Sunday, October 04, 2009

Preparation for Next 50 Years -- Again

Almost twenty-five years have passed since I sought a fifty-year medical check up to prepare for my next fifty years. I recall telling my doctor, in part seriously and partly in jest, I was planning to live to 100 years of age, so needed to ready myself. Of course, I explained, my intent was to optimize my physical health. I also emphasized quality of life was an important issue, so my mental and spiritual health were also vital components to aid in reaching my goal.

My then general practitioner medical doctor and I had established an ideal patient-doctor relationship by my standards. His approach epitomized to me the mutually interactive collaboration most effective for a doctor to provide optimal patient care, at least with me. When there were serious matters we could be serious, but we laughed a lot other times. His examination’s result confirmed that considering the wear and tear of the first fifty years of life to which my person had been subjected, I was in pretty good condition. My body was probably carrying about twenty pounds more weight than needed but I was confident I could drop that when I made the effort to do so. After all, at forty years I had started bike riding, successfully ridding myself of extra pounds I had kept those years following my childrens birth.

Earlier years when in graduate school I unintentionally caused myself a potentially serious spinal disc problem that with effort I had effectively overcome. During that time there were family stresses with the vagaries of young children becoming teenagers, a dedicated husband coping with professional issues along with the beginnings of his own medical problems, and my additional struggles intertwined with my dear mother’s care, especially after her stroke. In those ensuing years for myself I had regrettably been less attentive to or successful in avoiding the body effects from constant long term distresses that cause unhealthy chemical releases into the system.

Still, I had a naturally positive attitude. I knew relaxation and imaging techniques, but may not have utilized them as much as I needed. I neglected to maintain some sort of exercise regimen, was careless with my eating habits and may have reaped the consequences of too many years of minimal erratic sleep patterns that were continuing even then. Eventually parent caregiving following my mother’s death evolved into increasingly complex spousal coping complicated by my husband’s declining health.

I did take care of myself as much as possible but probably not in as beneficial a way as I might have. When some pressures released I tended to think I deserved to reward myself with periods of unstructured time for having survived years of what seemed like 24/7/365 scheduled routines. So exercise, eating, sleep habits remained unaltered. My doctor of many years died and though my new younger doctor was simultaneously admonishing and supportive as he could be, the relationship was not the same. There was too much history in dealing with me, the whole person, that the new physician would never know, nor given what health care had become would there be time to delve into such factors had I been so inclined, which I was not.

My husband’s unexpected sudden death seemed premature despite his increasing health problems. A few years spent adjusting to that major life change had to pass before I finally began to focus on core life planning for my future. The past year or two I gradually reached the conclusion I needed to get myself into the best condition possible. Coincidentally, at that time various medical issues periodically developed as deterrents. I persisted in viewing these problems as only temporary as I became determined I would eventually initiate my plan.

Just as I concluded I could safely start I experienced what at first seemed another medical delay, but one I was able to turn into a motivating factor. That impetus came from some of my body parts sending me strong, sometimes painful messages. Not only have I been neglectful but the question arose in my mind as to whether I might have waited too long to begin re-invigorating my system physically and just what would be my limits.

Well, I’m convinced now that it’s never too late to begin some sort of physical exercise program. Intellectually, I knew this and had someone asked me I would have told them so. Now I know it in quite a different way from the first hand experience of what I’m learning through a regimen of physical therapy I’m receiving. I have been able to integrate my own plan with those exercises that I’ve been able to implement over the past three months.

Meanwhile, I’ve been hearing media references to increasing belief that future life expectancy may well be extended beyond the current 70+ and 80+ years, especially since more people now are living into the 100’s. Speculation is that future generations may well experience 120 year plus life spans. Such news has given me cause to re-examine my whole life plan. I’ll be sharing here more on what I’m doing on this topic in the future.

So it is that I have concluded I may well have another fifty years ahead of me. I’m not going to fool around when it comes to rectifying some of my shortcomings caring for my mind, body and spirit this next fifty years. I’ve already started with major emphasis on the body, so maybe I’ll make it to 121 years because I’m getting a years head start.


  1. I wish you luck with that!! I also wish that I had more motivation to exercise, but I know myself well enough to know that it won't be easy.

  2. Good luck with your plans. I have never desired to live to be older than mid 80s (probably due to being around people in their mid-90s and seeing how tough that can be) but I'd like to stay active as long as possible in getting to there which does require watching diet and exercising moderately. Having seen so many people with joint replacements, I recognize that overdoing different exercises is not smart-- probably young or old. It's doing something regularly that gets the heart pumping and makes you breathe harder, and some weight work one way or another but not to the extreme level some have thought good. And on diet not using sugar or salt much.

  3. Since my career choice required me moving and resettling every few years it was all but impossible to establish that desirable relationship with a physician such as you speak of in your post. Of course, fortunately I was healthy and seldom needed to solicit medical attention by a physician. In 1990 however, I finally settled into one location and within a couple of years did in fact establish the type relationship you speak of with a local family physician. I think it’s a great relationship and find that fact actually eases the apprehension of visiting a doctor for the attention on the origin and cause of unknown aches and pains.

    As to longevity and speaking quite candidly, even at age sixty-eight I suppose I am ready and willing to pass on at any time. I still enjoy life, am happy and certainly don’t suffer with any type depression. I am single and have been for years. The fact I have no spouse or children and my immediate family only consists of two sisters certainly plays apart in those feelings. And if I do harbor any fears, it is as Rain may have alluded to and that is a long and lingering death. That would be my worst nightmare, given my feelings just expressed about longevity.

  4. Regarding your exercise program, I'm wishing nothing short of great success! My sense is that you have the determination to be successful. I would suggest Mayo Clinic web site as a source for many health issues and especially exercise for older adults.Here is an excellent article I found in researching this comment. Keep in mind I'll be cheering you on.

  5. I know my knees would feel better if I lost 20 pounds and I would have more energy if I ate a balanced duet. However, intellectually knowing what I should do and doing it are two entirely different things.

    Once in a while I get motivated to walk more and eat better, but it never lasts. I have come to the conclusion that I don't care enough about living longer (or even healthier) to do something about it.

    Life rarely offers a lot of sensory pleasures after you become an Octogenarian and forbidden food is one of the pleasures left to me. I try to eat ice cream and pastries in moderation, but I know I will never give them up.

  6. Kenju: My personal experience through the years, such as when I gave up smoking many years ago, is I could only work toward my goal if I was completely and mentally committed to doing so; persisted when I slipped up, then didn't beat myself up with guilt feelings I had failed, or stopped trying.

    Rain: I think you're quite right about the need to take care with any exercise program we adopt, especially as we get older. I believe it's important to receive some direction from exercise specialists who understand not only the "normal" body mechanism but how it's functional operation changes with aging.

    I've been fortunate to be around quite a few people of various physical capabilities who have lived well into their nineties and to over 100 yrs. I've observed, and they've shared with me, the pleasures they, their families and others have continued to enjoy with their being alive. These "oldsters" have been of sound mind to their last breath as was my mother at a few months shy of 90 yrs. Even some of those with dementia and their families can experience pleasure if we learn how to enter their world during the time we're with them. (Note: I'm not referring to the final stages of Alzheimer's.)

    I think you have an opportunity to get a lot of automatic exercise living on your ranch that many, especially city, suburb dwellers don't have. Fortunately, I've never used excessive salt and sugar and for many years I've given added emphasis to various diet food items i.e. veggies, fruits, etc. Even then upon closer analysis I've been tweaking a few things.

  7. Alan G: I think many individuals become doctors because they truly want to practice the type medicine that allows the professional relationships you and I have been fortunate enough to experience with our physicians.

    I've never really had that many medical problems, and sometimes years would pass without my seeing a doctor. Because I didn't need to see my doctor often he knew if I called, I wasn't crying wolf and would generally see me the same day. I've always taken minimal medications, including aspirin, preferring to learn what was the problem's cause and not mask the pain message. When I became a health care worker I have been required to have a yearly physical.

    I think I'm mentally ready to leave this life at any time. Expect we may truly never know how ready we are until the time comes. I'm not driven to live to any particular age, but I am driven (without being a fanatic or foisting my views on others) to try to be in as good a condition as I can be in order to enjoy my time on this earth. Avoiding "...a long and lingering death" is a common concern I hear almost everyone express and one I share which is partly what motivates me to try and minimize that possibility.

    Bob: Thanks for the links to Mayo Clinic sites, as I have a great respect for the information they disseminate.

    Keep cheering -- it's only been three months, we'll see what tune I'm singing a year or so from now.

    Glad to hear from you as hadn't seen a new blog post at your place, and I hoped you were well, though I know you publish irregularly.

    Darlene: Don't we all know what it would be best for us to do and then we make our choices. We all have to determine what works best for us at any given time, knowing that our thoughts about that may alter in the future.

    I couldn't agree more that sensory pleasures are a key component in life. What I am doing is not about totally giving up what I enjoy, but we'll see how well I maintain my dedication in the months, years ahead. My talk is cheap, right???

    Frankly, I think you have been coping with some truly life challenging events: your experiences with hearing loss before, then waiting for your cochlear implant with subsequent gradual sensory adaptation has been a major ongoing adjustment; your hip surgery recovery may well have been demanding, too; your visual adjustments culminating in recent cataract surgery all demand tremendous combined mind, body and spirit energies. This all takes considerable strength of character, especially when you live alone though I know you have supportive family and friends.

    I have great admiration for your determination and attitude coping with all this -- and then, you write these magnificent blog posts sharing not only your life experiences but your perspective on the important issues of our times.

  8. Like Rain, I don't really picture myself living to 100....I would like to stay as Healthy as I possibly can--given the Health contraints I already live with---
    (Incidentally, I AM pretty much Housebound. These outings are just one person driving me around...I don't get out of the car or anything--My Lungs have dicrated this regimine---)

    I have known any number of people who ate EVERYTHING they wanted and didn't excersize at all and lived into their late 90's...So much depends on genes...Of course I think one should do as much as one can to stay healthy, but it doesn't guarentee that it will keep you living any longer....

  9. OldOldLadyOfTheHills: That's really all I'm trying to do is "...stay as Healthy as I possibly can." I know there are no guarantees in life. What I'm doing is from the viewpoint of one day at a time, yet I do like to think in terms of a long term future. I just think such thinking creates a mindset that lends itself well to a positive outlook on life. To think otherwise could easily become a self-fulfilling prophecy I think.

    Yes, I agree genes can be a significant factor on how we all age. Some seem able to treat their bodies in ways that cause them no problems while for others they develop serious and even fatal consequences.

    When my physical condition causes me to have to alter my behavior and I know I am capable of changing that scenario by actions I can employ, then I have a choice and I've chosen to initiate an exercise program to rectify a personal situation I want to be different if possible.

    I have this theory that we all have multiple body tolerance thresholds into which many factors come into play. If these factors simultaneous reach their threshold in any one functional level, then there will be a likely negative consequence. I probably haven't explained this very well and should give more time to devising ways in which to more readily explain my view with examples.

    Whatever your limitations, I'm glad you're able to get out and about for occasional car trips. I expect such excursions are most keenly appreciated that once might just have been taken for granted.

  10. I've always been bored by those structured exercise programs. There was more joy in playing tennis at least three times a week. But then came surgery to replace my aortic heart valve and right hip and an end to my athletic career several years ago. I'm about to turn 85 and have tried maintain a regular walking routine to substitute for the loss of regular physical exercise. But now I'm too tired to continue the walking bit. I'll just leave whatever future I may have to fate.

  11. I'm with Rain. Moderate exercise is best. Staying active. Getting out of that comfy chair and walking around. Watching your salt and sugar intake. All these exercise regimes: well, I'm suspicious of them.
    To me, walking is the key. Enough walking regulates your appetite, helps you sleep well, and lifts your mood. Even if you are housebound, you can move around more.

  12. I guess we all try to do the best we can within our physical limitations. As Darlene said, my knees would thank me if I lost weight, and my blood pressure would no doubt be more normal also. Maybe one day I will get inspired but not today.

    I wish you much success with your determination to have a happy "nest fifty years"

  13. Mortart: I agree, that engaging in tennis, some like golf, others are into swimming and all are really good ways to get necessary exercise without it seeming like "structured exercise." They're all fun 'cause you can have a shared experience with others.

    I don't think my "structured exercise" is what you may be picturing in your mind -- it's so easy.

    Hattie: I couldn't agree more that moderate exercise is best and maybe not even that much is needed sometimes. Walking is ideal but not always easily done
    consistently for some.

    Chancy: I hear you, Chancy, and we all have to figure out how we want to adjust to some of the aging issues we encounter.

    I think everyone will be quite surprised when they learn what little I'm doing. The idea of structured exercise seems to conjure all sorts of interestingly different perceptions from everyone and not very positive ones.

  14. Best of luck and it's never too late to start therefore I'm telling myself I should consider the same thing I'm 63...

    Dorothy from grammology

  15. Dorothy: You are quite correct and let me tell you I wish I hadn't let down in my attention to fitness in my late fifties, sixties. I did a lot of all the right things, but well-rounded body activity must have lessened gradually and imperceptibly. Whatever age you are now is the time to start.

  16. Well JoAnn...I wish you all the luck in the world with your plan. I honestly don't look that far into the future...I'm too busy trying to make it all work for me right now. I don't think it's a secret that I've been focusing on watching my diet and trying to get more exercise for the last year or so. My doctor would say I've done very well; but I would say I have peaks and valleys. It's been a little slow going lately...but I'm still moving forward. I have to refocus every so often...especially when I get so busy at this computer and forget about what else is important in my life. A bad thing to do; but something I'm very guilty of. Good luck JoAnn....Bravo to you!

  17. Joy: Good for you, I've concluded what's important is to keep coming back to whatever exercise and diet you've chosen.

    I'm not really thinking that far in the future, other than just to live like I'm going for another fifty, but having said that I don't give any more thought to it on a day to day basis. I'll write more about this in the future to see if I can clarify what I'm doing is not a major upheaval in my life activities or a daily mental obsession as seems to be the impression I may have left.

  18. Boy, talk about a kick-butt post!

    Meaning, I kicked my own behind in regards to "getting a round tuit".

    I been gonna get 'round to it...

    Only my tuit is just getting rounder and rounder.

    LOL - I have lots of excuses...bad bunion, bad weather, etc...

  19. Pattie: My butt is part of the problem! And I sure do know about "getting a round tuit" in more ways than one.

    Love your sense of humor and way with words, which is why visiting your blog can be such fun.

  20. Pattie & Joared--Round butts aren't all that bad. We with round guts would trade you!
    Cop Car

  21. "Fat bottomed girls you make the rockin world go round"

    At least that's what my man says...