Grandkids on Demand Plus The Alex and Ronni Show
INTERESTING STUFF – 6 October 2018

Have You Been Dropping More Things as You Get Older? Take Two

[EDITORIAL NOTE: Something came up in the past couple of days that didn't leave me time to get a post written for today. In place, then, of something new, here is the most popular story on TGB since it was published in January 2016.

Most popular, in fact, by a whopping 55 percent which reinforces my belief that the many kinds of changes that accompany growing old are ignored – or don't even exist in the literature - because the experts are, primarily, not yet old and don't yet know.

And that gives me an idea for an upcoming post. Meanwhile, if you have not read this before, see if any of it resonates with you.

* * *

It is hard to be sure but it seems to be so for me. And it is really annoying.

For example, one day last week, I dropped a spoon on the kitchen floor. I picked it up, rinsed it off and as I reached for the towel, I dropped in again. Damn.

A day or two before that, I had dropped the shampoo bottle in the shower – a new, full one that barely missed my toes. Later that day, I dropped the two-quart, plastic box where I store the cat's dry food, scattering it all over the kitchen. Damn again.

Not long ago, I dropped a nine-inch butcher knife – that one could have been disastrous – but on another day I was lucky to be standing on a carpet when I dropped my mobile phone so it didn't break.

None of these occurrences is important individually and probably not even in their proximity to one another. But they made me wonder if dropping stuff is a “thing” with old people. So I took to the internet.

There is a lot of unsourced and untrustworthy health information online and that is always dangerous for “low information viewers,” as it were. The first I found was a large number of forums where people with no expertise were freely offering their uninformed opinions.

In answer to inquiries about dropping things, many instantly went to fear-mongering: Based on nothing at all, they advised people to see a doctor right away because it could be an early symptom of MS, ALS, Huntington's disease and more.

That's nuts. Those were anonymous forums, for god's sake. I hope no one takes them seriously.

Digging deeper at more reputable websites, I found that sometimes dropping things can be among the symptoms of serious disease but only one symptom, a minor one among dozens of others anyone would notice long before worrying about dropping something.

Checking further, I found that dropping things is not a big enough issue with growing old to warrant much notice.

In fact, a webpage of the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services for training elder home staff is the only direct mention of elders dropping things I found.

”The sense of touch changes,” they report. “In older adults the sense of touch may decrease as skin loses sensitivity. Pressure, pain, cold and heat do not feel the same as they used to feel. Decreases in touch sensitivity may cause residents to drop things.”

That reference to skin losing sensitivity reminded me that a few years ago, I discovered through personal experience that old people often cannot be fingerprinted, particulalry with electronic scanners, because their fingerprints are worn off.

When I wrote about that here three years ago, I quoted Scientific American magazine:

”...the elasticity of skin decreases with age, so a lot of senior citizens have prints that are difficult to capture. The ridges get thicker; the height between the top of the ridge and the bottom of the furrow gets narrow, so there's less prominence. So if there's any pressure at all [on the scanner], the print just tends to smear.”

That would certainly affect sense of touch and the ability to know if you are holding things tightly enough. A report from Oregon State University [pdf] concurs with Pennsylvania report supplying a bit more medical information:

”With aging, sensations may be reduced or changed. These changes can occur because of decreased blood flow to the nerve endings or to the spinal cord or brain. The spinal cord transmits nerve signals and the brain interprets these signals.

“Health problems, such as a lack of certain nutrients, can also cause sensation changes. Brain surgery, problems in the brain, confusion, and nerve damage from injury or chronic diseases such as diabetes can also result in sensation changes.”

I finally found the most pertinent answer to my question at The New York Times. Noting that fine touch may decrease in old age,

“Many studies have shown that with aging, you may have reduced or changed sensations of pain, vibration, cold, heat, pressure, and touch. It is hard to tell whether these changes are related to aging itself or to the disorders that occur more often in the elderly...”

This Times information is quoted from A.D.A.M., a private source of medical information for health professionals and other paid subscribers.

So what I have deduced from two or three hours on the internet is that barring injury or disease or, perhaps, waning strength that affects one's ability to grip strongly, maybe elders do drop things more frequently.

Maybe a diminishing sense of touch in general means that we cannot effortlessly perceive the appropriate strength of our grasp as automatically as when we were younger. At least, that's what I choose to believe for myself until someone enlightens me further.

Following on that, for the past few days I have been making a conscious effort to be sure I am holding whatever is in my hand tightly enough that it will not slip.

I want that to become second nature because the knife I mentioned was a close call and I certainly don't want to drop a cup of hot coffee on my foot or the cat.

Does any of this ring a bell for you?


Yes. Lots of crumbs and other stuff seem to land on me when I eat. Maybe it's age and maybe I shouldn't read when I eat.And things seem to land just outside the waste basket when I toss them. I need to do things more "mindfully" which seems to be the latest buzzword.

In my case, it's mostly a progressive loss of muscle in my forearms and hands. My grip is just way weaker than it used to be. Combine weaker muscles with an intentional tremor that makes my fingers shake when I hold them in certain ways, and that means I have to be constantly on guard.

The thing I am most worried about dropping is my cellphone, which I want to have always with me. I have it in a drawstring pouch right now that I can hang from my neck, but also, there's a little gadget a friend found for me in a dollar store, a Chinese import called a "cutie ring." It's a finger ring that you can stick to the back of your smartphone. You can turn the ring to whatever angle is most comfortable, and then when you don't want it, it folds down against the back of your phone. Once I have my finger in the ring, I no longer have to worry about dropping the phone, it's completely secure.

I don't know how widely available my particular version is, but it's a clever idea that has definitely helped me.

I'm not sure if I'm actually dropping things more often, or just noticing it more because it's becoming a pain in the you-know-what to reach down to the floor to pick them up.

If I am an example, dropping things becomes worse as I age. It's so bad now that I carry the grabber with me. And then I drop the grabber.

Another thing exacerbates dropping and /or knocking things over is the loss of depth perception. One of my physical attributes used to be my excellent spatial ability. Now, if I reach for something I grab the air missing the object completely.

Ah! The joys of watching what happens to my body as each year floats by.

For a year or 2 I have noticed myself dropping things more than usual. My mind always runs to terrible scenarios, but I think it is probably due to less grip in my arthritic right hand. I can't even bend my fingers enough to make a closed fist now. Ho hum.

I haven't noticed yet that I'm dropping things more often. But I do have less grip strength for opening bottles. A rubber "pancake" helps with that.

In the last six months I have dropped a full glass of water on the table TWICE in our retirement dining room. Embarassing. But everybody sitting at the table assured me they'd done the same thing. No reason for it: it just falls out of my hand. I have carelessly dropped my phone so I've got a bounce-proof cover over it. Then in August I sort of bounced my laptop while at the John C Campbell Folk School. So when I bought the replacement I bought a cover for it also, tested for for bounciness. All my body parts, muscular and neurological, are 77 years old. They're allowed to go on vacation now and then.

Still a popular post. I attributed it to faulty electrical signals due to fibromyalgia, but you are probably right. It is aging. Fun, fun.

I've had so many surgeries in both hands, I don't even shake hands any more. Food has always plopped on my front. My mother burned holes in her dresses. My daughter and I fall up stairs. Age, certainly. Gotta laugh.

Yes, gripping sometimes is a problem. I have carpal tunnel and arthritis. Have diminished feeling in my fingers sometimes. And at age 70 I had to learn how to wear a contact for the very first time, after wearing glasses since age 6. Every day is a new adventure with that contact, between barely being able to see it to sometimes not feeling it on my finger. Good thing is, once I am successful getting it in, I blink and I forget it's there. Until bedtime and I need to take it out.

In my seventies I could not open things, in my eighties I started dropping things and now in my nineties I can not pick them up!

That's what happens when time goes by!

Just more lovely c#%p that old age brings! No fun--no fan!!

Thanks for posting this. Knowing it's not just happening to me is a consolation, of sorts. Yes, I drop things too often. It's so frustrating, and I blame myself for being "clumsy." I wonder if this might be part of the origin of the phrase "losing your grip." Mindfulness is helpful, when I think of it. But my mother's remark that "getting old ain't for sissies" is ringing more and more true.

I have also noticed that I drop more food at the table.
More interesting is that when in my 70s I had to visit a youth in prison the policeman who took finger prints was most annoyed "what did you do with with your thumb" he said trying the other fingers.
Now imy eighties I bought an iPad to find that I could not use fingerprint recognition. I am waiting for face recognition to simplify logging in devices...

I've noticed this but espec. today (the news: If I ever have to be sworn in in court for some reason, I'm gonna tell 'em, "What the hell do I have to be sworn in for?! Since I'm not a rich, white guy, you're not gonna believe a word I have to say anyway!"); in such a bad mood, I've spilt a whole thermos of coffee and some wine. The way I'm feeling, the wine's the bigger loss.

Just seeing this today! Late to the party.

I have noticed I drop things more often. When this happens, it's because I misjudged the distance or space. This happened when I really did not give my full attention to whatever I was doing -- putting something away or putting something on a table. Sometimes, I dropped something because it slipped out of my hands when I was washing it. So, I guess this could be attributed to a decrease in touch. I also think it can be due to nearsightedness and not being in present or being distracted.

I have seen this and it just launches my low frustration tolerance response (i.e. pissed off) Maybe this will calm me the heck down. I will add that it speaks to the reason my console games skills are well behind everyone else especially in Destiny. I got fingers like bricks.

I've only just turned 65 and I'm constantly making 'droppings'!
Thanks so much for your research Ronni - as usual I feel all the
better for receiving it. Truth only hurts the faint-hearted.

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