I confess to a moment of near euphoria as I sped past traffic crawling to the beach. My smile was so big, drivers smiled back as I zipped past on my lime green e-bike – head tucked in a sturdy helmet and my sweetheart following at a safe distance. It was a moment of pure joy.
Notice I said moment. Less than a quarter mile from camp, I was down with a pain that seared from my ankle to my eye teeth, concentrated in my knee. It could have been worse. My skid landed me about an arm’s length from a slimy green drainage ditch. I could have been in pain and covered in green slime.
I knew I’d survive, but I wasn’t okay. I didn’t realize just how not okay until I got back on the bike to limp it home. Though I made it most of the way, I fell again. Now, I was bleeding and attracting attention. Thank heavens for angels with cold cloths and electrolyte cocktails.
The first thing I realized was I could not get myself up off the ground. What if I had been riding alone on a country road? I also could not pull myself up into the truck with my arms. My strength absolutely sucks. How have I let myself become so weak? What if I was hanging on for my life by one hand, like in the movies? I’d be dead.
When I turned 60 and started my 100th Year Project and writing for Sixty and Me, I learned strength is key to living a long independent life. Do you know why most people end up in nursing homes? They can’t get up and down off the toilet alone. I’ve learned it takes a lot of strength to get up and down off the toilet and to use a walker or crutches.
I’ve also learned to board the bus to the beach with my wheelchair. I know. I know. You hate waiting behind the bus when it throws out that handy dandy handicap ramp. Well, it’s a life saver for a lot of people. Thank you for your patience.
When it becomes hard to get around, we subconsciously start moving less. I watched my mom’s life change as she digressed from golfing, then playing bridge most days to using a scooter to move even a few steps in assisted living. Here’s another thing I learned about my mom. She had crappy bones; so crappy she had metal plates in her hands so she could manage basic chores. It’s starting to look like my bones aren’t so great either.
I broke my first bone at a trail ride the day before I started high school, one arm in a cast and the other in a sling. Number two was my leg in a friendly collegiate touch football game, followed by a busted middle finger catching a line drive for my corporate softball team. I’m not at all athletic. I just like to have fun.
The only bone I ever broke not having fun was my foot, stomping after my ex during an argument. But did I mention we were leaving on a cruise the next day? A neighbor gal was sweet enough to push me around the S.S. Something in a borrowed ship’s wheelchair.
Acting my age isn’t the problem; it’s my bones. I can’t ignore it anymore. Even though I pass my bone density exams, the final test is keeping me in one piece until I reach 100. At this rate, I’m nervous, not to mention disappointed my summer is off course.
I was complaining to my sister about my bum luck and how disappointed I am in my strength.
“So, what are you going to do about it,” she said in a voice eerily like our mother’s, God rest her soul. “You could start with Silver Sneakers, you know.”
She is so right, and here’s why: sarcopenia, the muscle loss that comes with aging and lack of activity. If we don’t use it, we lose five percent of our muscle strength per decade after age 35. I fear I’ve lost more than that. Good news is we can build it back.
I promised Sis I’ll cooperate with the physical therapy my new friends at Coastal Orthopedics recommend, and today I learned the local gym I used to pay for is included with my Medicare coverage. Duh. No brainer even for this blonde.
Meanwhile summer is poking by, and my e-bike waits idly for me to gather the courage to get back on it. There’s a framed photo by my desk of my younger self on a pony. She’s about six, and her feet don’t reach the stirrups. She is certainly not smiling. Right beside the photo is a plaque with a John Wayne quote: “Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway.”
I’m sure glad I’ve got a helmet.
Are you feeling your age? Have you had any eye-opening accidents? How have you dealt with the after-effects? What are you doing to get back on your feet and improve your wellbeing?
Tags Getting Older