I’m not old, just a little second-hand in places. There’s this stereotype that getting old isn’t supposed to be any fun. I’d like to be one of those wild and wacky women who still take a lover at 82 and dances in flimsy dresses aged 100. They are out there, I have seen them!
They exist, and I suppose the world will always have the yoga fanatics, the champion swimmers and tennis players that have hit the age of 90. Unfortunately, I am not going down that path.
Instead I struggle to put the washing out with arthritic hands. Fight to the death with bottle tops and pill containers. Sweat and swear over the cleansing cream lid. I frightened my husband recently when I attacked a mouthwash bottle top with a claw hammer. He was frightened I’d do myself damage.
I also struggle to stand upright if I have been bent in a sitting position; my body remains in that position for some time, to gain an upright posture I have to get upright by hanging on to a shelf and stretching back. Hardly the stuff seen in moonlit tangos, looking instead more the Hunchback of Notre Dame. I really hate to see myself in videos. ‘Who is that old woman?’ I think to myself. It’s like seeing myself suddenly reflected in a shop window sometimes — scary isn’t it!
This nasty curved look has happened slowly. It has crept up on me since I turned 60, like there is a spring that gives way, similar to those in an old bed. I am in good company though; I noticed our dear old Queen walks in a similar way.
I have decided to do something about it, if I can. I am 80 so it will not get better. I’ve arranged for some physiotherapy and will be seeing a chiropractor. I’ve challenged myself to up the activity levels each day and increase my walking. I do garden a little but have to bend too much for that to be good for me.
When I was 20 I was so busy walking everywhere with my children in prams, that exercise was part of life. I stayed slim and upright, with no problems. In my 30s I danced a lot at parties and went to keep fit classes. I also rode a bike to do my job as a home carer at one stage, often riding many miles to far off villages in Wiltshire, United Kingdom. By the time I was 50 I attended the gym, and became quite obsessed, I loved the strength training. I could still walk long distances and was obviously fit; I walked to get transport to my job, which at that time was in Melbourne, Victoria. If I missed the bus walking home took over half an hour from the station, I did it without a second thought.
When I was 60 we moved to this small town, I piled on weight at first and felt very frumpy, but then I took on a new career as a home carer. Again the trusty bike helped, spent my days vacuuming and cycling to all the homes and working pretty hard in between.
Yet, after 70 the rot set in. I at last gave up active work at the hospital where I’d been for eight years as a personal carer and we stopped cleaning the school, which was another little job. All valuable activity to keep me fit. I fought to keep the pounds off, but social life and being a shire council member’s wife meant a lot of sitting down and dinners! My husband was with them for three years, in that time, I loved meeting the people we met though council. But it did me no favours in the health department.
I have always made some attempt at physical activity. I am not a sportswoman though, have never played netball or any team games. However, now I am seizing up like an old bike left without oil. I have a heart condition and rheumatoid arthritis, so both ailments prohibit some activity. I will rise to the challenge and look forward to relating my experiences in a few months.