On December 22, 2015


Maybe it’s a coincidence, or maybe just an attitude problem, but since I turned 60, my birthdays have been ambushing me in an aging sort of way. This year I turned 66 and I am shrinking.

In elementary and middle schools, I was always one of the shortest kids. This sense of shortness continued with me even as I grew to the robust adult height of 5 foot 8 inches. No longer short, at 5’ 8,” I stood at the very threshold of tall and was, in fact, nearly tall — which officially starts at 5’ 9.”

Over many adult years, I grew into my stature. Even when not wearing cowboy boots, I projected a certain presence. Not quite tall, but certainly no longer short. I was comfortable with this stature. While hesitating to use the word “average,” I was, well, average height.

Until a visit to the doctor’s a few weeks ago, that is, where it was established that I am now 5 foot and barely 7 inches tall. Nay, not tall at all, for that is the ending of short. It is not the beginning of anything but getting shorter. After years of effort and growth, things have reversed! Without any indication or warning, I was diminished to a lessor portion of my former self.

This is something of an assault to my sense of “it’s OK that I’m kind of grey.” That my hair naturally does a kind of comb-over thing, I can accept this. Gardening is now a strenuous physical challenge… OK I get it. But do I have to get smaller at the same time my ears and nose are getting bigger? Come on! What is the point of that?

First of all, I’m actually exercising and stretching on an almost regular basis. My diet has improved dramatically because my wonderful wife appears determined to make me last forever. My temper is pretty much under control and I am learning to be more sociable.

All these are excellent “aging in place” skills, but when they ask me to stand and take a bow for being so good … I will already be standing.

It isn’t personal. I get that. It is just the randomness of life and the reality of gravity. Physics. I don’t understand it, but I get it. Most of us are going to get shorter as we get older. Old people are short people.

Ah, there is the rub. I don’t think of myself as older and certainly not old. Yet here I am a 5’ 7” person who used to be nearly tall.

I guess I’ll just have to adjust to it and lower the bar in my closet so I don’t have to keep tippy-toeing to reach my clothes.

Aging in place doesn’t happen by accident, but why does it have to happen around birthdays?

Scott Funk is Vermont’s leading Aging in Place advocate, writing and speaking around the state on issues of concern to retirees and their families.  He works as a Home Equity Conversion Mortgage and HECM for Purchase specialist. You can access previous Aging in Place columns and Scott’s blogs at scottfunk.org.  His new e-book is available on Amazon.

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