Working toward health

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This month’s Good Age is about fitness and I heartily endorse eating right, exercising regularly, drinking responsibly and driving carefully.

But anyone who carries an AARP card and has a Medicare supplement knows that none of the above is going to protect us from the body nicks and paper cuts of aging:

Waking up in the morning with a dull pain in your shoulder that wasn’t there the night before,

Bending over and feeling an unusual tug in your groin,

Spending a half-hour trying to tie a small hook on a monofilament line,

Trying to cut your toenails and nipping your toe instead of your nail.

Yep, that’s the reality of this part of life. And we might as well get used to it because these aches and pains come with the senior territory. I’ve spent too much time fearing, complaining, raging and exaggerating — and not enough time coping and accepting. But I’m getting better, and I’ve discovered some actions and antidotes that seem to help.

Find a sense of humor

As exasperated as I was after 30 minutes of trying to tie an 8-ounce jig to the line on my ultra-light rod and reel, I had to laugh at the sweat running down my brow and the tremor in my right hand. I’d been at it half an hour, and I was still trying.

If it hadn’t involved fishing, I’d have been finished 28 minutes ago. I stuck it out for another 15 minutes and tied the damned thing on the line.

Take a long walk

When I’m feeling poorly, it helps me to stretch out, to walk. Briskly. With my head up. With my arms swinging. I can get into the rhythm and let my mind wander away from aches and pains and onto the woods and water around me. (Walking along a nature trail is the best medicine.) You can talk out loud to yourself without fear of being committed.

Listen to music

This is best done in a car, singing loud and along with your favorite CD.
My personal favorites include Bob Dylan’s Forever Young, Janis Joplin’s Me and Bobby McGee, Aretha Franklin’s Amazing Grace and Leonard Cohen’s Closing Time:

Áh, we’re drinking and we’re dancing

And the band is really happening

And the Johnny Walker wisdom’s running high …”

The lyrics get a little raunchy and raucous after that — even better for taking your mind off what ails you.

Gin

This is for drinkers only. Those, like me, who find sobriety sane and sensible, can jump to the next tip.

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Talk to a friend

This is a relief for your spouse or significant other. A friend might not have heard your complaint in all its gory detail at least a dozen times. So you may get the benefit of a receptive, sympathetic and thoughtful response. And, it’s possible the friend has more maladies than you do. In that case …

Help a friend

This is really the best medicine for me. When I’m taking a buddy shopping, picking up a prescription, doing the laundry or cleaning a bathroom other than my own, I somehow feel useful. The task that occupies my hands quiets my mind.

Among friends, it helps to cultivate some younger ones. For me, that means going to lunch or supper with former students at the University of St. Thomas.

I’m older than most of their parents, and if I get too involved in a litany of aches, pains, bruises and bumps, it takes only a minute for me to realize most of them have no idea of what I’m complaining.

They multitask, sleep through the night and take only an occasional ibuprofen tablet. Pretty soon the conversation turns to their turf, where the sun shines brighter — and I feel better.

I’ve been told grandchildren produce the same effect.


Dave Nimmer has had a long career as a reporter, editor and professor. Now retired, he has no business card, but plenty to do. Send comments or questions to dnimmer@mngoodage.com.