One of the problems of life is that, especially as we age, that we can no longer do many of the things we could easily do when we were younger. And, of course, these restrictions are not necessarily restricted to older people as people of all ages often face restrictions on their physical and mental capabilities. Here are some typical things that many older people can no longer do:
- Drive. Not being able to drive presents an emotional dilemma, a feeling of being restricted and a loss of freedom. However, once driving becomes risky, and you can no longer trust yourself to hit the brake pedal instead of the gas pedal, or if your reaction time or vision impairs you, it's time to give up the car keys. Such loss takes time for adjustment, since you must depend on others to haul you to the doctor or to the grocery store or anywhere else. The solution, however, is to concentrate on activities that keep you busy where you are.
- Walk. Many older people face walking stability problems and loss of balance. Some have walking problems from hip and knee replacements and from sciatic and other nerve and back problems. Not being able to put your tennies on at 7:30 a.m. and go for a 45 minute walk is a very, very painful adjustment. Facing up to using a cane or a walking stick can save many falls and possible serious bone breaks. It's better to feel steadier than to think you feel like an idiot or a useless old man or woman because you are using a cane or walking stick. Just look around you when you are out and about and see how many others are using them. There's nothing so special about you that you can't feel safer.
- Sleep. It seems like about everyone I talk to these days has sleep issues. They wander the house in the middle of the night, sleep in recliners for awhile, watch TV awhile, look at the moon for awhile, raid the fridge, read a book, fiddle with their iPad, or do anything possible to fritter away the night. Then they sleep half the day to make up for being sleep deprived at night.
- People with hearing problems may not be able to go places with louder-than-home noise, as the noise gets amplified so much that they can't stand to be in such places. This problem puts more restrictions on mobility.
Many other issues restrict what we can do, and are not restricted to older people. Problems with sight, hearing, body functions, are continual issues. Too many people I know have had serious falls, some times from just the first rung on a step ladder, or falls in a bathtub, or just a misstep around the house or the yard. Making tubs slip-proof, installing raised toilets, putting grab bars everywhere possible, all may sound silly in your 50s or 60s, but you will need them as you grow older.
The solution to the problem of facing up to what we can no longer do is to focus on the things we can do. Some people become artists. Others embark on learning activities and learn a language, study classics, or relearn information in their fields they have forgotten. The miracle of electronic transmission and information retrieval opens the entire world and all the information in it to anyone in the most remote or disadvantaged situation. You don't have to go to the library and spend hours going through the card catalogue, making tedious notes. Just ask Google. Google knows all and will give you a thousand pages of info on whatever you want to know.
Too many old people think computers are beyond them. Wrong, wrong. If eight year old kids can use iPads (or even three or four year olds), you can learn to use computers and iPads too. Rather than feel sorry for yourself, get someone to teach you how to use electronic stuff. You can stay busy forever after you get the hang of a few simple tricks. Do genealogy. Research stuff you are interested in. Write your memoirs. Keep a journal. Write short articles.
I am learning to cook. I like collecting hundreds of recipes and reading cookbooks and trying all kinds of stuff. I spend hours and hours on photo editing and have over 150,000 photos on my hard drive. Don't get addicted, however, to video or computer games and waste the rest of your life on this meaningless addiction.
Well there you have the basics. Just figure out some stuff to do. If you are handy with tools, which I am not, make furniture. Learn to turn bowls on a lathe, like my brother in law does. Plant an indoor garden in pots and planters. Get a cat or dog to keep you company (not something I would do because I don't want to take care of them, but it's a great idea for some people). Skip 90% of what's on TV. Buy meaningful DVD sets like Downton Abbey and travel videos.
Above all, remain thankful for everything you have been given, for all of your life's experiences, for all that you have now, for each new day, for each sunrise and sunset, for those you care for and for those who care for you. My wife always says, "It will be all right." So quit moping and complaining and get with it. Happy New Year.