One of the things I’m learning about aging is that it is like riding a roller coaster -- you can stand by and study it for years, but until you get on for a ride and come out of the loop-the-loop, you really don’t know anything about riding a roller coaster.
All of us age and react to our aging differently. There are also markers that confirm the process and spark our reactions. None of us can be certain in advance how we will experience aging. But while we can’t control every turn and dip we will encounter, we do have a choice about how we let them affect us.
Now, it should be said that I don’t ride roller coasters. That’s not because I’ve gotten too old for it; I’ve never enjoyed the terror of being surprised by the combination of speed and height. I’m not enjoying all the twists and turns of aging, either.
For me, the toughest part isn’t finding out my knees have lost their bounce or my hair is inventing new places to grow. The hardest part of aging for me is having the courage to acknowledge and embrace what is happening in my life as I change. Some things just make me feel like I am 210 , and that takes me to a difficult place.
The recent icy weather is a good example. Shuffling along on the ice-covered sidewalk with the dread of a high-wire walker just didn’t feel like "me.
I used to be fairly adventurous, but now, not so much. Falling just isn’t worth it. The getting down is too quick, the getting back up has become harder, and the getting over it takes a lot longer. So I’m growing more cautious.
It wasn’t until the sun was out and the temperature back up that I realized how much my fear of falling had caused a loss of mobility and choice. Once I considered things, it did seem I probably overreacted a bit (which is not uncommon with me).
There were other options than hiding in the house until spring. But to be able to consider them, I needed to be aware of the problem so I could work on a solution. It isn’t just a matter of ice, it is a matter of brain engagement. You can’t solve what you don’t think about.
There is the rub. I don’t want to think about getting older, but I’d better. Whether I participate or not, I’m getting older every day.
By embracing the scourge of time, one has a better chance to compensate for changes. This is my life and I don’t want to miss out on any of it, no matter how old I become.
So, I’m trying to learn to listen to my body and pay attention to my reactions to aging. That should help me to make adjustments along the way. There is a world between falling on the ice and staying in the house till spring. Between those two extremes is where we can age successfully. Aging in Place, it doesn’t happen by accident.
Scott Funk is Vermont’s leading Aging in Place advocate, writing and speaking around the state on issues of concern to retirees and their families. You can access previous Aging in Place columns and Scott’s blogs at scottfunk.org.