I receive many magazines in the mail. Most are the promotional type from my healthcare provider, retirement organizations, and senior centers, but a few are health and fitness magazines I subscribe to monthly. I find many have great articles that are relevant and helpful on topics of food, exercise, and even travel.
Recently, I have become aware of many articles they contain on how to make our homes safe as we age. There are recommendations to put up safety bars everywhere; remove area rugs, no, do not remove a rug if the floor is slippery (i.e.; ceramic); do not store things where they are hard to reach and so on. We do everything possible to prevent having an accident of some kind in a home that is temporary. Temporary because on average Americans move once every five years.
Interestingly enough, precious little is written about how to prepare ahead of time the only permanent “house” we will ever have – our bodies. This is one house we live in as long as we are alive, and do not get to move out of.
I agree with safety measures. It is good to make our environment and homes safe, but don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. What do I mean by that? I mean don’t make your life so easy that you eliminate the need for any activity. Movement is good for you. Stretching is healthy and vital for your muscles. All these articles I see about moving everything within easy reach and eliminating the need for all reaching seems excessive. I agree that it’s not a good idea to store things so high that you need a stepstool to reach, but what’s wrong with reaching to the lower shelf rather than storing something on the counter? Leaning down is good too – not bending over and hurting your back, but if your legs and knees are good, bend and the knees and retrieve something from a lower shelf. Many of you may remember the old days in gym class we used to do knee bends. They are still good for you – they work your quads, glutes, hip abductors, hamstrings and calves.
Before considering anything, talk with your doctor to discuss what would be beneficial. My doctor told me to stop jumping rope on a hard surface but working on balance is good. Myself, I have found I can strengthen my leg muscles by standing on one foot for count of twenty, then I switch and do the same on the other foot, some days I might hold onto a chair if I need. I find the perfect time to do this is when I’m using the microwave. It’s anywhere from 30 seconds to three or four minutes when I am just waiting for the beep. My kitchen is a great place for many little exercise moves, even a little happy dance.
To stretch for something stored somewhat high is good, to bend down and get to an item stored low is also good, remembering there’s a right way – bending the knees is good for the hamstring muscles – and the wrong way – bending from the waist and stressing your back is a bad move. I know the trend is to move everything for easy reach, but that is really defeating the purpose of mobility. You don’t have to accept that when you get old, you will automatically cease to be able to move. I say don’t let that ageism nonsense rule you. If you have an injury or physical limitation, be smart and know your limits, but don’t restrict yourself if there’s nothing wrong. I don’t!
Many times, I meet someone new and shake their hand. You’d be surprised how often I hear “Wow, you’ve got strong grip there.” I guess it’s not expected from a 92+ nonagenarian! But, that hand strength is because I did not want to lose my dexterity and based on what my doctor advised, I added to my routine. To strengthen my arms and hands I squeeze rubber balls, the size of tennis balls. I don’t do this every day, but I keep them on my nightstand and squeeze them now and then as I think of it. Years ago, I learned to juggle so now, throwing just one ball in the air and catching is great exercise in dexterity. I am always happy if I can add the second juggle a little.
There is so much in life that I can still do – even at my chronologically-gifted age. I intend to keep doing as much as I can, and not give in to the notion that I can’t do something, or I’m not supposed to because I’m “too old”.
I’m reminded of a ditty I heard a least a half a century ago;
Don’t do this, and don’t do that.
Don’t you dare tease the cat.
Don’t sit down and don’t you fall
Don’t do anything at all.
It seems that the older I get, the more people tell me of all the things I can’t do. I’ve lived in this body a long time, and I already know the things I can’t do. To dwell on those is too negative. I’d rather focus on that I still can do.
Instead of this negative “Don’t” stuff, how about let’s focus on some positive “Do” in our lives. I would like to think it’s never too late to start and no, I am not too old.
As I wrote this article, I researched the ditty that came to mind, so that I could give proper credit to the author. I was surprised and delighted that it was part of a much longer poem and the words were a little different than I had remembered. I couldn’t resist sharing the entire thing:
Always Saying “Don’t!”
by Edgar Albert Guest
Folks are queer as they can be,
Always sayin’ ” don’t” to me;
Don’t do this an’ don’t do that.
Don’t annoy or tease the cat,
Don’t throw stones, or climb a tree,
Don’t play in the road. Oh, Gee!
Seems like when I want to play
“Don’t” is all that they can say.
If I start to have some fun,
Someone hollers, ” Don’t you run! “
If I want to go an’ play
Mother says: “Don’t go away. “
Seems my life is filled clear through
With the things I mustn’t do.
All the time I’m shouted at
“No, no, Sonny, don’t do that!”
Don’t shout so an’ make a noise,
Don’t play with those naughty boys,
Don’t eat candy, don’t eat pie,
Don’t you laugh and don’t you cry,
Don’t stand up and don’t you fall,
Don’t do anything at all.
Seems to me both night an’ day
“Don’t” is all that they can say.
When I’m older in my ways
An’ have little boys to raise,
Bet I’ll let ’em race an’ run
An’ not always spoil their fun;
I’ll not tell ’em all along
Everything they like is wrong;
An’ you bet your life I won’t
All the time be sayin’ “don’t. “
Ieda Jónasdóttir Herman, 92, is an author and motivational speaker based out of Illinois. At the age of 88, she wrote and published her first book, a memoir of growing up in Iceland. She has since published two fiction works for children. Following a stroke in 2016, she had dedicated her time to education of stroke awareness and encouraging seniors to become more active in life.
Visit her site for photos, contact, and social media links: www.vikingamma.com