As we grow older, we begin to observe signs of aging. Such signs are usually small and subtle, so we only become cognizant of such changes slowly, usually just before it is too late to do anything about it. Perhaps the most noticeable involves how our bodies are physically changing. This goes well beyond losing strength and speed, which we expect, nor is it the obvious signs of a receding hairline, or how our hair grays. Even our weight is anticipated, such as too much or too little. These are all to be expected. What I’m talking about are the little things we tend to overlook, such as hair growing where it should not, such as in our ears, nose, or out of a forehead or shoulder. Maybe worse is the realization your body hair has disappeared and your skin is now as soft as a newborn babe.
Such changes also include our mental acuity, our power of observation, and even our sense of humor. To illustrate….
Our taste of food changes with time. Whereas we used to consume considerable portions, that might be highly seasoned, we find ourselves reducing our intake, either because a doctor has ordered us to do so to minimize sodium, sugar and fat levels, or our priorities change and we no longer enjoy gorging ourselves. In other words, the portions become smaller and more bland. In turn, this affects our gastro-digestive system thereby reducing our “health habits” to something looking like dog kibble. Further, any change in the quantity of food, or type, turns our bowels into a musical theater, sounding like the wood wind section at a greasy spoon.
In terms of libations, instead of milk and colas, we now consume diet soft drinks, coffee and iced tea, something we abhorred in our youth. For alcohol, we have either given it up completely or only allow ourselves an occasional drink at the end of the day to help us relax, usually a strong belt of whiskey as beer and wine now gives us a touch of the wind.
Food and drink affects our ability to sleep through the night. Eventually, there comes a time when we no longer can sleep through the evening and typically wake-up at least three times to pee. We try sleeping aids, such as Ambien or an aspirin “PM” drug, to help us sleep, but this only makes you pee even more.
Arthritis starts to slip into your body, and you begin to regularly feel pain in your skeleton or muscles, particularly in your lower back. This is the result of a lifetime of sprains, strains, broken bones and bone spurs which come back to haunt you with a vengeance. At first, you try to take the pain in stride, but you inevitably succumb to Advil or Aleve and devour them like after-dinner mints. Backs, necks, shoulders, legs, fingers, feet and hips continue to ache, so you begin wearing back braces, and Ace bandages for knees and elbows, not to mention athletic tape to hold you together, and special shoes to walk. Now, with all of the paraphernalia you wear, you start to look something like Robocop.
You are not as nimble as you remember in your youth. The fluidity of motion is simply gone. Whereas you marveled at your prowess on the playing fields years ago, now you walk more carefully, preferably with a shopping cart in front of you to maintain your balance. Bending over is avoided at all costs and squatting is simply out of the question.
Then there is the matter of snot. You never had allergies in your youth, but your head is now swimming in nasal mucus, making you very attractive to the opposite sex. There is so much of it, you wonder why you never invested heavily in Kimberly-Clark or Kleenex years ago. Colds lasted but a day or two when we were in grade school, sometimes allowing us to stay home and be pampered by Mom. Now colds last weeks, if not months, and the only thing to truly comfort us is Jack Daniels.
When you now get together with friends, you notice the conversation has turned from such things as family, work, jokes, religion, news and politics, to sciatica, shingles, strokes, goiters, COPD, cancer and heart disease. You complain about your sagging skin and debate what dermatologist offers the best procedure to correct the problem. After a night of talking about such ailments, you become a Hypochondriac and try to self-diagnose your problems, which the pharmaceutical companies count on. The best word of advice here is to turn the conversation back to family, work, jokes, religion, news and politics.
For some strange reason, the packaging of products is strengthened as you get older. Whereas tearing open a plastic bag, opening a tin can or plastic prescription bottle was once considered child’s play, the wrapping mysteriously gets harder to open. It is also at this time you discover your repertoire of vulgar expletives has expanded. Coincidence?
Because you fear the possibility of suffering a stroke, you take aspirin regularly or some kind of blood thinner. The only problem is, you now bruise more easily, and your skin color changes from a healthy glow to a pasty white with purple blotches. Not surprising, you begin to wear long sleeve shirts even on the hottest days.
Sex becomes less frequent than when you were younger. Instead of three or four times a week, you are lucky to get it every three or four years. It’s kind of like dancing; you remember how much you enjoyed it, but are no longer sure you remember all the proper moves. Television ads now have men convinced they cannot perform without a pill to act as a sexual picker-up. I still don’t quite understand why the ads show couples in separate bath tubs and not in the bedroom where they belong.
You find you are no longer taking a couple of vitamins a day, but a couple of handfuls of pills instead. In addition to vitamins and pain relievers, you are now taking pills to clear your head, dry out your sinuses, make you sleep, and get you horny. The doctor prescribes dozens more, all with Latin names impossible to pronounce, for a variety of medical woes, and you take supplements for calcium, fish oil, glucosimine, condroitum, diet pills, testosterone, stool softeners, antacids, anti-gas, etc. To manage all of this, you buy plastic boxes with dividers listed by day to sort the number of pills you have to consume, which is now in the hundreds. The boxes remind you of your fishing tackle box, and if you are not careful, you might find yourself fishing with a hook baited with Viagra rather than a worm.
Your eyesight weakens, but you realize this was slowly developing over the years. What you didn’t expect was to hear terms such as “macular degeneration,” “cataracts,” and “glaucoma.” You then start to ask yourself why you ate all of those rotten carrots over the years. More troublesome though is the loss of hearing which you didn’t anticipate. Now you start to wonder if the heavy-metal rock songs you listened to over your headphones in college had anything to do with it. You become perturbed with people who suggest you get a hearing-aid as you feel it is an affront to your age. The truth is y__ better g__ off y___ a__ and g__ o__ ASAP.
So far, I have concentrated on the physical aspects of aging, but there are other nuances we begin to notice as well:
In your youth, you may have been the spelling bee champion of your school, but now you can no longer remember the names of friends, places, or your school. Your math still works fine, but names elude you. Thank God for crossword puzzles to jog your memory.
Your memory also starts to elude you. Whereas you can vividly recount the day when Kennedy was shot years ago, you cannot seem to remember what you had for lunch today, or the beginning of this article.
You have difficulty adapting to the latest technology, be it a smart phone, tablets, streaming media players, or something on the Internet. This hinders our ability to drive a car as it is now dependent on the latest technology. Between XM radio, GPS maps, voice activation, and music players, we start to forget how to put the car in Drive or Park. We also develop a dependency on our grandchildren who are now charged with the responsibility of programming all of the electronics in the house. Without them, we are lost.
At family get-togethers, you are expected to pick up the check. This denotes seniority in the family tree.
You find yourself arguing with inanimate objects – and losing. Your temper flares when you stumble at what seems to be the simplest of tasks. In reality, it is not the fault of a tool or piece of equipment, it is you. Because you have performed a task a million times before, you become easily irritated when something goes awry on the millionth and first try.
You find yourself attending more funerals than weddings, baby showers or graduations. Whereas you danced and drank at many such parties years ago, now you find yourself living a more sedate existence, and miss the fun and friendships of the early days, particularly the revelry.
You discover the morals of the newest generation no longer match your own. This is projected in the fashions, food, and entertainment of the day, which you simply do not comprehend, nor the news. In response, you find yourself spending more time with your pets as opposed to people who do not understand you. In fact, you actually like your dogs and cats better than people as they do not argue with you. As such, you treat them better than a grandchild who lacks manners. At least, with a pet you can train them, but not somebody else’s child.
The biggest change of all is the fact you have gotten smarter over the years, not just because of experience, but because you recognize your limitations, and conduct yourself accordingly. Instead of impulsively jumping up to perform a difficult task, you stop and say, “Wait a minute. Let me think about that first.”
Interestingly, women generally believe men age better and more gracefully, and men feel likewise about women. The truth is none of us really like it and we’re all embarrassed by our looks, no matter the superficiality of our perceived imperfections. We need to get over this. Just pour yourself a drink with a friend and enjoy the moment. We are simply not kids anymore.
Keep the Faith!
Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at [email protected]