Improving with Age
August 18, 2021 | View PDF
Sometimes, after watching some feat of daredevil antic performed by a youngster with more muscles than brains, we older folks fall into the trap of believing that as we age, we no longer excel at anything. We aren’t as strong, we can’t climb as high or as fast, and it often takes us somewhat longer to accomplish tasks now than it did in our younger years. Too many abilities diminish as the years stack up. The list of lessening aptitudes seems to increase on a weekly basis.
Fear not, however. I have discovered that certainly there are activities that I perform a lot more slowly now than I did decades ago, but I am not faltering in all areas as I age. I can think of several circumstances that the older I get, the more my talents improve in those particular situations.
Let’s start with balance and my heightened ability to lose it for no apparent reason. I do not have the same center of gravity that I once possessed, so there goes my career as a gymnast. I have perfected the art of falling and/or losing my balance for no obvious reason. I have no problems tripping over twigs, small stones, a blade of grass, or a stairstep. The thought of trying a cartwheel, an activity I performed easily as a youth, leaves me with cold chills and the urge for a nice stiff drink.
On reflection, I never did have the greatest balance in the world. Even in high school, a balance beam in gymnastics might just as well have been a tightrope strung between two tall skyscrapers. The beam represented an impossible task when I was ten, never mind what the difficulty it would present today at 70+. I never could close my eyes, touch my finger to my nose, and stand on one foot for longer than a nanosecond. Who needs these skills anyway, unless of course your dream was to become a trapeze artist working alongside the Flying Wallendas. Fortunately, I had other interests that did not include dangling from a trapeze or balancing on a tightrope..
I can still ride a bike, sled down a hill, and walk around the mountainside without falling, so that is what matters to me. Unless of course there happens to be ice lurking underfoot, or a recalcitrant twig insists on lying directly in my path, then all bets are off. These small little issues simply help me perfect my talent for losing my balance or toppling over.
Factors that affect balance include eyesight, which brings me to another skill I am perfecting: the art of not seeing very well. I feel confident I can blame my exquisite non-balancing skills partly on eyesight. I had hoped a new eye prescription would enable me to lose some of my talent for tumbling and taking missteps, but it has not. I need strong prisms to align both eyes so that I don’t see double all the time, and those prisms I think affect the way I perceive the environment around me, and also contribute to the balance issue. My ability to see what is directly in front of me works OK, but peripheral vision and judging distance to the ground can cause many unwanted difficulties.
I generally look at the ground in front of me as I walk to prevent mishaps with small pebbles, ruts in the road, a large leaf, or some other innocent-looking obstacle in my path just awaiting the arrival of an unsuspecting little old lady. I can miss a lot of nice scenery this way, and I figure that one of these days I will walk into a bear and be eaten before I realize what hit me.
I am perfecting another ability as I age. I believe many people call it selective deafness. I am becoming an expert at tuning out conversations that do not interest me. When I’ve heard the same story multiple times, my head can nod every so often, the smile stays on my face, I can add a ‘really’ or an ‘uh-huh’ at appropriate intervals, while my mind is elsewhere. The occasional nod of the head generally satisfies the speaker, and we all are happy. The speaker satisfies his urge to tell me the same story a thousand times in one evening, and I satisfy my own need to plan out the following day or wrestle with a gnawing problem.
Other areas where I continue to improve with age would have to include changing my hair color. It continues to turn an unwanted white without the use of harsh chemicals. It turns whiter on its own with absolutely no effort on my part. My chin sags, the skin on my arms gets looser, my ankles pop, my knees grind, and all these marvels occur on their own. I think the saggy skin on my arms would make a gorgeous alligator purse. Let’s see a youngster top that!
So, when you feel old and defeated, remember there are areas and abilities where older people definitely improve with age. We all truly do have our own distinctive talents and gifts, not necessarily connected with our changing bodies. Youngsters may outshine us in some ways, but we have our own unique skills available to us that it will take youth years to attain.