repurposed when needed, according to E.Kandel, who states brain cells once gone, stay gone.

The hormone believed to be attached to this is Osteocalcin, which is released by bones, thus the usefulness in walking for healthy bones and brain health.

I remember many of my dreams very clearly. A few weeks ago I had to tell Prince Harry that, even though he didn't think so, I was too old for him.

Love Joyce's dream! Mostly I don't remember my dreams but when I do I am the observer, and sometimes an actor (I seem to search for my car lost in huge parking garages)
but I do not see myself. I seem to have no age (or body really) in a dream.

I'm glad to hear about walking causing new brain cells to grow, however that happens. Walking is my favorite exercise.

Since starting to use a CPAP machine 3 years ago, I've stopped having dreams. Prior to that, I had vivid dreams as far back as I can remember. They normally had fairly logical story lines.

My dreams as an older adult often featured close friends & former lovers having some type of normal adventure that we would have had in the '70's.

We were all young and healthy in those dreams. . . .maybe I should top using that CPAP for a while.

I am always middle age in my dreams and am with strange people. I am aware that I am walking normally and am amazed at my recovery. I no longer shuffle while hanging on to the walker. I am often in a strange city.

I rarely dream of people I know, but am at a meeting or a party with people I have just met and I don't really know them and I am feeling left out. The good dreams are when a strange man is interested in me and I am aware of his attention. I am usually surprised that he has chosen me. (Is the thirst for romance ever truly dead?)

Then there are dreams where I am at a buffet with all of my favorite foods and something always happens to prevent me from getting any food. I think those are obviously caused by hunger pangs.

Aging produces slow. I truly believe that. There are ways to forestall, and those option should be pursued. As for dreams, I've had few (shades of Sinatra), however they were quite memorable and foretelling. Sounds ominous? Yes, some. You can ponder that. As for slowness, in my case, slow was accelerated by a chronic "no-cause-no-cure" malady from which there is no escape. Nonetheless, I do document, if only to track deterioration. This is not as sadistic as it may sound. It helps me keep a handle on reality. When I get to a point where life has no value, it will be decision time. Until then, I'll see where my dreams take me. And, excellent column. It's a keeper. Helps to know someone else feels as you do.

Slower, oh yes, and the things other than chores that call to me I don't really consider distractions, they are my real life..........a book, something in nature, my pets, an idea, and then, I'm always wanting to get to the studio. Right now my sink's full of dishes, etc, but yesterday I was in the studio a lot, alone, and with a drawing group, and I'm happy.

Dreams......age doesn't show up too much, but I am always limber, don't fly as much as before, don't dream quite as much as before. My dreams are really important to me. Recently, I had what I can only call a visitation from my brother who was killed in Viet Nam.
It gave me such a feeling of love, confidence, strength that has stayed with me.

That's lovely, Salinda.

All of it.

So many interesting comments from today’s TGB gathering! They remind me that we are all different, yet aging gives us so much in common. I’m envious of some of the dreams, especially Marilyn’s adventure dreams and Joyce’s encounter with Prince Harry. When I first retired, I often dreamed of flying and would wake up absolutely convinced that I could actually fly, but that era didn’t last long.

My dreams now, if I manage to catch them before they disappear, are often about being in a strange house. It’s always a large, illogically planned, rambling house which is not safe. It’s full of junk and other obstacles. The windows won’t close and the doors won’t lock, or there are so many that we somehow forget to lock them. There is always a “we” whom I can’t identify but I know I am responsible for them, so neglecting to lock doors is very frightening. I have no idea how to interpret these dreams, but I’m always vastly relieved to awaken in my own very logical and safe home.

Like many of you, I’m plagued by chronic distractions. It’s quite true that these distractions make life much more complicated than it should be. For now, anyway, I am blaming these distractions for demented incidents like getting appointments wrong or neglecting to pay an important bill. I’m pretty sure that, as I have done many times as the vagaries of old age crept up on me, I can manage to re-set my brain to better avoid the distractions and focus on what is necessary and real.

Susan R.’s issue with butt padding also resonated with me. It is so frustrating to have grown such a fat butt as I aged, only to have it sag and be of little use as something to sit on.

I think taking a break in the middle of a task is a sign of feeling tired?

I have not seen myself in a dream in a long, long time. I am always an observer and in my present state of mind. I recently had a very vivid dream involving a baby gorilla. I use the dictionary at Dream Doctor to look up the symbolism. It's very insightful.

I just call it (older) adult-onset ADD and go on with my life. I actually welcome the distractions from a tedious task. (Grateful not to have many deadlines these days!)

As for dreams, I feel that I am younger than my 67 years because my body has no physical limitations (though I haven't dreamed about flying in quite a while). For some reason I have been semi or fully naked in my dreams many times over the years. Frustrated nudist, perhaps? Dreams are a fascinating subject - I really enjoy reading everyone's comments!

Oh boy, the distraction and lack of focus is something I definitely identify with. I've always had problems sticking with projects or tasks I find dull or uninteresting, but I could always buckle down and get 'er done when I was young. Now, at 72, and dealing with chronic health problems, it's like pulling teeth, and my plans to put X number of hours into a website I work for just runs through my fingers like water through a sieve. I follow crumbs of news, research in fields that are outside my own, look at FaceBook, add a few gardening ideas to Pinterest - and soon my day is done but my work isn't.

I rarely see myself in my dreams. I see what happens as I do in daily life, as an observer, and I don't seem to have an age. At least I don't deal with my physical limitations in my dreams. While I had nightmares caused by pain as a child, I now have very few unpleasant dreams, and I find even deceased family members I didn't particularly get along with that well with in line are loads of fun in my dreams. And old friends sometimes call as well, and we do fun things, puppet shows and the like. I have my own personal theatre! LOL

I was just on my way to throw the washing in and thought, maybe I'll just check ,my e-mail, so here I sit, reading and typing my input. I will relay an incident that does not have to do with a dream of mine, but my experience with my husband's death. I was sitting with him, it had been a long hard physically debilitating road for him, we knew the time was imminent. As he took his last breath, I immediately saw in my mind, he jumped up from the bed, he had on his catchers mitt and shorts and a tee shirt and ran off to play ball. He was 77, but in that flash, he was back to his young, healthy self, free to run and play. just like when we were teenagers. I remember thinking, I hope that is what happens when we pass, we regain our lost capabilities . It gave me a moment of happiness at a sad time.

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