On December 28, 2016

On not feeling my age

Millennials aren’t found of talking about age because they are “as young as they feel.” They are the age they are and, at any point, that is the right age to be. Such is the confidence of youth.
It is among older folks one hears the talk of how aging feels, or how one feels about aging. So comes the phrase, “I’m only as old as I feel”, from the Baby Boom generation. We have enough years on us that using years to count age is becoming increasingly unfashionable. “Only attitude matters!” is the claim, but I hope that isn’t true.
Last week I pulled a muscle in my lower back by turning wrong as I was getting out of bed. Yeah, that’s right. I got injured getting up in the morning. It wasn’t that I worked too hard or I played too much; simple movement got the best of me and laid me out. Ambushed without warning!
As I hobbled about the house, foggy with painkillers, that phrase crossed my mind, “I’m only as old as I feel.” I hope not. I felt like 102. If attitude was everything, I wasn’t going to survive the week. All I felt was forlorn, sore, and groggy from the meds.
Worst of all was the sense that this was the new norm. If you can hurt yourself turning, what next? Am I “feeling my age” or what my age is going to feel like?
A week later, all was well. The pain was gone, my mind was clear, and shoveling the front walk felt like a blessing and a privilege. It was great to be using my muscles and getting some exercise again. Then a thought crossed my mind: “Am I feeling my age, or fighting my frailty?” Like when you wake from a dream in which you were dreaming that you were waking up. What is real? Which am I? The agile person I feel now or the frail person I was last week? In other words, am I acting my age or acting the age I want desperately to still be?
Maybe there isn’t an answer to that question, because the important thing isn’t the question, but the fight to stay active. The battle for mobility is, regrettably, a war of attrition. While you can still fight, you are winning, so fight on.
Aging in place, it doesn’t happen by accident. It isn’t a battle; it’s a war for independence waged on many fronts.
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 mortgage specialist. You can access previous Aging in Place columns and Scott’s blogs at scottfunk.org. His e-book is available on Amazon.

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