It's not always that we can't do it anymore (although that can become true), but that we can't do it the way we have always done it before now - “it” being a usually increasing number of things that become more difficult.
Earlier this week I was talking with my friend Jan Adams when this came up in conversation. Jan, who lives in San Francisco, has been blogging at Happening Here for as long as I have been doing that at TGB although Jan focuses on the much larger scale of human political and common good.
”I've been yammering here,” she writes on her home page, “about activism, politics, history, racism and other occasional horrors and pleasures since 2005. I intend to continue as long as the opportunity exists.
“In this time, that means activism and chronicling resistance. Perhaps it always has, one way and another.”
We were both a lot younger when we began our blogs 15 years ago. We had not run into many of the limitations that have creeped into our lives now. Jan is much more athletic than I've ever been so she has more joint and muscle pains than I. Nowadays, however, with COPD and cancer, I seem to be catching up in number if not in kind.
We decided to call our topic “adaptations” to old age. Jan reminded me in an email that I've been saying forever that old age is so much richer (maybe even wiser) than increasing infirmity. But that doesn't mean we can ignore the inevitable.
So here are some adaptations, adjustments and workarounds we have adopted. See what you think and what you can add to them.
Done. Finished. Gone. As Jan explained:
”Don't stand on a ladder to change a light bulb without a supportive friend present. :-) I did this the other day and fell; no damage this time, but I will not repeat the stupidity.”
I was a little ahead of Jan on the topic of ladders. A few months ago, I placed my foot on the bottom rung to change a light bulb and instantly thought, “Last time you did this is the last time you ever will have done this.” And so I saved myself a fall.
SHOPPING AND CLEANING
As I've published reports of my disease progression in these pages, more than a few of you have yelled over the internet, “get a shopping service” and “get a cleaning service”.
You were all correct, of course, and as of a few weeks ago, I've finally succumbed. What a difference. The only complaint I have so far is that the food shoppers do not seem to understand that if there is a wrinkle in the tomato skin, it is not fresh. But it's not inedible so I let it go.
STOPPED MAKING THE BED
I have never liked walking into my room with an unmade bed but now, it takes three sit-down rests just to tidy up the covers and pillows. So I don't anymore. And I have found that it doesn't bother me at all.
POTS IN THE SINK (OR ON THE COUNTER)
With COPD, I can lose my breath entirely just bending over for two seconds to pick up something I've dropped. It's worse after plowing around in a lower cupboard for the right cooking pan – five minutes of heaving to get my breath back to normal.
A friend in New York suggested I just leave the two or three pans I use most often in the sink after washing or on the counter. It works perfectly.
I have always hated those plastic bathtub mats but more than ever I need one to be sure I won't fall in the shower. The problem is that they get icky slimy on the bottom and they are really hard to clean and there is that pesky COPD bending/breathing problem.
So one day in a fit, I threw out the mat and decided to worry about it later. Well, later turned up the next morning and the closest thing to help was a hand towel. It works.
I stood on that in the tub, it didn't slip and it took only ONE second to bend over to pick it up, ring it out and dump it in the washing machine. Where has this idea been hiding my whole life.
TRASH, MAILBOX AND THE CAR
Sometimes, walking slowly, I can get to the mailbox and nearby trash bins without breathing too hard. That is, unless the trash I'm carrying weighs more than about five pounds.
And, sometimes, even lightweight trash is hard to carry without losing my breath. So I've given up my carport which is twice as far from my apartment as the parking lot and I leave my car there at the end of the walkway.
Now I take the trash to my car, drive the 300 or 400 or 500 feet (I've never learned how to estimate that kind of distance) to the bins and mailboxes. At first, I felt kind of stupid doing this but not anymore.
And now it is your turn. In the astonishing number and kinds of infirmities that can afflict elders, solutions must vary widely but I'm guessing there are plenty we learn from and share with one another.
Give us your best in the comments below.