Life Can Turn On a Dime

[Introduction from Jim Sabin: This anonymous post was published recently on the Age with Spirit blog. Via Al Martin, the editor of the blog and author of a number of posts for Over 65, I’ve received permission from the anonymous author to republish it. I wanted to do so because it discusses the psychological transition to “being old” in an especially dramatic manner. A number of Over 65 posts have discussed this transition, in the contexts of a birthday, diminished vitality, hearing loss, and whether one is working.]

Two months ago, I turned 68 while in the ICU. I was propelled there, almost literally, by being hurled over the handlebars of my bicycle while speeding downhill on a familiar back road. The accident left me with a major concussion and 14 fractures (including five ribs, my right clavicle and right forearm), only two of which required surgery.

I was nominally training for a sprint triathlon, the same one I had completed in the prior three years. ‘Training for a triathlon’ was the easy cover phrase for my staying vigorous physically as long as I could. Many of my peers are avid cyclists. Some of us, like me, are married to men older than ourselves; and in my heart of hearts I admit I needed to feel physically stronger, faster and more robust than he. It was a point of minor irritation between us that I needed to walk faster than he is comfortable doing.

I consider myself extremely fortunate to be alive and almost whole, without paralysis or permanent impairment. I also feel lucky to have total amnesia of the accident and of the eight days I stayed in the ICU, and to have suffered only nominal pain after I left the ICU for three weeks in a rehab facility.

Now that I am home and substantially healing – and am able to swim again – I take stock of the body that remains mine. I woke up, as it were, undeniably an older person. I fatigue more easily. Cycling will not be part of my future (since this accident occurred without apparent cause and thus was unavoidable). I am much more risk averse. I don’t want to do anything that is likely to cause me grievous injury, since there is no prediction I will be so lucky if I fall again. I still have some double vision related to the concussion and wear eyeglasses with one side obscured, so as that I can walk and read. I walk more hesitantly, and considerably more slowly and carefully. When I descend stairs, my hand is on or very near the handrail. When I board or leave a bus, the driver gives me extra time, and I feel totally justified occupying the forward seat reserved for seniors and disabled persons. In the grocery store, other customers make way for me (the old lady with the weird glasses).

I walk either behind or next to my husband, grateful for his hand. I sense the physical world much more now as he does, with due respect for what might prove harmful. I tend to see the world much more through his eyes and feel far more sympathetically to him than I did before. This feeling of ‘being in the same place’ with him, on both a physical and attitudinal level, is the biggest hidden gift of my accident. Instead of needing to distinguish myself from him, I take shelter in him, walk more with him literally and figuratively, and feel immensely grateful for his support and medical expertise.

I will still need to address, cope with and adjust to being ‘old’ in general. On a superficial level, there is relief (aah, I don’t need to worry about whether I can do the triathlon). I know I don’t feel deprived of any external adventures; I have already experienced most of the exploratory trips I ever wanted to take in this wide world and cherish having done so. On a deeper, internal level, I have not yet taken in all of the adjustments. I know I can still use my mind, and that is a huge source of comfort. All I can say for sure is that I am in a new, later stage in life’s journey. My body is now my reminder of the limitations that accompany old age rather than my armor against it.

6 Responses to “Life Can Turn On a Dime”

  1. Athene Aberdeen

    I can empathise with the writer’s comments on facing and coping with old age. I will be 70 in May and the reality of old age hit me only recently when I succumbed to the Chikungunya virus in November of 2014. I had never had never considered not being able to walk upright I could not do so for three days, nor did it ever cross my mind that old hurts would rear their heads again because of the action of the virus on nerves in my right arm. I am undergoing therapy for that arm and when I forget to take a break from the computer or to slow down in doing household chores, the sharp pains in my arm remind me that this is a new reality I am living with. Welcome to the club was my sister’s response on my having to have therapy to prevent a frozen shoulder.

  2. Bob Kubik

    I’m 83 and in overall good health, but in the last year I have definitly decided I am old. My strength and endurance as well as my energy have declined. I have adapted by expecting less of myself so I am not disapointed – I call it “lowering the bar”. I feel very fortunate I do not have any “condition” but we all get old and die no matter what. Life for me is still very much worth living.

  3. ティソパンパンシリーズの若い女性のすべての期待を満たすことができる。レディChronoダイヤモンドシリーズを深紅や白、日常や夜装着もとても適当。Danica Patrick君着用T-Race Lady、すなわち

    ティソパンパンシリーズの若い女性のすべての期待を満たすことができる。レディChronoダイヤモンドシリーズを深紅や白、日常や夜装着もとても適当。Danica Patrick君着用T-Race Lady、すなわち運動型は入社時;1916年Classic3ゴールドの再版、と入った自動ムーブメントのRetroゴールドもとても上品。それだけでなく、ティソも近く発売予定より多くを女性専用デザインの腕時計。

  4. Charlie Kimball

    The quickest way life turns on a dime is when an elderly person falls, and is left on the floor for hours until help arrives. Aging at home is clearly the preferred way to go for most seniors and families, for all the reasons we know (more comfortable, familiar, less expensive, and so on). However it is the responsibility of the senior and their family to make the environment safe for seniors and adapt to their new set of needs. The bathroom is a great place to start, and we provide these tips as a way to make simple, but effective modifications. Infographic provided by Medical Care Alert