Column, Looking Back

Tweaking our passions

When you reach your retirement years, hopefully you will be able to do the things you love. Your hobbies and passions in life probably had to take a back seat to work and family responsibilities during the years you were employed, but now they can take priority!

“They” say that it’s important to have a passion … something you do not want to give up. For seniors, your mind may be willing but your body weak when it comes to doing what you love.

Fortunately for me two of my passions, writing and embroidery, do not involve physical strength … just two good eyes! My other passion, gardening, will have to be tweaked as the years go by. Right now I love it when five yards of mulch arrive in late April. The aroma of its cedar bark is a sign of spring. Of course, the repetitive action of using a pitchfork to put it in the wheelbarrow could be a problem as the years go by.

Then there is the task of pushing it around the property and spreading it. I mentioned to my primary care doctor that I love this type of physical activity and dread the day when I can no longer do it. She advised me to not stop because if I did I would probably never be able to get back to it. Aaah, the golden years!

I read an article recently about a man in his 80s who was found to have the muscle mass and oxygen-carrying capacity of a young person. He is a slender man who runs marathons. When asked about his fitness routine, he told those conducting the study that all he does is work around his yard. He mows, gardens, landscapes, shovels snow, etc. I said, “That’s me!” The outdoors is my gym! There is hope after all … but if I need to be “slender” like this man I could be in trouble!

When I was in my 50s, I remember watching a neighbor who was in her 80s as she mowed her lawn and tended her gardens. She often gave me deep rooted perennials that she dug out of the ground with the strength of a teenager. She was an inspiration to me as she found a way to keep doing what she loved. Even at that age I apparently wondered how much longer I could pursue my own passions.

Of course, if you watch a senior rise up from the ground after weeding, it’s not a pretty sight. I find it easier to weed sitting on the ground than bending over for an hour. I am waiting for the day when a young person walks by and asks if I am alright down there! Of course, there is a solution for just about every problem. I have seen seats on wheels that allow you to move along as you weed. But that doesn’t work on a hill. My mother turned this same hillside garden back into lawn space when she was even younger than I am. When I asked her why she was doing that her reply was, “Someday you’ll see.” I hope that someday isn’t right around the corner.

Growing veggies will also have a slight change this year. Last fall my handy husband, Peter, built two large raised beds that are about three feet off the ground. I can’t wait to try growing some spring veggies in them. The reason for building them was because that setup works best in this particular area of our property. But as time goes by there may be more raised garden beds scattered around our yard. They are very easy to tend.

As we age, we can tweak our passions for quite awhile before we have to give them up. Both my husband and I used to downhill ski but when our knees protested, we switched to cross country skiing. That worked for many years but because we liked some areas with rather steep declines, we found that even XC skiing had its challenges. So we switched to snowshoes and that option allows us to get into the woods and get the fresh air that we crave with so much indoor time all winter.

Although we don’t bike very often these days, that activity was tweaked about 15 years ago by switching over from three-speed bikes to ten-speeds. We laughed when we returned from the store because we got a phone call from the credit card company asking if we had just purchased the bikes. Guess our quest for fitness just didn’t seem to match our ages and previous purchases. “Big Brother” was watching us very closely!

If you belong to the “senior set,” keep on tweaking! This is one case where you have to look ahead and not back. Don’t give up your passions if there are alternate ways to keep them in your life.

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