Are We Old Yet?

Seeing 65 years of age in the rearview mirror, I’m noticing changes in my physical and mental capacities. That is a painful thing to say, much less to post to the world, but it is true. It has been my experience that to cope with any problem, one must first identify the problem. Then, one must accept and own the problem. Once the problem is identified, it is possible to look for and implement a solution.

In my experience, the mental issues are most commonly mentioned: a decline in the ability to focus and short-term memory. The focus issue affects me most when I read a text or email. I tend to read them like newspaper articles. Remember them? I read the subject and first line. If there is nothing of interest, I stop reading. Well, I have been burned a couple times because some friends and colleagues put the important points, like upcoming meetings, in the second paragraph or later. Fortunately, the mental issues have NOT affected my ability to write.

Physically, I have been a mess all my life. I wasn’t athletic in school. I dislocated my shoulder in a crazy skiing accident in my 20s. (It happened on the bunny hill, but the slope was very icy.) I didn’t realize until I was 40 that the bunny hill accident also messed up my neck significantly.

Then, when I was about 50, I took a fall off my daughter’s very tall Rhinelander horse. It wasn’t as dramatic as the picture, but I landed hard on my left hip and back, knocking the air out of me. The resulting bruises greatly impressed the doctor and nurse. That ultimately led to a hip replacement at 65.

Thank God for the skilled surgeons who replaced my hip and repaired my neck. The neck surgeon said my spinal compression was the worst he had seen in his 30 years of surgery. Again, I thank God that He kept me from being paralyzed. Oh, and I failed to mention the bleeding ulcer that came from stress at work.

I could have avoided these problems had I been stronger physically, emotionally, and spiritually throughout my life. Better control on the ski hill (and some much-needed lessons), and stronger leg muscles to keep me on the horse would have prevented much subsequent pain. More trust in God that He was in control of my work situation.

But that’s how we learn, isn’t it? We learn from our mistakes and evaluate our accidents. I suppose I could write a dozen articles on my mental, emotional, and spiritual growth. Today, I wish to share the things I have tried for my physical growth.

As you might imagine from my history, I haven’t been very successful in improving my strength. I did have a period where I exercised at a local gym about three times a week while unemployed. It helped me considerably and I saw improvement in my physical and emotional health. When I started working again I stopped going to the gym.

The saddest thing is that I had a treadmill at home and didn’t use it.

Adults practicing tai chi in park.

I am trying once again. This time I’m taking a class in beginner’s Tai Chi. I tried Tai Chi through a video course, but there were aspects of the movements that didn’t click with me. My instructor is very sensitive to our physical limitations in class. He is slow and deliberate and it’s going much better this time.

My goal is to diligently practice at home and to advance past the beginner class. The wonderful advantage of Tai Chi is that it is a whole-body workout that is slow and gentle on the body. As the movements are slow and carefully guided, it is a mental exercise as well. Yet, because of the slow movement, it is a challenge to the muscles, especially the thigh muscles. I see it as a cross between isometrics and aerobics.

Best of all, Tai Chi can be practiced anywhere, indoors and out. While ballroom dancing on the grass or a carpet just doesn’t work, you can do Tai Chi.

I will keep you informed on my progress. Please share your experiences. I need encouragement to continue practicing and improving over time. I hope to have another 20 years to perfect my Tai Chi.