Let's tackle the part about aches and pains first, and get that over with, because it's a real downer. Always hurting is miserable, whether you're 70 or 20 or 9, and I'm against it -- but there it is. If you've never had much discomfort before, all the aches and pains of Being Old come as a shock; my mother reacted to them with total outrage, and flatly refused, to her dying day, to believe that doctors really can't do anything about them. If you've had the misfortune to suffer from chronic discomfort in your younger years, the weight of all those years grows heavy as you get older. And after all those years, any new
ache or pain seems horribly unfair. Some elders, after so many years of practice, develop a sort of skill at enduring discomfort, becoming what is referred to in the medical literature as "the stoical elderly." That's a good thing in many ways, because they're saved the trouble of constant complaining, and the language environment around them is improved thereby; on the other hand, it can mean that they put up with needless
discomfort -- discomfort about which something actually could
be done, if other people knew it was going on. The aches and pains are made worse by two additional factors: You gradually lose your ability to adjust properly to heat and to cold; and your bones turn into barometers that complain loudly as every weather front goes through.
Your perception of time changes; it speeds up drastically. So that things you have to do regularly seem to come at you every few minutes. You know, logically, that it's been five days since you last did the laundry, but your perception
is that you did it five minutes ago and here it is again
, needing to be done again
. This turns minor tasks into blasted nuisances, because you feel as if you're doing them constantly, and you never have that feeling of satisfaction that lets you say, "There! That's done now, and I don't have to do it again for a whole week!"
Everything you do becomes more complicated. Everything. I can't clean properly any more, because I'm too short now to reach so many places I need to reach, and my balance is so poor that standing on a stepladder would be truly stupid. I can only reach high enough to clean the bottom half of the mirror in my bathroom, which is just plain infuriating
. I can't prune properly, because I'm not physically strong enough any more to use my clippers on anything much bigger around than a tiny twig. I can't work properly any more, because I get tired so much more quickly than I used to. My clothes don't fit properly, because my body is so differently shaped than it used to be. Doing my hair is a hilarious experience. Just getting dressed well enough to go out in public without frightening the children is complicated. Feh.
And then there's the problem of having nobody you can complain to about personal things. By the time you pass 70, most of the people you used to feel free to tell your troubles to are (a) dead; (b) lying in a hospital or nursing home suffering, and absolutely not up to listening to you
; (c) not quite in their right minds; or (d) afflicted with so many troubles of their own that you'd have to be not quite in your right mind yourself to consider adding your complaints to the burden they're already carrying. You can't complain about your husband and children to your husband and children. You can't complain to younger people in general, because they're going to feel as if they have to try to do something to help, and it's rude to put them in that position. It makes me glad I'm not an atheist, since that means I at least have God to complain to.
Earlier posts-and-comments in this journal that I think are relevant to this discussion:
About cognitive reserve -- at http://ozarque.livejournal.com/297072.html
About growing old with a partner who's also growing old -- at http://ozarque.livejournal.com/321256.html
About "attitude yoga" -- at http://ozarque.livejournal.com/321399.html
And somewhere -- I have searched diligently, using the handy search string you gave me, and I still can't find it -- there's a relevant post about the problem of deconditioning
in old age. [I can't figure out how to make LJ show me more than one screenful of "Memories" links, by the way, which doesn't help. My grandchildren would be able to figure that out, but I can't.] If someone among you can find that one for me and post the link, I'll be grateful.