I’m Elderly. Um, Really? A Look at the Lies We’re Told About Aging
If you simply look at my age — 65 and counting- I’m an old woman. Most people my age in America are taking fifteen prescriptions a year. If in a facility, a whole lot more, including a great many they don’t need. That’s called polypharmacy.
Polypharmacy is in and of itself a prescription for dying faster and younger. When you gorm that many pills it is a guarantee for complications, over medication, medical interactions that can kill. Meds cause mental fogginess, memory loss, and dizziness.
Wanna know why so many folks my age fall?
Probably more from the toxic crap in the pills they take than any other reason. Every nineteen minutes an elderly person dies from a fall. Let’s do a tox screen and find out just how much medication they were taking.
What to Expect As You Age
You slow down, you need to rest more. You get fat. You’re likely to get dementia or Alzheimer’s. You’re gonna need more meds. It’s inevitable.
As a 65-year-old athlete who gorms supplements instead of meds, I beg to differ. I’ve had nineteen concussions since my racing bike, The Black Bitch, first threw me in 2008. By all accounts I should have serious dementia by now. I have had PTSD since 1974 when I was raped in the military. According to conventional medical wisdom, I should have coronary problems. In fact, my heart is in superb shape, performing better than people a third my age.
I’m about to gear up for another adventure trip to Indonesia. Alaska and Africa are on the menu. I run steps, kayak, jog, skydive, scuba dive, paraglide, climb mountains, ride bikes, hike, ride horses and push my limits regularly. And I can hit the floor and do fifteen one-armed pushups, a trick I learned recently because my right rotator cuff is torn from a horse riding accident in Kazakhstan. This isn’t bragging. I’m a freaking pipsqueak next to the senior Olympic athletes who pass me at speed at Red Rocks.
Granted, this is not the vision that greeted me at my 45th high school reunion. One year I got an invitation to attend a collective 60th birthday party. I had to say no, because I was on an extended adventure trip in Argentina. The event was billed as “One Foot in the Old Folks’ Home.” Wonder why I wasn’t motivated to attend….
I Am Hardly Alone
You don’t have to be an outlier to outlive conventional wisdom. At a time when our life expectancy is diminishing (largely due to opiate use, obesity and other factors), there is absolutely no reason why we have to go into lockstep with CW about aging.
When I head out to Red Rocks Amphitheater to run the stairs here in Colorado, a great many of the folks puffing along next to me are my vintage or older. All types, all sizes, athletic. And by their ages, elderly. By their actions, vibrant. With so many of us, we can’t all be outliers. We’re just outlivers. This has everything to do with a series of choices, not all of them easy. Choices to get up and out and moving. To trade the remote for remote wilderness. To eat good food rather than just food that tastes good. To fast every so often, and to move fast a whole lot. To spend time practicing their balance rather than just trying to balance the budget. To find happiness and gratitude and purpose rather than expecting life to make us happy, our doctors to make us well, and our kids to devote their time to accommodating our needs.
Most of us avoid pharmaceuticals altogether. We also eat organic when we can, tend to skip dessert, and lean towards naturopaths rather than traditional medicine. Natural grocers are full of folks like me. While we all still see docs, we challenge every diagnosis, most particularly if the white coat wants to push a pill or a procedure. These, we avoid unless there is just no other answer. And that is rare.
Anti-Aging Doesn’t Exist
The moment we’re born we are on the path to eventual death. Even AARP recently stopped using the term anti-aging because it implies something that can’t exist in Nature. We are all going to bite it. How we get there, our quality of life, is uniquely determined by a combination of factors. We have direct control over a lot of it, such as the foods we eat, how much we move and how happy we choose to be with our conditions in life. Choosing not to toss down toxic chemicals that interfere with the natural healing that our bodies do very well on their own without help from a side-effect-inducing med that, oh, by the way, did we mention, death is a side effect?
The inevitable advent of sagging skin, hair that shows up in undesirable places like the outdoor rug that suddenly is growing out of your nostrils, the balding or greying of other furry areas (now why can’t the hair move there?) and pieces that variously fall out or fall off are part of what makes aging hilarious. What isn’t funny is buying the bullshit that old people just get fat, get infirm, slow down and need to rest more. That we should expect to feel awful, look awful, and descend into the hell of being elderly, which is tantamount to cursing in our society.
In an attempt to deliver the worst possible insult, an online troll once wrote me “you are so OLD.” I laughed so hard I fell out of my office chair. At 65 I am far more athletic, a far better writer, speaker than I ever was. Yesterday morning I muscled a great big couch out of my living room (my apologies to my wood floors) and got it through a very narrow doorway into my garage. Alone. Old? Elderly? Puh LEEZE. When I can’t move large pieces of furniture solo then I am simply going to train harder in the gym in my basement.
Getting Older is Hard Damned Work
I may be an aging athlete but my experience, as have many others like me have found, is that the body adores labor. Some of the oldest bodybuilding females never touched a weight until their late fifties. There are marathoners at 92 who run with their sixty-ish daughters. One dentist in England, in his late eighties, became a fitness trainer. To listen to him on the radio, he sounds like he’s in his forties. None of these people are necessarily outliers, with one exception: they choose differently. Their lives are no different than yours or mine. Most never saw themselves as athletic until they asked permission of their bodies to try. They probably suffered through some soreness- so do we all- but that was the message that their body was sending that it wanted more work. They gave their bodies the food and labor it wanted. And now they are unstoppable.
We can bag that marathon, or become a bag of excuses for why walking around the block is just way too much work. We can eschew being medicated into a stupor, or we can chew our pills contentedly, and ease back into the mindlessness of the overmedicated. Complacency comes at a cost.
Elderly? Kindly, I know twenty year olds who are elderly. The ability to make fun of what happens in life, to never ever take things personally or too seriously are the best prescriptions for a youthful mind. So is a voracious appetite for learning. While we will eventually hit the end of our shelf life, there’s no earthly reason to buy the CV that age has to come with infirmity. Our ability to expand is into infinity, as long as we keep trying. We don’t know the journey that follows. What I do know, as do all the other folks who are choosing to evolve differently rather than age badly, is that for the time that we have, “elderly” isn’t for us.