Most of us are just plain sick and tired of being sick and tired. With the number of months that we’ve spent inside adding up, it is hard to remember when we could just head out to visit each other or go to a mall or restaurant and release some of the tension with some normalcy. In addition, our senior bones and achy muscles need stretching and daily use to avoid what I call the old age freeze up. The groans when either Grandpa or I get up from the couch can be heard at times in two-part harmony. Not being able to go to the gym (not that I did before Covid) for some is really hard and as the weather gets more chilly, outdoor activities are somewhat limited. It is nice to take a walk around here but the rainy days can also put the kibosh on that.
Exercise helps keep extra weight off and builds muscle, which takes the stress off our joints and other bones. We are built to be active, and when we are too sedentary, our bodies react with the anger and annoyance of a denied toddler. Moving helps to increase blood flow, and that includes the brain, which needs it just as much as our muscles and bones.
Although we are limited now with certain activities, there are a lot of videos online with everything from chair exercises, mild and yet helpful, to the ones that I will never do again as my body just doesn’t move that way anymore without snapping like a twig. Gentle yoga is a way to build stamina and balance. Many offer those online too. But there are all levels in between to choose from. I like to dance and when we could go out, Grandpa and I enjoyed getting down with our bad selves! Now we crank up Robin Thicke and dance around the garage with the help of our Alexa and her tunes. Whatever makes you happy and gets you moving is a good thing at any level.
Coupled with exercise is proper diet for seniors. We tend to get dehydrated more as we get older so I make sure that both of us drink lots of water every day. The big mistake of substituting coffee or tea, which of course is made with water, is that they are both diuretics and will increase dehydration. Enjoy your hot beverages, yes, but drink extra H2O to build the water back up that you lose. Extreme dehydration is dangerous and can lead to a hospital visit, or worse. Treat yourself to a really nice water bottle as an investment in your good health. Mine has a little bling!
We watch our numbers for sugar and for cholesterol. Whatever happened to the days of a hamburger, French fries and a Coke for lunch? Now, it’s lots of fresh vegetables, salads and some low sugar fruit. My kingdom for a slice of New York Pizza and a piece of cheesecake. Moderation is the key, not denial. I used to think of chocolate as a reward for good behavior in the diet department, but I am not a puppy that has done an entertaining trick and received a treat. I am a responsible adult who has figured out a way to have one of something all by myself. Having an individually wrapped dark chocolate with gooey salted caramel occasionally is part of my happy land. Understanding your own health and what your body needs and what it must avoid is the key.
Grandpa goes to bed early. I stay up later. We both agree that 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night is crucial. When you are together 24/7 for almost a year, the staggering bedtimes are a nice way to catch up with emails, Facebook and telephone calls without ignoring the only other two eyeballs in the room. No couple that I know never argues but we tend to keep that to a real minimum with some personal time to ourselves each day. Then we can enjoy annoying each other a whole lot more.
I am grateful for my time this past year in so many ways. I know that the future is brighter, and we will all be seeing one another again soon. Until then, we will continue to make the best of it and think back on this time as a learning experience. Please stay safe and well, wear your masks when you need to go out for yourself and others and smile with your eyes for now. PEACE.
Marla Luckhardt is a Brentwood resident who works with several local senior care and advocacy groups. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.