Many years ago I met a very wise woman. Madeline is a doctor with Medecins Sans Frontiers and she had seen death and destruction on a large scale. However, what really got her going was people who went down hill through lack of positive attitude and movement.
One morning while I was living in Solomon Islands I awoke up in agony and unable to move. I was taken to ASPEN, the Australian hospital base where I had a pain killing injection. Wow the difference! I arrived unable to move but on the way out I danced; what a contrast. Blood tests later revealed Polymyalgia Rheumatica (PMR), a disease of muscles and joints that causes severe stiffness. I began a regime of steroids became pain free and was able to return to a normal routine which included exercise.
The treatment bothered me. I was immobile without medication and I had to continue to take it but I was also aware that it had serious side effects. It was several months later that I met Madeline, an intelligent, beautiful and sympathetic French doctor who gave me advice that I have never forgotten. She said when people hurt they don’t want to exercise but this is the most important time to keep moving. The more you are chained to the chair the less you will be able to do. Take the tablets and move. You can balance attitude, diet and exercise and gain the most from your life. I listened and now I am participating in many disciplines especially modified by physiotherapists to suit the older person.
Never did I dream when I was doing yoga that I would take classes for perennials which I call going to my ‘Nana Yoga’ or classes designed to strengthen bones and improve balance which I call my ‘Bag of Bones’ classes. Its all fun and I come home as stretched and tired as when I did aerobics or was part of an intense gym routine or practised Hatha Yoga.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) define health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. To enjoy life we all need to know our bodies, our limitations and work within that parameter to keep the status quo. I want to remain independent and this means I need to be able to move around and do all the ordinary things I once took for granted.
There are many outlets and the costs are usually reasonable. I joined U3A (University of the Third Age) and for $25 a year I can join as many classes as I want. I walk in the park free of charge with my husband and when weather permits I enjoy aqua aerobics at the local council pool for $2 per session. I enjoy socialising over coffee after workouts, but am mindful not to indulge in muffins or cakes.
Apart from all the regular exercise forms such as golf, tennis, swimming cycling, there are clubs, health centres where modified versions for seniors can be sampled and tried. There has to be at least one or two that would appeal to every individual.
I love seniors yoga and balance and bones. I am not too keen on line dancing but I may give it a go one day soon. Whether it is pilates, tai chi, yoga, or even chair dancing there is a marked improvement all round. A boost in brain power, improvement in memory, strengthened bones, better balance and a release of stress. I like the yoga meditation and try to take the calm from the class back home. Sometimes it works.
There are a plethora of websites. Just google each of the various disciplines to find an explanation and cost (if any) and a list of addresses and phone numbers suited to your locale.
I like to keep my mind active. Through writing and editing Fifty Five Plus, being a member of a book club, playing bridge and scrabble, crosswords, trips to the cinema and theatre I push my brain to stay active. I like to be part of a group with a set day and time, it keeps me active. Whereas if left to myself to exercise via a DVD or get a yoga mat out I would procrastinate. Madeline’s words ring in my ears when I make excuses to keep reading or writing and I know it is time to get the body working and be on the go. If necessary I shame myself until I follow my mantra LET’S KICK BUTT.
Remember age doesn’t count it’s what age you feel and if you can stay mobile in mind and body you will never get old.