Cranky Old Ladies Rock: More on Why Conventional “Wisdom” Is Wrong About Aging in America and What to Do About It
I can’t find her comment. Sh*t.
I remember the gist of it, however, and I’m going to tell you her story as best as I can.
She’s 76. Not long ago she took a nasty tumble, I believe, on a concrete curb. Smashed her elbow, hit her head. Maybe her hip.
I may not have all the details right but I do remember that she took a moment to sit on the curb to collect herself. OW.
Let’s be clear. A 76-year-old woman who goes ass-over-teakettle on concrete doesn’t usually get to report this:
Her doctor was very surprised that she lost no flexibility. Banged her elbow up a bit, but for the most part she was up and at ’em in no time.
Minimal damage. Maximum recovery. Back to the gym with a bruise here and there.
What she wrote that stuck with me was that at the age of 62 she had begun HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), yoga, and a variety of other proactive ventures.
Here’s the piece: most women this age don’t get back up.
Most 76-year-old women who do a somersault on concrete end up in the hospital. Many never leave. Here’s our reality:
One in four Americans aged 65+ falls each year. Every 11 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall; every 19 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall. Falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of nonfatal trauma-related hospital admissions among older adults.https://www.ncoa.org/news/resources-for-reporters/get-the-facts/falls-prevention-facts/
This woman took a few moments to collect herself, she shook it off, and kept right on going.
I love this story. This woman rocks.
Conventional wisdom- to which I don’t ascribe in the first place in most cases because those of us who want to be outliers consider it full of dog poop- says that after we hit around sixty, we’re elderly. Infirm. We should expect to decline.
This woman (let’s call her Marge) took life by the horns at 62. Like other women her age and mine we hit the gym. Do yoga. Speed walk or run. Pick up weights. It makes absolutely no difference where we begin, it’s that we begin. We don’t embrace the bullshit that says that Alzheimer’s or dementia are inevitable. That the long decline will speed up.
At some point, we simply say Not for me, baby.
A very significant factor in falls is polypharmacy, the predatory medical practice of slamming vast numbers of pharmaceuticals down elderly throats. Here’s a list of what can cause dizziness and falls https://www.consumerreports.org/drug-safety/drugs-that-might-be-the-cause-of-your-dizziness/.
Just because you can get meds from a Walgreens or a CVS doesn’t make them safe. Over the counter drugs can be just as problematic:
- This group includes a large number of drugs that are anticholinergic, like most over-the-counter sleeping aids and many other prescription drugs
- These drugs include: antihistamines like Benadryl, “PM” versions of over-the-counter pain relievers (Nyquil, Tylenol PM); overactive bladder medications like Ditropan and Detrol; medications for vertigo, motion sickness, or nausea like Dramamine, Antivert, Scopace, and Phenergan; anti-itch meds like Vistaril (hydroxyzine); muscle relaxants like Flexaril (cyclobenzaprine); tricyclic antidepressants and Paxil
- Research linking these drugs with falls have mixed results, but because they cause drowsiness and other serious side effects, experts include them for review when working to reduce fall risk-https://dailycaring.com/10-medications-that-cause-falls-use-with-caution/
Americans wash down some 80% of the world’s pills under the mistaken assumption that they can cure all ills. One thing we are guaranteed is that many of them cause far greater ills than they help. Depending on how our unique body makeup responds to those meds, we might be ending our lives far sooner just by taking something that helps us poop better.
WebMD has this list of conditions that may cause dizziness and this is just from frequent laxative use : https://symptomchecker.webmd.com/multiple-symptoms?symptoms=dizziness%7Cfatigue%7Cfeeling-faint%7Cfrequent-laxative-use&symptomids=81%7C98%7C99%7C388&locations=66%7C66%7C66%7C66.
Frankly that’s terrifying.
Let’s be clear: whether the mail doesn’t move well because you’re on opioids or simply because you eat a diet of cheese, bratwurst and beer makes no difference. The point is that your body is designed brilliantly to take care of business without assistance. But it’s also designed to work well with the proper fuels and movement. Remove those, add bad meds, and you are likely to fall.
My response to that, folks, is eat more fiber. Exercise. Get up and move around.
The only thing that’s inevitable is that we will age. We will get older, then old. We all have an expiration date. However becoming a sad statistic isn’t inevitable. That’s what I loved best about Marge’s story.
Over the last three years I’ve taken some spectacular falls, including doing a header down 32 concrete steps in Iceland. Being thrown from a galloping horse in Kazakhstan. Oh the stories I could tell. Like Marge, I got right back up. Of course I did damage. But unlike most folks my age, and like Marge, in no time I am back at the gym. We’re outliers. Here’s the grim reality for the average:
- When an elderly person falls, their hospital stays are almost twice longer than those of elderly patients who are admitted for any other reason.
- The risk of falling increases with age and is greater for women than men.
- Annually, falls are reported by one-third of all people over the age of 65.
- Two-thirds of those who fall will do so again within six months.
- Falls are the leading cause of death from injury among people 65 and older.
- Approximately 9,500 deaths in older Americans are associated with falls each year.
- More than half of all fatal falls involve people 75 or over.
- Among people aged 65 to 69, one out of every 200 falls results in a hip fracture. That number increases to one out of every 10 for those aged 85 and older.
- One-fourth of seniors who fracture a hip from a fall will die within six months of the injury.
- The most profound effect of falling is the loss of functioning associated with independent living.
In about an hour I’ll be tossing a heavy backpack on my shoulders, donning my hiking boots and hitting Red Rocks Amphitheater for the alternative day’s training hike as the sun rises. Today I’m going for 3000 steps with heavier weight. I’ve got a BHAG to complete, Mt. Kenya in November. I’ve turned my legs into pistons. AT 65 I expect my body to respond- and boy does it- with exercise and discipline. I see this among all the other older folks who, like me, hit the steps early and long, and stick with it. I find joy in movement as opposed to joy in munching Oreos while hanging out in a recliner.
So does Marge.
Body confidence, the prevention of hip fractures and the terror of falling that dogged people like my mother are gained through body work. Balance work. Work as simple as walking, then gentle yoga, light weights, water aerobics. There are a hundred hundred ways to get strong. Just as there are a hundred hundred ways to get decrepit. Go downhill.
Wanna be like Marge? I do. That’s not genetics. That’s not lucky. That’s hard work.
I’ve gotten great stories from men, too, who have turned their aging bodies around and found a brand new life. Anyone can. YOU can. Marge did. We start where we are and take baby steps. At some point you look back and realize that the challenge of walking around the block somehow morphed into a 10K. When the hell did that happen?
About the same time you cleared out your medicine cabinet and turned to the fruit and veggie aisle instead.
Aging is inevitable. Aging badly isn’t.
As the old Microsoft ad used to say, “Where do you want to go today?”
Not to the hospital. Let’s go for a walk. Run. Hike. Bike ride……