Aging together joyfully

We expect certain changes as we grow older. Our body certainly lets us know that we are not as fast or as flexible as we once were. Eyesight, hearing, range of motion, all these and other important functions begin to decline. We try to slow the inevitable: We exercise more, choose what we eat more wisely, but we do slow down, despite our good intentions.

Betsy and I are grateful to live in a place where excellent medical care is available to us, and in an age when its advances increasingly are able to help us deal with our various aches and pains and other physical limitations.

Living longer has its price. Slowing down physically with age comes as no surprise. What is catching me off guard, though, is the unexpected curtailment of activities I have always taken for granted. Suddenly, it seems, they are no longer available. If a room needs painting or a curtain rod needs replacing, I’m beginning to think that I’d better hire someone to take care of it, or perhaps ask a friend. Climbing a ladder never used to be scary. Now it is.

That hoped-for trip back across the pond to see London again or to visit friends in Germany — out of the question, I’m afraid. Betsy, who labors to walk even short distances using crutches, is finding it increasingly difficult to get around. I now own two artificial hip joints placed there to help relieve the ravages of a lifetime of osteoarthritis. They certainly have helped, but it’s hard for me to walk more than a city block or possibly two without stopping to rest. Our beloved long driving trips now must be broken into shorter segments or skipped entirely.

I confess that coming to grips with these disappointments is harder than I had expected. We love to travel, particularly in our car, and the realization that these adventures are diminishing in number, frequency and distance, is unpleasant.

But there is a good side to this. Betsy and I find that we are turning inward more, toward each other, helping each other in little ways, anticipating needs and desires more alertly, offering support more eagerly, expressing our love spontaneously and more frequently. Our life together is becoming richer than ever before. That’s what matters. Sacrifices that come with aging don’t.

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