Do What You Like

I am amused by a news article declaring that the latest cohort to come under attack from the health police is the middle aged. Apparently this is due to their unhealthy life styles. They work long hours, spend hours on their commutes and then mitigate the ensuing stresses of their days by glugging down copious glasses of wine and lolling on sofas watching box-sets whilst dipping into bags of Pringles or pressing pause only to order a takeaway pizza. Shame on them!

Lucky me, then that I am past middle age. In fact, as I recall I became my most active and healthy during those years, despite having a busy, stressful job and being a single parent etc. I’d have to hold my hands up regarding the wine consumption, which was not modest-but on the exercise front I’d have won a lot of points. Not only was I undertaking DIY on the hovel I’d purchased but also attending exercise classes, following a slavish regime of aerobics videos and running each and every day. I was a virtuous paragon and the only pity was that there was no Facebook or Instagram or whatever to enable me to ‘Map My Run’ and brag about my achievements.

If that exercise regime gave me anything it was an ingrained awareness that regular physical activity is a necessary component of a comfortable life-even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time. The difference now though is that the activity must be dictated by what is physically possible. In other words, running and leaping around in an aerobics class are no longer options due to failures of joints and general decrepitude. Instead I indulge in pursuits that a] I am able to do and b] I enjoy.

Exercise crazes come and go with the wind. Once upon a time I threw myself into aerobics, embracing the entire Jane Fonda/leggings and leotard package. The next big thing was Step-Aerobics. Again I became snared in the allure of leaping around and up and down, attending  3 classes each week, unaware of the damage I was doing to my hips, knees and feet but thrilling to the appeal of the ‘horseshoe turn’ and its accompanying, fancy moves.

My aversion to tepid water has been blogged in a previous post, hence swimming is ‘out’. [https://gracelessageing.wordpress.com/2013/09/05/when-you-know-you-are-out-of-your-depth/]. But I can still treat myself to a twice weekly dose of dance with the ever-popular Zumba and have learned to love walking, whether accompanied or not, although I am in a constant search for the Holy Grail of all walking shoes; a pair that eliminates all vestige of arthritis, plantar fasciitis, corns, bunions and the rest. How unglamorous bodies become in older age! I’ve documented my late entry into the world of Yoga [https://gracelessageing.wordpress.com/2015/08/23/sensual-slow-and-unsupple/] and recommend it for anyone hoping to stay fit and mobile for as long as possible.

I eat vegetables √ I’ve replaced a lot of meat meals with fish √ I’ve cut out sugar √ I’ve all but cut out alcohol √

So now, reader, I fully expect to become immortal. I’ll keep you posted.

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Who’s Volunteering to Die Before they Get Old?

‘Hope I die before I get old’ sang The Who’s Roger Daltrey in 1965, belting out the lyrics to ‘My Generation’ like he really meant them. ‘Why don’t y’all f-f-fade away?’ he queried, the rhetorical question snarled from his lips, curled in a sneer-a provocative, taunting line in a song that celebrated youth as being the only tolerable state.

Tousle-haired Rog was twenty one when ‘My Generation’ was released. Now he is pushing seventy. He has retained a lithe, nimble appearance but is bespectacled, greyish, ‘good for his age’. You have to wonder what he feels now about the song which reached number 2 in the UK chart [their highest charting single].

In one of my first blog posts I wrote about the next generation’s anger at us, the ‘baby-boomers’ for hogging all the money, having houses and retirements, getting free education and generally acting like evil rip-off merchants.

And what is more, now we have had the audacity not to die before we got old. We are hanging about, growing ancient-still living in our too-big houses, using too much of the health and other services, having bus passes, dithering in cars, getting prescriptions free, clogging up cruise ships, taking too long fumbling at cash machines, telling the same stories over and over-and telling the same stories [you get the image] and generally being a nuisance. We obstinately refuse to croak and release our easily gotten gains to our progeny.

Idly watching an election talk programme involving pensioners I listened to an eighty two year old saying how tired he was of feeling he was a nuisance.

The fact is, life expectancy is climbing. Perhaps many of us felt like Rog when we were twenty. I don’t remember. When you are twenty old age seems an impossibility; a state that only others attain. But we are all programmed to cling on to life, so unless there are specific conditions such as chronic, debilitating, life debasing illness we feel less inclined to ‘die before we get old’ as we age. We can cope with dodgy knees, failing eyesight and deafness as long as life continues to be better than the alternative. There was a delightful news item only this morning about a 103 year old and a 92 year old who are planning their wedding.

A recent article in The Guardian newspaper suggested that sixty should now be considered middle-aged [http://www.theguardian.com/theobserver/2004/aug/01/features.review37]. The writer makes a good case. As we age we often push the boundary of what we consider to be the middle years.

And just as new parents begin to reflect on how annoying/frustrating/expensive/ exasperating/uncommunicative/rude/faddy and tiresome their offspring are capable of being, everyone discovers, on their way through life that no, they have no wish to terminate, to step into the void, thank you very much.

Ageing-The Truths you’d Rather not Know

I have kept quite well to my promise not to produce a continuous blog documenting the woes of ageing-an unceasing fountain spurting hypochondria; but I realise I may have gained some kind of watershed where age is concerned-one that may never be drawn back from.

Since I entered the grand decade that is my sixties significant and not altogether beneficial changes have begun to manifest, which I feel are relevant to Anecdotage and the Views from the Descent. For, from here it really does begin to feel like a descent.

Google ‘ageing’ and you will be bombarded with information and opinion. Often, in publications such as Sunday supplements there will be interviews with older celebrities- in any sphere. It interests me that the overwhelming majority of ageing ‘celebs’ are anxious to stress the positive aspects of growing older-how much more experienced they are, how much happier than when young, how grounded, how advantageous it all is. Reader, I am more than suspicious of these people. To me they are missing one overriding, enormous elephant of a fact. However blessed, fortunate, experienced and ecstatic they feel, the spectre of death has not only appeared on the horizon but grows larger as it approaches.

Of course as we all know-it is best to ignore the scythe-bearing one and concentrate on living life to the best of our frailties, but still-aspects of one’s demise will keep popping their heads over the balcony, such as:

Things Hurt More than they Used to

Joints hurt. Old injuries hurt. Vague unidentifiable bits hurt. In an ironic twist [the reaper having a laugh?] many of the hurty bits have been caused in younger incarnations by enthusiastic bouts of fitness.

The Hurty Bits Take Longer to Stop Hurting

Related to above; whereas a familiar, old hip/back tweak used to come and stay for a few days, now it overstays by weeks. An intermittent back injury overstays. Wrists that used to be a little sore are aggravated by carrying anything heavier than a sheet of paper. It becomes tricky finding a comfortable position to sleep, sit or be.

Knowing you are Turning into Your Parents does not Stop you Turning into Them

All the traps you have sworn not to fall into are impossible to avoid-repeating yourself, telling hackneyed stories, being curmudgeonly et al.

Those you have Known begin to Shuffle off the Mortal Coil

Once he became elderly my father began every visit with a tale of who had died that week. In his absence we smiled about it. Now that the clogs of people in my own life are popping it no longer carries the comic appeal it once did. No doubt my offspring are benefitting as I did.

The Recession of Middle Age

Remember all that ’40 is the new 30’ thing? We like to stretch our age back into youth as far as possible. I considered I was ‘middle-aged’ up until I was 60. Then it became far-fetched. Maybe someone could invent a term for between middle-aged and elderly, like ‘milderly’? Except it sounds like mildew-which is actually quite appropriate.

These are just a few aspects of ageing. Perhaps you harbour some more? Add them in the comments and I’ll compile a ‘bottom 10’-you have to laugh-what else can you do?

Too Rich and too Thin

                The tale of Kate Moss’s meteoric rise to international supermodel stardom has been much related. She was ‘spotted’ at 14 years of age at an airport by a model agency scout. This is hardly a ‘rags to riches’ story, since young Kate was on holiday in the Bahamas, but still, doubtless provides fuel for hopeful adolescent girls’ imaginations. Since that time she has barely been out of the headlines of the tabloid press, either for her sense of style or for her wild party lifestyle and dubious partner choices.

                A cynic could be excused for thinking that Kate’s excessive over indulgences and subsequent exposure [photographed snorting cocaine, consorting with drug users] had done her no harm at all, since she continues to appear in ‘rich lists’, ‘super lists’ and so on; nevertheless there has been an outcry at the latest depictions and criticism of her inflated and imperfect physique as she holidayed in Ibiza.

                Kate has been lucky in most respects. Born with reasonable looks and being in the right place at the right time has been the catalyst for her success, then by cunning employment of the media and following the mantra that no publicity is bad publicity she has maintained a long [in supermodel terms] and financially satisfactory career. She is not the first or the last person to do this.

                But you should not expect to both exploit the masses interest in you and all you do and eschew all sense of responsibility. Having made a fortune from staying adolescent thin into middle age, using that look to get work and exploiting the media, it would be refreshing if Kate were to either retire from modelling or reveal the secrets of her bodily success; for in order to stay whip thin she must have loaded her system with myriad cocktails of drugs.

                With an obesity epidemic looming [or present], how helpful can it be for the huge, rich diet industry to keep focusing on the way we should look? Wouldn’t it be so much more helpful and motivating to encourage activity and show struggling dieters not only how much better they would feel by keeping within the average weight band, but how much more healthy life they could have.

                I suppose it must be more of a dilemma for those who, like Kate, have built a career around their looks, whether to ‘let it all go’ and live a normal life as they approach middle age. She could certainly afford to do this, although presumably the dieting habit would be hard to break and she famously told the world that ‘nothing tastes as good as skinny feels’.

                I must admit I quite enjoy the anonymity that being older bestows. I probably ‘scrub up’ reasonably well if the occasion demands it. Mainly, however I want to stay as fit as possible for as long as possible-and enjoy life, so I do my best to get regular exercise, then I can sometimes have a few chips with my lettuce leaves. 

The Vanished World of Faded Fifties Females

                If we’ve had a normal, reasonably happy childhood our memories of it tend towards the sentimental. This is well documented. The summers were always warm and sunny. We made sandcastles on the beach. Parties were the simple kind, with jelly and ice cream and musical chairs. We had beloved pets-seemingly for an implausible number of years; we wore leather sandals with a cut-out flower in the toe, walked to school along lanes where the tar bubbled under the sun’s heat. We had a rope swing under the apple tree, played ‘Cowboys and Indians’ and watched ‘The Lone Ranger’ on tiny, black and white TV sets in huge, wooden cabinets.

                My memories of childhood, and in particular, childhood holidays are peopled with extended family members such as grandparents, aunts and uncles and the friends of parents [who were also ‘aunts and uncles’] and especially that section of the family that no longer seems to exist-the maiden aunt.

                I had maiden aunts on both sides of the family. I loved them. They visited from other parts of the country, sometimes for weeks. I’d share my room with them, sometimes even a double bed, if expedient. One, my father’s unmarried sister, had been engaged to an RAF pilot who’d met his end during the war-a common reason for fifties spinsterhood, no doubt. So she stayed with us often-once, memorably getting snowed in for six weeks and unable to return home. She accompanied us on several holidays, providing useful babysitting services and assuaging some of her maternal urges by borrowing us, the children, for some of the time.

                We’d visit, too and be given huge spreads of ‘tea’, with bread and butter, scones, jam, slices of Victoria sponge, tea in bone china teacups from a large pot clothed in a hand-knitted cosy. There were even occasions when I stayed overnight and was able to explore the domain of this maiden lady, delve into the contents of her dressing table and ponder over the mysterious items it housed; delicate webs of hairnets, perfume atomisers, corn pads, monogrammed lace handkerchiefs, a tumbler of water containing pale pink and white dentures, like undersea coral. She loved entertaining children, relished the chance to instruct in gentle pastimes such as crochet or ‘patience’ [solitaire], or simply sorting the contents of a button box, laying out the contents as if it were a treasure chest.

                My mother had a maiden aunt herself, who visited-though never without her inseparable friend, Rose. They’d share my brothers’ twin-bedded room and I’d pay morning visits, enthralled by the sight of them in their lurid, floral patterned, winceyette pyjamas as they sat sipping their tea. They exhibited a mild, old fashioned humour and exasperated my mother by needing to add to their silver teaspoon collection whenever they were taken for a day out by car [none of the aunts drove].

                Now, of course it seems obvious that my mother’s aunt and her friend, Rose, were a gay couple, although I’ve no idea whether my parents realised and if they had it wouldn’t have been discussed except in the whispered confines of their own bedroom. The women certainly didn’t share a home so perhaps those summer holidays spent with my family were an opportunity for them to find happiness together? I like to think so.

                I never thought of them until now, as middle age morphs into older [elderly?], presumably because it is natural to become reflective, but what has replaced ‘maiden aunts’ in today’s world? Answers on a postcard…or the comments section?