The Over-the-Hill Gang: Non-specific and sometimes irreverent seniors' stuff

OK, we have talked about this a little on my blog that I started when I got laid off and then developed a disabling health problem in 2009, so why not take a stab at a thread for those of us who are either of-a-certain-age or have experienced health issues that have knocked us off our feet, one way or another?

I'll start.

My name is PeggyC, and I have Meniere's Disease. That means I have shyte-for-balance and near-constant dizziness. Therefore, exercise is a huge PITA, and furthermore therefore I have gained about 30 pounds in the past three or four years that I really didn't want. This has contributed to severe back problems, which in turn means exercise is even more of a PITA. And let's not even start on what this and a move to take care of my elderly mother in another state have done to my social life.

I'm pissed. I feel like I'm behaving as if I'm extremely elderly even though I'm only 57.

What I propose for this thread is an area of support for those of us who have a different physical reality, whether from age or illness. Pep talk, serious advice, sympathy or a needed kick in the pants... anything helpful is welcome. I'd like this to be similar to the Caretaker's thread, but different.

Anyone else?

Edited to Add, and very parenthetically, the "Over the Hill Gang" reference has to do with a group of women who used to meet at a women's center near where I grow up. My mother started the group as an outlet for older women, to talk, do things, just hang out, share problems, offer advice... and she called it The Over the Hill Gang as a shot at the assumption that women of that age group might be "over the hill" in the modern sense, and in line with the trouble-making proclivities of the original Over the Hill Gang of bandits. Mom was very spunky and irreverent in her day, always a bit of a trouble-maker herself.

You can count me in, too, PeggyC. I'm in my mid-60s and finding all the aches and pains of aging a nuisance. Neuroma on one foot, wonky knee on the other leg - which make serious exercise to lose the weight that accumulates no matter what you do more challenging.

Never used to worry about falling, but now I do (probably because of progressive lenses that make things look bigger and closer, which is disorienting when I don't have them on).

Always loved gardening, but it's difficult to work kneeling down for long and getting up is not easy, especially on a humid day (probably arthritis). I've gone more and more to container gardening simply because that doesn't involve kneeling.

Things were much easier in my 30s and 40s!

So, how do you deal with the need to get more exercise when so many things get in the way? How to do it safely so it produces good results (weight loss, health benefits, all that good stuff)? That's a question I would dearly love to have answered. I have so much trouble getting on the elliptical trainer because it is SO boring. But everything else scares me or is dangerous or quite painful.

Container gardening is a great idea. I've done some of that, too, and I even have two half-barrels of irises growing on our deck so I didn't have to deal with getting down on my knees in the wetlands to plant them there. I just invested in a new battery-operated trimmer for our yard with a special eye to finding the lightest one I could buy.

With progressives, my doctor told me to lift them and look under them when going downstairs to avoid that threat. Of course, failing vision is a whole other PITA!

I've had progressives for years, and usually I'm fine with them on - problem is when I take them off (I can see without them, just can't read normal-sized print) - then, I feel very disoriented, especially on stairs or curbs.

I don't like treadmills - haven't tried an elliptical yet - so I try to walk a mile or two most days. I'm working up to longer distances, but with the knee, I have to build it up slowly (especially after a winter's inactivity - shoveling snow doesn't do much for the legs). I'm an avid photographer, so I find that, if I have my camera with me, long walks around town and the park don't get boring. It's klutzy with the camera slung around my neck, but when I bring the smaller camera is always when I see the woodpeckers up in the trees and the turtles on the far side of the pond and the smaller camera doesn't have as strong a tele lens.

I used to love roller skating - someone told me that the motion on an elliptical is very similar to that - would you agree? Maybe if that is so, I'll try one of those. I think my days of zipping around the roller rink are past me (although Joan Weston and Ann Cavallo were apparently still skating in the Roller Derby into their late 50s and early 60s! More power to them!!!)

Thanks for starting this Peggyc. My life has changed dramatically ever since whatever happened to my legs has happened. I used to love rollerblading. I played tennis and was quite good at it. I loved to dance and now I can't even do a Chacha never mind a Lyndie.

It is just too sad to me to think a walk to my mailbox takes thought. Thank God for MOL, FB and Netflix. I feel Normal sitting on the couch with my legs up on an ottoman. They tingle a little but I can change positions and make the tingling go away.

I force myself to go out and walk with my rollator but so far that only seems to be a success of every other day.

One day at a time I am fine. question/p>

Two wonderful things I did in the past. I started seeing circles around the moon and everything was getting blurry. I had laser cataract surgery in both eyes. Unfrigginbelievable to see every brick on buildings blocks away in the city. I only use readers now. No more progressives. Hallaleua!

I had my teeth capped. I can eat and smile freely

Water aerobics and variations have worked well for me. Outdoors at community pool (not Maplewood anymore) in season, and indoors at relatively local fitness club other times of year. I also walk, but not enough to lose weight, just maintain it if I skip dessert consistently. Many of the women in my water exercise group have arthritis or other issues. There is also a social aspect, which I find as beneficial as the physical exercise. Being in the company of people more or less my age is nice.

I had returned from a trip on the other side of the pond. For the first time in 30 years the woman in my life had accompanied me and fell in love with the Motherland and in particular my adopted island.

One morning in August, my birthday as a matter of fact as I was sitting on the bench I consider my front porch , I began to have a heart attack. The symptoms were very similar to the angina I had had for a few years. I casually popped a nitro glycerine tablet and waited for the relief. It never came.........the pain increased and I realized what was happening.

I have written of the great effectiveness of the various first responders. They probably saved my life.

Eventually I had a four way by pass at Morristown Memorial Hospital

The work they did on my heart was great .........what they did to some other systems not so great.

Fortunately my life partner found a terrific Urologist who put Humpty Dumpty back together again

Two months pass.

Now I am having a little trouble breathing. Soon I am having a lot of trouble breathing.

A quick trip to Saint Barnabas and next thing I know they want to run a series of Doppler to check for blood clots. Soon I am unconscious. I wake up three days later flat on my back with tubes down my throat. My lady friend tells me I had coded and was lucky to be alive.

I think I was disapppointed not to have seen the light.........but decided on second thought to pass.

So calendar 2014 was a real trip............can't wait to see what the future brings.

Forgot to mention that it was that old Devil pneumonia that was robbing me of my breath

It also got me when I was 6 months old

Maybe it will leave me alone now.

I go to Pilates. It is hard, but I do individual which is pricey. But I feel I must keep up my strength and flexibility. I fell and broke my wrist last fall. I have had a number of falls. That was the first break. I do wonder about the pattern of falling.

Peggy, have you heard of Peggy Cappy? She leads yoga classes for seniors. I think she is in Connecticut? But I don't know where. She was on PBS demonstrating chair yoga. I wish that were not so hard to find. I am too tight to sit on the floor, even with my legs straight out, much less crossed.

Oh gawd author. Good thing you have a lady friend. I on the other hand have my grandson who periodically checks on me to see if "I'm OK". Last night at 2am I hear a rustling and open my eyes to see a flashlight from his phone. I said you scared the crap out of me and he waves my iPad charger and says sorry, I just needed to borrow this.

I mean really, God is looking out for me in a very mysterious way. grin

I have not heard of Peggy Cappy but will look her up. I have thought for awhile that I should buy the DVDs in the series Fit Over 50 for home use. And it has also occurred to me that using our new pool could be a godsend for gentle exercise that won't wreck my back.

Now that we are in the new house and I can call things at least somewhat under control, perhaps it is time to start taking my camera out for walks around the area. I think fear is playing a big role in keeping me sedentary, and it's hard to blast my way past that.

I do have some advantages still, especially flexibility that is unusual even for someone my age. Some bits have tightened up, but in large part I can still get down on the floor and do a lot of the stretching exercises from my former yoga classes. And I have not lost too much strength yet, although my stamina is way down. I really have to be careful now because I get awful twinges in the back, and the doctor was entirely unhelpful in that regard.

Author, I had no idea what your full story was. I'm so sorry you went through all that and so glad you are still here to tell the tale! What do you do now by way of activities?

Pilates is tempting, but unnerving since I have never done it. Gotta start somewhere, right??

Well, I just Googled Peggy Cappy, and that's a bit of a revelation! Here's a link in case someone else might find it useful. I think I'm going to get a few of her DVDs. I see she does workshops at Kripalu in Vermont, I think it is. I might have to check that out one of these years.

One of the girls...............yes . There is no question "The Lord works in mysterious ways"

I was raised with help of a warm and loving Grandmother. We believed. We were not exactly doctrinaire or practicing but we believed. If you have ever attended a Greek Orthodox mass where the Priest swings the iincense holder back and forth and the front few rows of those in attendance almost pass out from smoke inhalation you would understand the phenomenon of Sunday morning stomach aches that my sister and I would alternate.

But we believe.......more than ever we believe.

My MIL has serious mobility issues so she can't walk very far or exercise much, but she does use a stationary bicycle and she can do that while watching TV or reading on her kindle. I don't know if that is something you've tried or even feasible, but might be something to consider if not already ruled out. For upper body work, I'm thinking it might be possible to do some kind of weight training or other targeted exercises while seated (?)

Of course, I say all this, but am not practicing it myself ... even though I should.

That's a whole other discussion, isn't it? The things that many of us who aren't in bad shape yet should be doing to make sure we are at our best as we age. Most of us probably aren't doing much about that, since even in middle age, denial is a powerful thing. Right up until I turned 52 or so, it would never have occurred to me that I'd be having conversations like this just five years later.

Author, you always put a big smile on my face. I remember the priest swinging the incense even in my little catholic parish in Patchogue yet never had the sense of passing out from it. You may have had pneumonia but I had whooping cough and missed kindergarten due to it. I always wondered if that was why I was such a shallow breather. I was good for spurts of running like tennis but soccer knocked me out with heavy panting. And now at my age I am practically no good for more than 10 minutes without a slower pace in between.

And just like you, I believe. I am certain you do not feel alone and neither do I. grin

Peggyc, my sister is an occupational therapist and she convinced me to leave my couch every once in a while. As hard as it is to use my legs the way they are now, it definitely will pay off in the long run to push myself a little harder each day.

I do Pilates one on one. The two instructors I have used train in what they call classical Pilates. With one on one they can tailor it to my needs and abilities. I love it because it is very focused, and uses breathing so that we don't misuse our muscles by tightening up too much. It focuses on building core strength, but also works on muscles I barely knew I had. These instructors are very supportive and encouraging.

I remember seeing a Pilates place in my new town... I should check into that. Maybe I could try it one-on-one.

Oo, it's in the next town over, about a 10-minute drive (if that) and they seem to have a LOT of possibilities for me, from private Pilates sessions to yoga classes.

I noticed on their pull down menu, the tab on the right, has a category called videos and something. Did you see that? Not for the videos, but there is a description of how they work with injured body. I hope you try it. I am a big fan.

I second the idea of an exercise bike. I had foot surgery this winter, then managed to break the same foot about 5 weeks into recovering from the surgery. It was definitely a challenge maintaining my weight while not being able to use my lower body.

Because the break was in my forefoot, I got clearance from my doc to use a recumbant bike using my heel on the bad foot. I set it up in the living room in front of the tv. It really saved me from going a bit crazy from inactivity. It was only $150 from Amazon and a breeze to assemble. I also used small hand weights to increase the exercise. Easy to do on a recumbant.

I also tried to swim regularly at the gym but that was a PITA given the weather we had this winter.

This is the one I got:

Oh, I meant to respond to Cody about the elliptical and skating... I don't know if the motion is similar because skates move in a flat plane, whereas the elliptical moves in ovals. I'd say you might come close if you crossed skating and bicycling, if you can imagine that.

gerryl said:
I noticed on their pull down menu, the tab on the right, has a category called videos and something. Did you see that? Not for the videos, but there is a description of how they work with injured body. I hope you try it. I am a big fan.

I noticed that they suggest people come in for at least one private session so they can get a feel for the person's needs and limitations, including injuries. They seem to be willing and able to tailor their program for people who have various levels of mobility, age, injuries, and health issues. I already signed up for their email contact so as to get $25 off that first private session. We'll see how it goes from there. If that goes well I will most likely go for a combination they offer of several private sessions followed by several group sessions.

Fingers crossed.

All the comments about using a bike or other machine at home in front of the TV have me thinking about that again. When we moved in, I had the movers put the elliptical in the unfinished part of the basement, but I think now that I will roll it into the finished part, where the couch and the big TV and so on are located. That way I'd be that much more likely to use it, especially in the winter when the possibilities are more limited.

I just checked out that bike, Angelak. I like it! I wasn't expecting it to be so small and streamlined. How's the motion on it?

I like the motion a lot. It's actually semi-recumbent, rather than full-recumbent like you would find at the gym. So the pedals are positioned a bit more like an upright. I find it very comfortable and a great workout.

Yeah, I noticed it wasn't fully recumbent. I prefer that, since I never feel like you're getting a great workout when you are all the way down there (I have no idea whether I'm right about that or not!).

I have to make a couple phone calls to get to the chiropractor and check out the Pilates place, but I haven't done it yet. I'm a little nervous to let someone new adjust my back. Chiropractic work scares me silly, even though the results over time seem to be good.

I needed a couple of days to quietening my brain before popping in here. Hi, everyone!

From a professional point of view, may I suggest everyone looking to use a pool for therapy (aching joints, low back pain, recuperation from long standing illness) make sure the water is at least chest-depth, and also that it's bath-temperature (for us that's around 30degrees)? Your muscles respond better at that temperature, and the release of lactic acid as you move is less likely to lead to cramping or strain later. Author, and anyone else with heart or blood pressure concerns, needs a doctor's approval for this or any kind of exercise program.

Also, don't look for the same kinds of exercises we used to do even 5 years ago: we've aged, and our brains aren't into it any more. Before we re-establish those habit patterns, we need to reawaken our thinking to what our bodies can actually do now in their current condition. In 3 months or so we can rearrange the new habits and pick up some older exercises/sports, and maybe even push some boundaries. But we need to remember the gains are very small at first.

Also, if you can find any Feldenkrais practitioner near you, it's worth going for even one session. This system of movement and awareness has elements of movements and postures in it that you will find familiar from ballet, tai chi, yoga, Pilates, toddler play, and mindfulness. It's actually learning how to move the way your body wants to move, efficiently, elegantly anwithout pain.

Ahh! D is home! Excuse me - have to cook dinner!

Oh! Here's a sheet of water exercises we used for arthritis therapy and for frail aged community dwellers, back in Albury. I promise you, it's harder than it looks!!

I would love to do water exercises, but I don't have time in the day to get to the towns nearby that have the pool. Also not sure which pool has water that warm. Recollection was JCC pool pretty warm.

H'mm. We do have a solar cover for the pool that will raise the temperature quite a bit, but I really hate heated pools for swimming in. That's a dilemma... do I heat the pool so I can do exercises in it, or could I use the hot tub to keep the muscles warm before and after exercising? Maybe I could just warm the water up somewhat but not go so far that I don't enjoy swimming in it on a hot day?

Thanks for the link to the exercises, Joanne. I'll try them as soon as my bathing suits arrive! (I had people on Facebook telling me that I don't need bathing suits, since it's *my* pool, but I really don't want any neighbors or delivery people to know me quite that well.)

That reminds me... the bathing suits are supposed to be delivered today! I hope to heaven they fit... buying bathing suits is even worse than buying a new bra. At least with a bra, the expectation is that it will be covered most of the time. *sigh*

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