I am going to visit my mother next week to celebrate Mother’s Day with her. She lives in Arizona in a senior retirement place – of her choosing – and she will be 94 this summer. She loves it there! I have always learned, and continue to learn a lot about aging and life from her.
I am sure there are many “older” people like her who are in better and/or worse shape. She feels very lucky, compared to many of her friends, though, to have lived most of her life pain-free. She has swum an hour every morning for decades! She does whatever a therapist or her pesky children suggest she do to add to and maintain her mobility. She therefore practices standing on one foot for balance, she climbs a few stairs daily, etc. She sleeps well and she knows how to relax.
But, time is winning and unwanted changes are becoming more evident. There is arthritis in her joints. It never really bothered her until recently, so that’s a good thing. But, during her annual physicals at her HMO, not one doctor examined her feet or her hands to notice the deterioration of the joints. Not one! And, it was not until she started losing her ability to grip things and complained about that, did anyone offer some suggestions. If she had been in pain earlier, or had noticed herself that these changes were not simply to be accepted as the process of aging, then maybe her hands would be more usable now and she would not be in as much pain in her toes or back.
Our healthcare system is terrible. We can probably all agree on that. So, as the younger generation, we need to pass along some valuable lessons and concepts that will make the lives or our children and grandchildren better:
- Look at your parents, really look. Check on their feet, their hands, their posture, their balance. Ask them how they feel. Do not rely on their doctors to notice and ask these questions. Hopefully they will, but you can also be observant and pro-active.
- If you notice problems with hands or grip, find a hand therapist who specializes in older hands. (Or feet or backs, whatever hurts!) You do not need to be in the same location as your mom or dad these days since this type of info in available online. Call the place yourself to get a feel if it is what you are looking for. Then, help your parent get an appointment.
- Teach your children and grandchildren the importance of exercise and body awareness by example!! Our kids are couch potatoes, sitting in front of their computers or TVs and watching sports instead of playing them. This sedentary lifestyle will shorten their lives and bring more pain. Yoga certainly provides a wonderful path of awareness and movement! I am so lucky to have yoga in my life, and also to be able to share it with others as a teacher. Find a way to share this valuable tool with your family.
I continue to make sure my hands stay mobile and my feet stay flexible by diligently doing a daily regimen of stretches and movements (see my previous blogs on Hands and Toes.) And, as a yoga teacher, I will pass along to my students the importance of these seemingly easy movements that youth takes for granted.
This Mother’s Day, enjoy time with your mother, if she is still around, and give her any tips that can help her age more pain-free and comfortable.
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.