Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

Age and infirmity.

As I have mentioned, I haven’t been at all well lately. So it is no surprise that I woke up (early) from a feverish sleep, thinking about how things change as you get older. I have written about this before of course, but in a few weeks from now, I will be adding an even bigger number next to the 6 in my age. And I woke up thinking about just how fast that seems to come around.

If you have a long time to go before you can even think about retiring, or the thought of sixty candles on your birthday cake seems like some distant event in an uncertain future, then you might do well to read this, and take pause for thought.

I spent the last fifteen years of my working life planning for the time when I could retire on the pensions I had paid into. Research informed me that I would have to work until I was 60, to make it financially possible. So like many before me, I started to ‘count down’ the years until I would no longer have to work, more or less wishing away a great deal of my life, hoping to get older faster. Does that seem crazy to you? Then maybe wait until you get close to that yourself, and see how you feel. By the time I got to my 58th birthday, I was coasting in neutral. I had a date fixed, and had already applied to retire on that day, excited to receive pension forecasts and confirmation in the post.

One week after my 60th birthday, I was no longer a ‘worker’. I was now one of ‘The Retired’, a ‘Pensioner’. With five years still to go before the addition of my official State Pension, I took a 60% drop in monthly income, and moved to Norfolk to live the quiet life. Well, I didn’t plan on it being quiet. I would get a dog, do a lot of gardening, some decorating, and various jobs around the house.

At first, it went just as expected. I didn’t get around to the decorating, but I tackled the big jobs in the garden, painted some fences, and got that dog. That got me out of the house, exploring the local area, and meeting new people. And I tried my hand at starting a blog too. In most respects, life was quiet, also peaceful, and content. This was how I had hoped it would be, and I could anticipate the coming years, planning ahead.

Then one day, I found it difficult to lift a shopping bag from the back of the car. I thought I must have misjudged the weight of it, and was surprised to discover I needed two hands to lift it. After doing some minor digging and weed-clearing the following week, I could hardly hold a cup of coffee later. I went to the doctor, and she took blood tests. I had been taking medication for high cholesterol for around five years before retiring, and it turned out that I was one of the unlucky ones. The tablets had caused muscle wastage, predominantly in my arms. Cells and muscle tissue were found in record numbers in a liver function test, and the medication was stopped immediately, never to recommence.

I had to readjust. I was never again going to have the upper body strength I had enjoyed for most of my life. Jobs would have to be tackled slowly, and I had to buy a small hand-truck to move things around. My arms ached to the point of bringing me to tears, and simple things like opening a stubborn jar lid were now almost laughably impossible.

I was annoyed with myself, but had to learn to live with it.

Not long after that, I felt dizzy in the bath one day. I was sure that the bath had overturned with me in it. Impossible as that sounds, I scrambled out the bath in a panic, knocking over everything in the bathroom. I considered that it might be a stroke, and spent a long time waiting for the symptoms to subside. Then I went to the doctor again. It was Vertigo, a simple painless condition that can seriously blight your life. Lying for even a short time flat on my back was now impossible. Look up at a tree, or down at some weeds, and an overwhelming dizziness would convince me that I was about to fall. The doctor suggested head manipulation exercises, but they didn’t work. So she told me that I would have to learn to live with it.

I needed to readjust, again.

The next summer, I was bitten badly by horseflies, when out walking Ollie. Some of the bites became grossly swollen, and others I had scratched continued to hurt, and bleed constantly too. Back to the doctor, and this time I saw the nurse. She told me not to scratch them, (yeah, like that works) and gave me some cream to help with the swelling and itching. I remarked that I was surprised how long they were taking to heal, and she smiled. “You’re not as young as you were, unfortunately”. On top of having arm muscles with the strength of bath sponges, and feeling dizzy doing so much as changing a light bulb, I now had to contemplate the possibility that a simple insect bite might never quite heal, and provide the possibility of worse infections attacking my bloodstream.

Retirement was becoming a contest with my own rapidly-ageing body. And a contest I was losing.

So the next time you dream about the day of your own retirement, whether it be sailing that yacht around the world, spending time with your grandchildren, or landscaping your beloved garden, I have a tip for you.

Check with your body first.

You’re not the one in charge, whatever your brain tells you.

95 thoughts on “Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

  1. My dad is 71 and has always been a real workhorse and very strong. Over the last few years he has also complained that getting old is getting to him. He can’t go jogging anymore, he can’t carry heavy rocks around the garden, he can’t move all the furniture on his own. He’s also had to have a lot of work on his teeth. I think it’s making him a bit grumpy.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Getting older comes with lots of disadvantages doesn’t it? And until it begins to happen to us we don’t get it. I’m finding that I not as supple as I used to be, cutting my toenails gives me back ache for instance. But it’s all better than the alternative. I can’t claim my state pension until I’m 66, a lot of people just won’t be physically able to do that, to say nothing of the forgetfullness!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Gilly. It does seem to go from ‘nothing’, to lots of ‘little things’, and leaves us thinking if maybe there’s a ‘bigger thing’ to come soon. After all my years in the Ambulance Service, I should have been more aware than most. But it still came as a surprise, how rapidly things changed. My GP once smiled at me, and said. “It’s the natural order of things”. (I estimated she was well under 40 years old)
      I replied, “Well I hope someone says that to you, when you are 63”. πŸ™‚
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Like

  3. Sage advice Pete, I am sorry to hear of your health developments but admire your attitude. There is no choice in it so best to get on with it but I find myself more prone to a good whinge first. It makes me admire you more and the fact that you’re still seizing the day rather than walling up. Coincidentally I’m seeing my GP next week to go on cholesterol tablets. I’ve been putting it off for about 3 years and well over a year ago had it revealed there was a build up on fatty tissue on my liver. Due to other issues I am also at increased risk of cardiac issues so I’m afraid this might be something I have to do at least for a bit.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cholesterol medications work well for most people, Lloyd. I was just unlucky to be one that was hit by the worst side-effects. Just make sure they are one of the more modern tablets, and arrange regular blood tests to make sure they are working. If you get any aches and pains in your legs or arms after a while, then get straight back to your doctor and tell him or her about that.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Know exactly how you feel Pete! Gonna add a 7 to that 7 to that 7 I already sport later this year – with no guaranty of getting there! I knew I was getting old when last I changed a tire 7 years ago! Regards from “retirement” Florida.

    πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m hoping that as I age and become slower I will become more accurate:)
    Mind you I just caught the adult version of the kids virus and my movements have become more rapid, thankfully my accuracy has not faltered πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ve long suspected we’re not designed to last long once we stop procreating (if we do), and definitely the change in women’s health before and after the menopause seems to indicate that. Not that I adhere to the anatomy is destiny, but there’s something to it as well. So, live the moment… I hope you’re feeling better and I’m pleased you’ve taken up the blog, that’s for sure!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I hope you’re at least feeling a little better from the virus today Pete. I just turned 54 last week, but due to my health issues, I often feel as though I’m at least 20 years older. Still, I can manage the pain and things like vertigo, as long as I don’t wind up with dementia. That terrifies me. I’ve known a few people whose elderly parents wound up with Alzheimer’s and it was horrible. I think I can manage anything as long as I retain control of my faculties.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Kim. Belated happy birthday wishes. πŸ™‚ x
      It is interesting to consider that dementia often means that the sufferer is unaware of all the other problems in their life. But the thought of being trapped in a body controlled by that disease is indeed too terrible to contemplate.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Oh my gosh, dont remember me! 😦 Honestly? I fully agree with Robbie! No one is asking you to become a weightlifter or boxing champion.
    You don’t have to dance ballet either. LoL
    Today you have to be happy if you are not yet diagnosed with dementia at 40. Best wishes, Michael

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thank you for sharing such a personal life experience with us. It’s so important for us to listen to our bodies throughout our lives. Usually we ignore our bodies until something is wrong and we have to listen.

    My husband and I echo your thoughts on not waiting until retirement to live life fully. We are approaching 40 and we are doing our damnedest to make every day count while we are spry.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I appreciate you reading this, and leaving a comment, Britt. I too made the best of my time between the ages of 25-50. Good times with family and friends, trips to interesting places, foreign travel, and much more. I was looking forward to that idealised vision of ‘retirement’ though, but really should have known better.
      Do it all now. If you get the chance to do it all again in 25 years time, then that’s a bonus. πŸ™‚
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Gee Pete, I almost hate to ‘like’ this post. πŸ˜‰ You’ve been through a lot! But as I read the comments I am somehow encouraged to know that so many of us grapple with one thing or another, and we do seem to adapt and go on. I think the secret is to focus on what we can still do and enjoy and stop fretting over what we may have lost (it doesn’t help anyway.) And I’m sorry about your experience on the statins. I’m glad you got off of them. It’s concerns me that ‘high cholesterol’ has been made into a disease that needs treatment with drugs when cholesterol is vital to your body. And I’m rather suspicious of how the pharmaceutical companies downplay some very serious side effects.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I learned a lot about ‘good’ and ‘bad’ cholesterol at the time, Susanne. Seems like my body decided that all cholesterol inside me was ‘bad’, and used the statins to help attack the muscle sleeves, heart coverings, and possibly even parts of my brain. (Which is made with 20% cholesterol)
      The big medical companies have a lot to answer for, with their ‘miracle cure-alls’.
      That said, statins do help may people avoid the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Just not me! πŸ™‚
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 2 people

  11. I am so sorry that they hadn’t picked up that side effect of the statin sooner. I had to have blood tests every six months for a while to check liver function. As for vertigo, I have had it on and off for forty years. I hate it but it is a reality. Fortunately it isn’t constant, though I can never predict its arrival. I wrote about the importance of balance and find that the tooth brush balancing exercise really is improving my ability. Falling is our biggest risk I understand.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Elizabeth. I tried your ‘standing on one leg’ the other day, and didn’t do as well as I expected to. I have decent balance on two feet, but not so much when I am emulating a flamingo! πŸ™‚
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I’m in my mid-30s, so I am a baby in the grand scheme of things. I can relate though in that I do check my (paltry) retirement accounts every day afraid they’ll burst into flame from a sudden recession. Maybe I worry too much about the future? But then there’s the rent and the loans and the angling for the promotion. There’s not enough time to enjoy life.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Timothy. My advice is to live life to the full now. Stop worrying about a future that will be nothing like you expect it to be, and do everything you can while you are still young enough to enjoy it. If you manage to stay fit and healthy in old age, then deal with that when and if it happens. πŸ™‚
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Like

    1. A few weeks ago I had a funny headache that made me see black spots for more than hour. and I had slight problems walking steadily. I measured my blood pressure and it was high (normally low) and it scared the wits out of me – did I have a stroke? Then a few days later I suddenly got white fingers on my left hand when it was only a bit cold outside, so annoying when I go out with my camera! The GP prescribed Nifedipin and now the blood pressure is fine again and the white fingers are gone. Still, this was a strong blow to take. I was happy to say, I don’t take any medicine πŸ™‚
      I have to face it, as I get older, I have to let go …

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Sorry to hear you had high blood pressure, Dina. But at least the medication will now control that. One thing about getting older in the 21st century, medical advances have helped make our lives easier, in some cases.
        Love from Beetley, Pete and Ollie. X

        Liked by 1 person

  13. Very hard to β€˜like’ this post, though in age I am right there with you. My dad when I grew up had amazing foresight about hypertension and cholesterol and though I laughed at some of what he recommended, now learn how right he was. I don’t know what to say. But I do know vertigo can vanish as simply as it arrives. I hope yours will!
    Prayers, meantime, for you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nice to see you back, and your kind words are appreciated. I do know that vertigo can just vanish. I ‘lost’ it for three weeks, and thought it had gone. But it returned as strong as before, and has been constant for almost two years now. I count myself lucky that it wasn’t something much worse. πŸ™‚
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Pete, clearly your post sparked a lot of comments…I’m not at that retirement age yet, but as many have mentioned, you see the changes in parents/relatives/friends etc who are older, and your words are valuable for everyone: anticipate that changes lie ahead and be ready to adapt!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I’m going on a hike today that will probably involve a bit of moderate rock scrambling. My sense of balance is not quite as good as it once was. I found that out a few weeks ago while clinging to the incredibly steep flank of Frenchman Mountain. Had I lost my grip, I would have bounced off a few rocks on my way down into the abyss. Physically, I’ve actually grown stronger over the past year or so. I’ve packed on some muscle. Not bad, considering I’m only a couple of years behind you in age. My only real complaint is a lifelong shortness of breath due to small lung capacity. I do a lot of huffing and puffing on the steep uphill climbs, which is very annoying…

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Pete, I, too, have suffered with vertigo. The first coming in the dead of night. I also thought I was having a stroke. Right now I am fighting going on the cholesterol meds by severe dietary changes and more exercise. It’s only been three years of retirement and we don’t even have a dog to provide comfort and companionship!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You don’t need me to tell you how scary those vertigo attacks are, Maggie. Especially in the pitch dark, and dead of night. I still have it all the time, but have learned to ‘manage’ it, by being very careful about never being flat on my back.
      Having the dog has been the only thing that really forces me out every day. I walk around 6 miles a day in the winter, ( 2 hours or so, at a steady pace of 3 mph +) and a lot more in the summer. In good weather, I might do up to 12 miles a day, staying out for around 4 hours.
      But it is also very restricting. So many places where no dogs are allowed, and having to always consider finding a reliable dog-sitter, if you need to go anywhere overnight.
      I would avoid taking Statins as long as you can, but that’s based only on my experience. Most people have no side effects from them at all. πŸ™‚
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Oh, and I’ve been looking forward to my retirement in less than five years. I have problems with the air already today and otherwise I notice that the forces are less. I hope I have some good years to live in retirement!
    Best wishes, Irene

    Liked by 1 person

  18. We would all grow older and the more we add number to our years, the more sometimes it becomes difficult, physically at least. But we also grow wiser through the years. We could not prevent those aching joints acting eventually. We just have to enjoy what live gives us. When we are physically healthy, it is a blessing too. I hope you are feeling okay now.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. OMG, Terence takes high cholesterol tablets and I have noticed a change in him over the past few years. I put it down to lack of exercise. I shall get him to check for this. Getting older is not easy, Pete, I see that with my parents and my aunts and uncles. It is hard to adjust to not being able to do the things you did easily before. You will just have to write and read more [smile].

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks, Robbie. The ones that I took were called Simvastin. They only affect around 4% of those who take them in the same way that I was affected. Most of those get the muscle weakness and pains in their legs. Though in my case it was just the upper arms. Hopefully, Terence will be OK. πŸ™‚
      (It’s an easy diagnosis, one blood test, if they are looking for the right things.)
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 2 people

  20. Too true, Pete….I’m not even ‘old’ yet, but with a medical condition that throws me constant challenges including poor balance and loss of muscle strength among many others, I feel like an old lady! But never give up! And thank goodness I did a lot of travelling whilst I was younger and able

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Thank you, Pete. It’ll be my knees that go first – already giving me problems. In fact just yesterday I said to my sister I feel like a stereotype old woman moaning that ‘this damp weather goes for my knees’! If I didn’t walk, I think they’d seize up entirely.

        Liked by 1 person

  21. Brother do i understand! I felt pretty much the same most of my life – and – then – all of a sudden -POOF – I got old. I go to the gym 3x a week. I know I’m not going to lose weight with the amount I do, but I want to maintain some agility. I see people bent over and walking in tiny steps, etc. at the grocery story and it scares the heck out of me!!

    Liked by 2 people

  22. Everything is backwards in life. School is often wasted on teens – they’d get so much more from high school if they were 30 and retirement is something that young people have more health and energy for. We are all doing things backwards! lol

    Liked by 2 people

  23. How I wish I knew whether the aches and pains I get are normal for my age (77) or something to be worried about! Slowing up, getting breathless, not being able to reach up with one arm,going to sleep after meals. Is this old age? I suppose if I’m eating, sleeping and walking I should be content. We had to change our bath for a shower as I couldn’t climb out but we don’t have your difficulties so should count our blessings. Best Wishes, Julie.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. I learned a long time ago that the body always wins in the end. I also have to live with my ‘new norm’, which I hate doing by the way, but it’s a case of accepting it or being forever miserable. As Bette Davis said…”Old age is not for sissies”.

    Liked by 2 people

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