We learned many things from our mothers, but here are a few things they forgot to tell us about aging:
1. Your feet will hurt.
Between bunions and plantar fasciitis and the occasional ingrown toenail, you will eventually feel completely betrayed by your feet. You will come to despise every minute spent in an uncomfortable pair of shoes, starting with heels. Even Princess heels will stop being your friend. Eventually, every pair of shoes turns on you. You will, however, develop a deep personal relationship with Zappos akin to that which you have with your therapist. "Just keeping trying, don't give up, we will find you a good fit," is both their mottos.
Studies have shown that foot problems related to aging such as nail fungus or arthritis often go unrecognized and untreated, and can lead to considerable dysfunction, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Once walking becomes too painful, life can head south quickly. You won't want to exercise, you can no longer enjoy hiking or walking the dog, and a trip to something as simple and pleasurable as the Sunday Farmers Market becomes an ordeal. Take better care of your feet and stop wearing those silly high heels, our mothers should have told us.
Bunions will make you hate every nanosecond spent in uncomfortable shoes, which eventually, all shoes will be.
2. One day, you too will have sagging skin.
Gravity is a bitch. It may show some favoritism to a hand-picked few in the beginning, but eventually gravity trumps every remedy known to (wo)mankind. From turkey wa to flabby arms and boobs that seem to relocate under our armpits, our bodies change. While we probably didn't need Mom to tell us this would happen, as reader Brenda English noted, "I wish she had! I thought only Moms had that, not their kids."
You may look in the mirror one day and see this and wonder when it happened. (No offense, turkey):
But the good news is that self-acceptance often follows closely behind. And therein the lies the beauty of aging: Those who do it successfully care not what others may see. And self-acceptance is probably the greatest beauty tip of all.
3. You will slow down gradually, not abruptly, and only when something happens to remind you will you notice you've aged.
Old age isn't a brick wall that you go crashing into making an abrupt stop. The ride is slow and generally steady, although an illness or loss of a loved one can send you spiraling downward faster. Most of us plod along day after-day unaware of any dramatic or sudden change in our age. And then along comes an old photograph from when you were 33 and seeing Greece for the first time and all of a sudden you're standing in front of a mirror and stretching your jowls back, making the this-is-what-a-facelift-would-look-like face.
Here is the writer at 33 seeing Greece for the first time. (Yes, perms were on trend in 1983.)
4. The day will come when you feel invisible.
You will feel like you are the oldest person in the room and no one sees you. It only gets worse if a few charitable souls make a pity stop and ask if you are having a good time. Gee, why wouldn't you be? Standing by yourself, all invisible-like.
OK, maybe that only happens to the very old. But Mom could have told us that invisibility can start much earlier, when people are in their 50s and 60s. You will find yourself listening more and participating less at meetings when they are conducted by someone your son's age. As unbelievable as it may sound, some women even mourn the loss of cat-calls.
Reader Carol Schaffer wished she had been better prepared for "how my feelings about my place in the world would come into question within myself and how to face those thoughts in a healthy way." Let's start with, you aren't invisible Carol! We see you!
5. People will assume you are hard of hearing.
People will talk louder to you because, after all, if you are older you must be hard of hearing. Well, truth is, you might be. While you may not be ready to wear devices in your ears, chances are you have stopped going to certain restaurants because of the poor acoustics. The food may be great, but if you can't have a conversation while you enjoy it, what's the point? The National Institute on Deafness says 8.5 percent of adults aged 55 to 64 have disabling deafness. That jumps to nearly 25 percent of those aged 65 to 74 and 50 percent of those who are 75 and older. Among adults aged 70 and older with hearing loss could benefit from hearing aids, fewer than one in three (30 percent) has ever used them. We wish Mom had warned us that hearing loss takes a serious toll on relationships and it behooves us all to wearing hearing aids if we need them. We also wish that she and her generation had kicked up a fuss that Medicare won't cover these devices, so essential to our quality of life.
Just remember, you don't want to turn into Jesse Pinkman, now do you?
6. Younger people assume all older people aren't mentally sharp anymore.
Sometimes they talk about you in the third person even though you are standing right there. We recall the nurse in the doctor's office who asked of our late aunt, "Does she want more water?" Auntie, who was neither hard of hearing nor suffering dementia, piped up with "Why yes, thank you, she would love some!"
7. That the time will fly.
Wasn't it just yesterday that we were backpacking through Europe with a copy of "Europe on $5 a day" tucked under our arm? Now we are losing weight for our high school reunions, sending our kids off to college, and visiting Mom as often as we can, even though there were a few things she neglected to tell us.
8. That none of the above really matters if your attitude is good.
Mom should also have told us how aging happens to everyone and it's nothing to run from. What you do need to do is appreciate yourself, your life, your family and friends and worry less about the unimportant strangers.
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