A Dear Friend

George is a dear friend, who happens to be our current oldest friend. He turns 101 in April. He still plays music & sings along while he exercises. We love discussing what he’s reading, which actually means his current book for people who are blind. Every time we get together we discuss and often listen to jazz music (our favorite, if we truly have a favorite type of music).

We frequently discuss older movies, including “A Song is Born” 1948 starring Danny Kaye & Virginia Mayo. If you want to see and hear almost ‘everybody who was somebody’ playing jazz at that time, find “A Song is Born!” (It’s a music themed remake of “Ball of Fire” 1941 starring Barbara Stanwyck & Gary Cooper – also a terrific movie.) That might top our list of favorites, along with Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. And yes, I may have been born the wrong generation.

Years ago George shared how slowly his tasks got done. Whether it was turning around to sit, or to place something on the counter, everything involved taking many tiny steps and moving his wheeled walker many times. Shortly after our discussion, his legs were less reliable so he started using his wheelchair when he was alone. His very diminished eyesight added more challenges to all tasks. He used an electronic magnifying system for looking at papers and reading. He became a master at orienting and perusing materials when using this disorienting machine.

Nowadays George continues working on thigh & leg strength through sit to stand exercises, while singing. A family member is always present for this activity and they sing along since it helps him keep a good tempo. George uses special equipment with grab bars for these exercises, and he gets strapped to it for safety.

To stand and answer the door is quite a process. Thankfully he has a power lift recliner to start the process. He transfers to the wheelchair, taking several steps for the small standing pivot transfer. He uses a wheelchair at all times since his legs don’t work as well as they did a few years ago. And yes, modifications have been made so expected staff, family and friends can enter without his great effort. We’re greeted with George’s joyful words and smiling face no matter which process is used to open the door.

Celebration and exploration will be common themes in these blogs. Hopefully you glean something from my sharings above. Perhaps you even explore the magnification feature on your computer. Standard installed accommodations for computers have come a long way since I took rehab engineering and technology courses, thank goodness!

If you have the luxury, it can be beneficial and interesting to explore adaptations and accommodations before they’re needed for loved ones or yourself. Exploring changes can also be scary, and frustrating. It can bring up issues people would rather not think about, let alone plan for. Please be compassionate and understanding with yourself around difficult topics.

My hypothesis for “Taking Care of Your 80 year old Self” blog series: I’ve had the honor of teaching approximately 2500 fitness and health classes to people, mostly ages 70 – 94+ years. A vast majority of these classes were with the same folks, twice a week for over 10 years. I’ve learned oodles from these experiences, in addition to working for two and a half decades in health care. I’m looking forward to exploring and sharing perceptions, perspective, and understanding through these blog posts.

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