‘Life hacks from an octogenarian’

Jan 04, 2021
There are ways and means of getting around the aches and pains that come with an 80-something-year-old body. Source: Getty

I know from 85 years of experience that getting old can be a time of pain, inconvenience and difficulty. A lot of the things I used to love doing, I can no longer accomplish. I know I have parts that hurt, which I never knew I even had! I know that there are foods I can no longer enjoy, because they now either make me swell or they make me fart – neither of them good conditions to have to live with! I know I can’t stay awake during the afternoon – any afternoon – and I can’t get to sleep at night – any night – especially if I’m suffering from the farting situation! And I know I used to walk miles just for the pleasure of it, but now I can barely make it to our country club, a mighty 50 metres from where we live! It all sounds pretty sad, doesn’t it?

But, of course, what I’ve just quoted to you is only one part of a rather complex picture. Yes, I know parts of me hurt a little, but it’s usually something fairly easily handled with a couple of paracetamol tablets (unless I really injure myself or the arthritis flares up again). Then there’s the food. One important rule here is to remember that you aren’t as active as you were 40 years ago, so you don’t need as much of the stuff any more (that alone can get rid of a lot of wind!). Not only that, but you have reached an age where the palate – stale from many years of hard use – desires a little excitement. Today there is a vast range of edibles – both simple and exotic – for you to try, so go for quality rather than quantity (I especially like hot and spicy).

As for sleeping, I’ve found two things that correct this problem somewhat – not that I want to get rid of my afternoon siesta! A little light exercise in the morning gives your body an excuse for wanting to switch off later; and last thing at night I take a couple of paracetamol and a shot of brandy in my cup of hot chocolate – a combination that never fails (for me anyway!). In any case, I’ve reached that age now where I don’t panic if I can’t get to sleep for an hour or two. I just lie there thinking about how lucky I am to be able to lie there, when a lot of my friends are sitting on the right hand of God, if there is such a thing.

The walking is a bit of a problem. Nothing too serious, but these days my legs turn to some mysterious sort of jelly after I walk about a hundred metres, and my shin muscles start to hurt, followed by my ankle joints and hips. I find using a walking stick is an enormous help, and I feel a lot safer with one in my hand. I also have a wheelie-walker for more strenuous adventures.

I think the greater percentage of my problems can be put down to two reasons: one, I suffer from atrial fibrillation and I think this causes the oxygen in my blood to lessen during strenuous exercise, and two, it’s a simple case of old age! By the time you get to 85 or more, a lot of the equipment you were born with is getting a little worn or even completely worn out in many cases. Just ask around among your friends and see how many new knees and hips there are, plus the ubiquitous pacemaker, which seems to be popping up everywhere these days and saving lives all over the world! Couple that with the enormous strides physicians are making almost daily in the hundreds of drugs now available, and 85 starts to feel quite young.

In fact, both Jacqui and I feel fairly well-off right now. Thanks to progress, we both feel pretty good and we can still lead active lives. We don’t look as if we’ve spent the past few weeks in our coffins either. Good diet has seen to it that our skin is still healthy, proper management makes sure our eyes, teeth and ears are doing their jobs as they should and, I have to admit, despite everything, the “granny state” does help us a lot – however much we might try to deny it. I fully expect both of us, barring accidents, to be around for at least another 10 years or so before we ‘kark’ it!

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