It is now 2023 and I turned 60 last year. A lot has happened since I posted my last article in 2019. There was the pandemic. I got vaccinated, had breakthrough covid, recovered, boosted twice, moved multiple times in the same vicinity of a town, created a rental business, cut down on my health care work, switched from running to walking, managed (still do) my diabetes through lifestyle and diet, fell on my knee while jogging in 2020, lost 2 teeth, just had my major vacation abroad, cut down on social networking which takes time from my more important contemplation and gardening, and here I am — still alive and kicking. Despite cutting down and preparing for retirement, the usual issues prevail. Stress, worries, and health warnings that include pain in my knees and back. But life is what it is. We never live in top shape forever but we can prolong our basic functions as long as we maintain a healthy lifestyle and by playing the right cards. Sixty is something to look forward to for me because this is when expectations are trimmed and I can finally say, “I used to be good at that but you know, age changes everything.” And say it unapologetically.
So what do I worry about at 60? I don’t aspire for the good looks we had in our twenties. Good luck with that if you do. I am slowing down with an inclination to sit on that sofa enjoying streaming movies and sports reruns. Heck, I won’t let that happen. I will continue the hard work to keep my body on the good side of things.
Most of the things I write as far as health is concerned rely heavily on my personal journey while navigating aging. So this website is more personal than professional. I am not intending to create a to-do list or a manual on how to live a healthy lifestyle for everyone. This is mainly for me because like everyone who crosses that barrier of mature to the senior line, noticeable changes in the body occurs, with my body anyway. I cannot lift more than a certain load or more than a certain amount of time, I cannot run without feeling some pain or discomfort that takes me longer to recover from, and I gravitate to passive activities that keep me entertained while my body leans towards immobility — ranging from streaming network to social media to simple Internet surfing. I am also getting more and more attached to solitary tasks, I am beginning to dislike small talks and companions that expect me to act as vivacious as when I was younger at parties. I am also getting stressed over reduced endurance, muscle strength, slow motions, and the fact that there are certain things I did in the past that I cannot do anymore. Well, I can still do them but with unpalatable consequences.
These ONLY apply to me. If you don’t experience any changes after 60 or if you even get better and better each day, good for you. Sadly, I might be a more realistic representation of the majority of us. I now understand why they chose 60 to 70 as the retirement age. No way can one go full-time work after 70 unless your job is something that you love doing and can’t wait to get back to it every day. In that case, I send you a double congratulations.
I started thinking about a healthy lifestyle after I went on a long vacation back to my old country. The last time I did that was 6 years ago. Oh, how agile I was then. I could run, climb, jump and walk for hours and hours and fully recover after a night of rest. It is different this time around.
First, my siblings I used to spend time with have either gotten old or become busy babysitting their grandchildren; some of them are rendering support for their children’s budding careers. The older ones are way too old to travel and hang out with me. And then, my nephews and nieces who surrounded me in their youth suddenly grew up, some having their own budding families, some working hard in their fields of profession, yes, workaholics every day. They could find the time or the energy to even entertain or attend to me even if they wanted to. I do not hold this against them, I worked like a horse in my heyday and did not find the time to entertain anyone either. I sort of anticipated this. Just like a parent who wants his/her children to succeed, I get myself out of the way. The child needs to be undisturbed and undistracted as he works his way into the world.
I made the assumption that I can still wade myself around as a solo traveler. At 60? Gimme a break. I took my first trip carrying a backpack and another handheld bag, riding public transport, and then walked to my first hotel negotiating with curbs, stairs, and ramps. It hit me suddenly. My back screamed and my knees whined. So as a plan B, I thought of renting a car which turned out to be more expensive than checking in at hotels. I opted for taxis.
Having figured out my age-appropriate transportation and settling down in different hotels, I took on my favorite daily task. Walking long distances. This was alright — I managed up to 20k or more steps on some days — but somehow I felt extremely fatigued necessitating an immediate bed rest and sleep after. I used to run miles and miles with no significant pain or fatigue like this and that’s another self-discovery. Note to self: alternate 10 miles and 5 miles of walking every day to avoid fatigue and injury. Seriously, I used to run up to 15 miles at a time in my prime years and I am now reminding myself to take easy and heavy alternation walking days. What happened since my last half marathon?
So there — changes, changes, changes are afoot after I turned 60. But this is nothing to fret about. I’d rather pay attention to what my body tells me rather than take risks just to prove to myself I still ‘got it’. In my field of PT work, I have seen too many unforeseen catastrophes among people who pushed themselves beyond what their bodies could tolerate. Just google the number of runners who collapsed and died at the marathon finish line. I sound morbid and less encouraging here but as I said, this is all about me. Some of us are lucky to push all the efforts we could without a single grunt while others who are on vacation in Florida play golf under the heat all day wake up with slurred speech and are paralyzed on one side. Just saying.
There are things I need to address as I turned 60. Muscle strength, endurance, easy fatigue, pain, and reduced abilities. Balance is another. On top of that, I need to also take care of my diabetes. Correct food intake remains a top priority for me. I mentally schedule myself for long walks 3 times a week and gym workouts ranging from weights to ellipticals and stairs 2x a week. The remaining two days should be for rest. That is my 2023 personal plan.
One good thing about being 60 is the reduced expectations from you. I can probably live without a full-time job because I am single and my lifestyle and interest are cheap. But then, there are those who can’t easily give up their position, prestige, skills, and power that keep them alive and kicking. It is hard for them to let go of their jobs. On the other hand, are those who take more work at 60 onwards, either because their livelihoods depend on it or they love their job so much that will leave a big empty hole in their lives should they retire early.
I have enough to survive, barring any event that will impoverish me like sickness, losses of properties, economic meltdown, bankruptcy — anything remains possible. But given what I have now, I can probably live like anyone who has a ‘fixed income’ and ball myself up while my blanket shrinks.
In 2023, after the toll exacted to all of us by the pandemic, and how it created a new normal and paradigm shift in the way we look at life and lifestyle and health, I am ready to put more value and rationale to what I do.