My grandfather use to wake me up in the middle of the night and say, "John, rub my legs." I would rub his legs until I got the circulation going again so he could go back to sleep. His one leg was pitted with scares where bone fragments had pierced the skin during a two-year healing period after he had crushed in in a quarry explosion. Old age made things worse. My grandfather died at age 95 when I was fighting in Korea.
Old injuries are painful to old people, but we are susceptible to new life-shortening injuries to our bodies. They may come by accident or by other means such as not eating breakfast. Here are some ways to stay healthy in old age:
- Turn on the lights. Old people should not wander around in the dark. We have less sense of balance in our older years and we can easily fall in the dark. The reason is that we lose our balance a lot easier in the dark. Put night lights around the house to help navigate night trails.
A broken hip can bring disaster to an old frame and cause a premature death. Let the light shine before you.
When you get out of bed, sit on the bed for a few minutes while your brain adjusts to sitting and then standing. Support yourself when putting on your clothes. Don't hop around the bedroom with one leg in your pants like I tend to do.
- Place safety rails in bathrooms and entrances and in showers and bathtubs. Such safety rails are placed after an accident where someone was injured. Realize that you are getting older and that you need the safety gear before your accident, not after. Prevention is the word for old people
- Use a cane or walking stick. You might prevent a fall on that morning walk if you have a walking stick to support you and keep you on balance. Why not? You will become attached to the thing. My wife always has a walking stick by the front door and in the car. She is often very dizzy and the walking stick gives her needed support. But all old people are susceptible to dizziness. Get a stick!
- Eat balanced meals. Too many old people suffer from malnutrition. The long-livers are good eaters. When I see a very old person, I usually see a good eater. There are lots of good eaters at our senior center.
It is difficult to cook for one person, but you should learn to cook small portions. You can freeze what you don’t eat for later use. You no longer have a house full of kids, do you? Learn to cook small.
Don’t go through the day without eating some grains and cereals, some fruit, and some vegetables. Go easy on meat and occasionally have fish. It’s good for the brain they say.
- Take a daily vitamin. Old folks need that extra punch. Choose a brand for old people.
- See a heart doctor. Too many of my friends die suddenly of heart attacks or strokes. Precautionary measures may have saved some of them. Simply taking an aspirin each day of the coated or baby variety can help prevent heart attack and stroke.
I know that coronary bypass surgery could have saved some of my friends. Only a heart doctor can really tell if you need such drastic measures. I’ve had heart surgery twice and I have the aortic valve of a benevolent hog in my chest. Three of my sons and my son-in-law are in medicine and they watch over me.
Too many old folks are not getting the best medical attention. Some simply avoid doctors. Symptoms that could prove lifesaving are simply ignored like shortness of breath, dizziness, or numbness of limbs.
I’m sure that how long you will live depends on where you live. When we lived in Payson, Arizona, the doctors there were what I call "health maintenance specialist". Every six months my family doctor and my cardiologist would call me and tell me it was time for my checkup. I was examined for prostrate and colon cancer. Skin cancers were continually removed.
Now I live in a small town in Idaho. I have to go into Twin Falls for most of my medical visits. Only my cardiologist really checks on me every six months. The rest is up to me.
Since heart attacks and strokes kill or injure so many, I suggest that even if your family doctor says that your heart is as "sound as a dollar" that you see a cardiologist in your old age. You know how sound the dollar is.
- Avoid too many sweets and fats. Diabetes is a hazard of old age. Eating a balanced died will help avoid diabetes. Sweets and fats will only increase your weight, a hazard to your health.
- Get some exercise. We old folks have crinkly knees that hate to jog. We don’t have to jog, however. Just walking at a normal pace has some health benefits. We are not all Olympic walkers. Some exercise everyday is good. Cold or hot weather is hazardous to our health. Walk around the mall or around the house. I have a thing I sit on and I can work my arm and leg muscles against my weight while sitting down. My wife is dizzy all the time so she uses a balance board to help her brain learn to overcome a weak ear signal that causes her problem. I’ve read that a balance board is good for all old people. However, having said that, if you get on a balance board, for heaven’s sake, hold on to the sofa or such. We don’t want to fall, do we? Especially be careful while getting on or off such a board.
Oh, yes! Don’t play football with the kids. Take them fishing instead.
- Exercise your brain every day. Your daily newspaper probably has a puzzle or two in it, perhaps a crossword puzzle. Do you like SuDoKu? How about cryptograms? I personally like logic puzzles. You can get a book of puzzles on the newsstand at your grocer.
You should also read everyday. The newspaper is fine. Write some letters to the grandkids. You don’t have to be as crazy as I am about writing, but write to get your hand and your brain working together. Okay, play tennis.
- Work your hobbies. I like to paint, usually landscapes. You are never too old to start a hobby unless that hobby is polo. Horses are not good for most of us old people. I do have a hobby of collecting horses. I have a half dozen. But I never ride them. One bump on the saddle horn could kill me. I don’t feed them or pay the vet bills either. I just "own" them and the real owner keeps them. I have to have horses.
Yard sales are good for old folks. I suggest that you collect small items unless you want to have your own yard sales to unload the stuff later. I collect cars, weird critters, etc. My wife collects dolls and stuffed critters. Here is a warning: Be very careful when driving from yard sale to yard sale. We don’t want to have an accident, do we?