Non-Dominant Explorations

Taking Care of Your 80 year Old Self

How well do you use your non-dominant hand & arm?

Stretch your brain power and perceptions. Apply toothpaste with your other hand. Brush your teeth with your other (non-dominant) hand.

Practice with balled up pieces of paper & a garbage can, or dirty laundry & a bin. Throw a sponge, washcloth, or something into the sink or bathtub if that is a better place for you to start. Whatever works for you.

Some fun and very useful things to explore:

Throw a ball or toy to a dog with your non-dominant side of your body. For optimal body mechanics get your other foot forward, be in a good stance. For shoulder protection use your legs and core/trunk to power your throw. Really get your body’s wind-up involved, which will move & power your arm and lastly your hand. Pay attention all the way through your follow-through.

Hopefully you are using your entire body for tossing and throwing, for supporting yourself through the following explorations. That would be why I chose the title I did, this involves your perceptions, mind, nervous system, musclo-skeletal systems, motor planning, and more.

Next time you’re filling a vitamin or pill container explore using your other fingers. Pair other fingers with your thumb, not just your index finger. Explore using your non-dominant hand.

If there are no safety consequences, explore using your non-dominant hand & side of your body for cooking tasks such as stirring or adding ingredients. Make and eat your breakfast using the other side of your body. I don’t recommend pouring hot water, dealing with hot oil, or other health & safety hazards.

Changing things up helps our brains, vision, and coordination. There are plenty of research summaries and resources out there these days about brain plasticity and other topics if you want to read more.

I recommend exploring doing things in a different way for the added benefit of if/when something happens to your dominant side you’ll be more aware of what’s ahead. You will have had some practice and hopefully that will help lessen your frustration. There is often “enough” frustration & pain with whatever situation put you in need of using your non-dominant hand.

What do I mean? Sprains, fractures, wounds, stroke, carrying something in that hand and can’t switch it. Maybe someone dear needs a hug but one arm and hand are full.

Some places tether a computer mouse or trackball so it can only be used with a right hand. What if you have an amputation? Many farmers, machinery workers, and other people have missing digits or parts of arms.

It may take months to feel proficient using a mousepad/mouse/trackball with your non-dominant hand & upper limb but there are many benefits for long-term health. It can also help with over-use syndromes.

Perhaps notice what standardized things occur due to right handedness as ‘the normal’ in our society and thus is catered to. Some examples: opening doors to buildings, scissors, car controls and more. Ever wonder what other “normals” are catered to, to the detriment of others?

Taking Care of Your 80-year old Self

Explore new ideas of fun things. Things you have interest in but perhaps not the time, energy, money, or abilities. Can you adapt them? Volunteer? Maybe apply for a grant or an introductory class? Make a 1-5 year goal? Do a part of something, this year? Or not.

Draw to mind some favorite things you tried as a youngster. Maybe something you only got to do once or a few times. Or dreamed of doing.

Play around, explore. . .Go through puddles or mud (if safe), or whatever comes to mind if the above aren’t doable.

Enjoy something. Hug yourself. Live.

Eighty looks different for each person. Explore, and enjoy!

Want more? Explore, exploring!

Friends often tell me they have a very different perspective 3, 6, or 9 months after retiring, recycling themselves, or re-imagining their lives. Whatever you call it (bodies/minds not cooperating, moving, – everything is included), things look different months down the road.

Some people suggest not committing for at least 6 months after big changes. If you have that luxury, see what opportunities look like later. If you need to commit, perhaps you review things at 6 or 12 months. People get better at exploring, reaching out with their hearts and minds. They cast their nets in new directions, not needing to commit but playing what-if?

So if you haven’t explored for a while, please do so. If your interest, time, energy, money, and abilities all line-up. . .you decide what’s next. More exploring or commitment?

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.

Taking Care of Your 80 year-old Self Intro

I’ve had the honor of teaching about 2500 fitness and health classes with people ages 70, 80, and 90+ years. After working for two and a half decades in health care I’ve learned oodles of things. I’m looking forward to celebrating and exploring, to sharing perceptions, perspective, and understanding through these blog posts. The first post starts during the first full week of March.