The Year of being Sixty two: to fight? to yield? to somehow embrace?

Sometimes your body gives you a reminder that you are getting older, a quick kick in the shins which you didn't see coming.  I picked up my knitting the other day, as I do most days, for half an hour of quiet time.  I don't see enough written about the meditative properties of knitting but for me the peaceful repetition and gradual creation of something beautiful under my hands is a quiet revelation.  Not that day though.  A deep pain developed in the base of my thumb every time I picked up the needles.  I didn't believe it.  I kept putting my knitting down and picking it up again as if a slightly different grip might make all the difference.  It didn't.  I suppose it is arthritis of some sort.  Arthritis?  What a nonsense.  Arthritis is for old people.  I can't possibly have arthritis.  So for two weeks or so I have done no knitting, hoping that a rest will sort it out.  I miss it, but along with the fact of missing knitting,  I also really mind being someone who has arthritis!


It set me thinking again about the whole business of how we respond to ageing.  Read the magazines and the products of the whole "anti-ageing" industry and you might think we could turn back time.  This moisturiser, that serum, this conditioner to give your hair back shine, these injections of Botox or fillers, this magical diet, that plastic surgery: it is almost as if growing older, or certainly looking it, is a choice.  Spend enough, work hard enough and you can hold the whole process at bay.  Bollocks.  Sad, delusional bollocks.

But it is sad in a different way to see those who accept the restrictions of getting older almost as an excuse.  I know women of my age who would never get down on the floor to play with a grandchild, or run for a bus or work up a sweat.  Setting aside the limitations that accompany ill health, becoming static is not inevitable.  I also know women in their sixties who can do headstands, climb mountains, swim miles.  And I suppose I am somewhere in between.

What I am trying to do, with varying degress of success, is to look after my physical health and strength and to look after my sense of who I am.  The business of looking after oneself physically is both easy and difficult.  It is easy because one knows what to do: move more.  And difficult because you actually have to do it, not just intend to do it.   Exercising is time consuming and, unless you can find something to do which you actively enjoy, it can be boring.  I have tried all sorts of things in my time and I have come to know what works and doesn't work for me.  I like to walk and the real benefit of walking is that it can be fitted into your life instead of being layered on top.  Having lived and worked in cities for much of my adult life and now living in deep country, it is a slight surprise to me to find that day to day, functional walking is actually easier in a city.  In the country the distances are greater so it is often the case that to shop or visit a friend you need to get into a car.  So here I walk not by getting off the bus a stop early or by walking to work but by deciding to go out for an hour or so.  I would like to say I walk every day but I don't unless I am looking after one of our children's dogs.  Then the daily dog walk jumps up the priority list and happens every morning, rain or shine.  Without a dog to get me out of the door I walk about three or four times a week.  That is good but it is not quite enough.  Walking helps with so many things: with heart health and balance, with bone density,  with mental health and weight control.  And I know that for me being outside and putting one foot in front of another cheers me up, calms me down and makes me feel alive.

I have tried other aerobic activity but nothing beats walking for me.  I have never liked cycling and now that I live halfway up a big hill it is even less attractive as an activity.  I used to quite enjoy running but it is so long since I did any that the process of getting fit enough to run again really puts me off.  It is very daunting.  Swimming bores me in a pool although I love messing around in a warm sea.  I was never any good at ball skills so tennis and badminton passed me by and that also rules out most team games.  It still saddens me that all of my physical education at school was built about netball and hockey so I grew up thinking that I hated exercise.  It was only the fact that we were quite active at home that kept me doing things and I was surpised to discover as an adult that in fact it was not exercise in itself that I disliked, just the lowering sensation of standing on the sidelines of a netball court knowing that I would be one of the last to be picked for the team.  There were usually three of us left waiting.  Normally I was chosen before the fat girl and the girl with the thick glasses.  Once I was picked quite early in the process by a girl new to the school who played netball for the area.  I looked quite sporty I suppose but I wasn't.  I still remember her look of disappointment and disgust as I missed yet another catch.  She never made that mistake again.

Yoga works for me too now.  I am not very flexible and have never been able to touch my toes but there are enough things that I can do to keep me happy.  I tried yoga two or three times when I was working but I simply could not slow down for long enough to engage properly.  My whizzing mind would have me constantly looking at the clock and making mental lists of things I had to do.  When I decided to stop work when I was fifty five, driven partly by a brush with my own mortality that left me wondering what I wanted to do if time were short, I found a great yoga teacher and slowly I have settled into a level of attention to yoga which really works for me.  I don't think I could have done it when I was super busy and whizzing about the world.  I found yoga this last time a few years ago when I was at a stage in life when I could hear the message to be in the moment.  Now I can't imagine life without it.  If I miss a couple of weeks I can feel my shoulders stiffening up and my body becoming sluggish and heavy.  I have still got short hamstrings but my balance is good.  Yoga irons me out, mentally as well as physically.


A new discovery is Pilates.  This is so new that I have only been to three classes!  It resembles yoga in some ways but is more focussed on core strength and less holistic.  I like the necessity to think about my posture and to be aware of abdominal muscles, which clearly are in there somewhere.  Again I have a great teacher and a supportive class of people.  I am quite surprised at the pleasure I get from being part of a class because exercise for me in the past has always been a solitary activity, either running or at the gym, but there is a togetherness in a class which you attend frequently which is unexpected when you think that most of these people are not close friends.  Somehow just sharing the endeavour can be good.  I have never been a joiner so this surprises me!

And the gym is the last thing which I am trying to add to the mix.  I enjoy doing weights, rather to my surprise, and I am very aware that I am becoming less strong as I age.  I have never been particularly strong.  I am small with narrow wrists and ankles and not a lot of upper body  strength.  Finding myself struggling with bags which I could have lifted a couple of years ago was a wake up call and now I am trying to build a bit of muscle strength.  If I am honest,  I am not doing very well with this.  The weekly visit to the gym has dwindled to one visit every two to three weeks.  I might try to reinstate it by committing to one visit a week in my diary instead of waiting for the urge to strike.  Mostly it doesn't.


Having written all this down it looks as though I do a lot of exercise.  It might be more accurate to say I wish to do a lot of exercise.  I don't think any of this is driven by vanity and what my body looks like although that was certainly a motivator in the past.  Now I feel strongly that this body is where I live.  How it feels and what it can do shapes my days.  It will age, of course it will.  There will surely be things I can do now that I will not be able to do in ten or twenty years time.  But if I look after it there is a much greater chance that I can carry on doing the things I love: walking, travelling, playing with grandchildren, swimming in a warm sea.

What do you do to look after yourself?  and do you like it or is it a chore?

Comments

  1. I struggle with it. Mainly because of pain.Peripheral vascular disease not diagnosed until recently. I wondered why every road race hurt so very much. But relieved, weirdly, that it wasn't arthritis in my thumbs at all. So yes knitting is good still.
    XO
    WWW

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    1. ow, that sounds hard. adapting what we do to what we can do is another challenge I suppose. although I see that you can still knit...

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  2. Oh, that is all so true. I am busy getting ready for my move next week and last week had shocking hip pain so bad that I could hardly stand - it annoyed me as there was so much to do. Luckily, I seem to have it under control now or bearable anyway. Walking is my main physical activity with weekly visits to the gym but they have been let slip while getting ready for the move. I am looking forward to restarting them again.

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    1. you make a really interesting point Susan. when time is pressed we tend to let physical care go because it doesn't seem at the head of the queue and yet we function so much better if we do all these things!

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  3. So much of what you write here rings true - especially the bit about cycling being unattractive when you live on the top of a (several) hills!

    I walk - not huge long treks but enough on a daily basis to get the heart going and fresh air in
    my lungs. A couple of young dogs are keen to help.

    I suspect any interest in sport and team games disappeared before it started at school - there were definitely the sporty sorts and those of us who preferred the warm fug of the great indoors and a discussion on arts and poetry. Still the same today.

    PS - I can still touch my toes - even put my palms on the floor as I do so. Someone pointed out it was probably because I had short legs.... I'm still going with 'supple'

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    1. I think you should definitely go with supple! although one of the fascinations of yoga has been seeing how very differently we are built. I do identify with the art and poetry inside but I wonder if we didn't split off more than we needed to. perhaps we were all trying to find our tribe!

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    2. For me it's definitely the short legs , too . Though the physiotherapist cheerfully replied that maybe not , since my arms were short as well.
      There's no doubt about it , we'd all do better if exercise were jollier and included coffee.

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  4. Quite right about walking in the countryside - takes much more deliberate effort and not so easy to combine with something useful.

    My discovery and commitment to is http://www.essencehealthtraining.co.uk/2016/02/we-recommend-rebounding/. You do it indoors in any weather to music. No idea how much it helps anything but it does produce a sweat. And typically for me, I know of no-one else who does this strange thing.....

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    1. That sounds like fun! We have a mini trampoline left over from when the kids were younger...

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  5. I try not to let age define me and do not use it as an excuse not to try things. I just keep on keeping going. Restricting oneself is the how we grow old both mentally and physically.

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    1. I so agree. When you see people who have restrictions imposed on them by illness or disability it seems such a waste when people who could do more restrict themselves!

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  6. Elizabeth, I read this post yesterday. I found both the post and the earlier comments very interesting, but could not quite get my own thoughts together enough for a written comment.

    As you you know, I'm about 10 years older than you, and actually was surprised to think back to what I was doing when I was 62. Managing retail shops was demanding physically, mentally and emotionally. I got a real workout every day! Sometimes my days off were recovery days, but I also tried to make time to get together with friends and to pursue some of my creative interests.

    As you know, I have never married and have no children, so those components did not and do not figure in my life, except in longing for what I have missed. Everyone whom I know has found various pathways through the decades of their lives. Friends around my age and even younger died during the decade when I turned 60. Each death was a shock.

    I am very fortunate to still be in good health, yet realize that the future is completely unknown. This provides a great reason to enjoy each day we are given. Perhaps some cliches are very true. xo

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    1. I think the hardest thing to do is to enjoy each day as it is given. it is also essential for contentment, cliche or not! I suspect you have that skill!

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  7. I am so sorry about your hands -- I believe you can buy some sort of brace to make the handicrafts easier. I was diagnosed with arthritis at 34 -- that was a shocker as well and it has gotten progressively worse the last 30 years. However, if I stay active and don't stop doing things it seems to help. Pilates is absolutely wonderful. I took a dance class in college that was half pilates and half dance and by the end of the semester I didn't even recognize myself I had changed that much. Pilates will also help with your strength issues. If you can stay with that, you should -- or perhaps a ballet class. All of that is so helpful. I look forward to hearing more about your progress. I am, at the age of 66, now starting an exercise program as well -- been at it for 10 days and haven't died or hurt myself yet so we will see how it goes. Good luck!

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    1. pilates is great! and yoga build strength and well as flexibility I'm interested to see what pilates does as we progress

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    2. Enjoy -- it is a great concept.

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  8. Walking and gardening for me. Including 3 times up and down the stairs crossing the railway line, before an hour walking along the beach. 3 times a week.

    Pilates and core strength and good posture - that appeals to me. Maybe.

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    1. walking on the beach sounds good! I'd love to do that!

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  9. I am not very good at sticking to things like yoga classes or a gym (the latter lasted a week!) so have to make do with the exercise I get in the natural course of things.. like the hills in the garden. I probably don't get my 10,000 steps a day but those that I do get are hard ones!
    I hope it's not arthritis and that a rest from knitting will sort it out. Take care Elizabeth and enjoy the weeks to come.

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    1. from the look of your garden I would say you get plenty of exercise! and especially if the project for the spring is the steep area up the steps!

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  10. I typed a comment yesterday and it seems to have disappeared! Walking and gardening are my exercise. And Pilates once a week, which I've done for 10 yrs until late last summer when the teacher needed a 3 month break. That gap has taken its toll and been a wake up call - I'm stiffer and flabbier! Thankfully the class has now restarted BUT I'm now trying to do 15 mins of Qigung exercises every morning. So far so good. I hope I can fix it as a habit. I feel your frustration about not knitting, it's my comfort and relaxation too. Hope the pain recedes and you can introduce a little knitting again.

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    1. I've decided to give myself a complete break of a couple of months, lots of flexibility exercises from yoga and see what happens with the knitting. qigung sounds interesting!

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  11. I'm so sorry about your hands Elizabeth, I hope you can knot desire it all, though I've never gone back n to n it since my fingers started hurting. I should, though, and it would fit beautifully with my attempts to have more mellow, screen free late evenings.

    Exercise. Mmmm. A perpetual dance of trying something, hating it out just not being able to stick to it, repeat. But then I started getting really nasty neck pain every time I did even half an hour's gardening. I'm now doing Tai Chi/Chi Gong and Pilates, and it is beginning to make a real difference. And both mean I see more of two great women, which keeps me at it because I can't let them down. Adding in a regular walk is proving more difficult than it should because of working, but hey!

    So a similar story in many ways. Thank you again for writing so beautifully and do honestly about the weirdness and the challenges of this ageing thing. And thank you for the added spur to dig out the knitting!

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    1. I've always fancied tai chi but I think that yoga is probably filling that shaped hole for me. I do know what you mean about connections from a class and that obligation to someone else you really like. it's all part of keeping going until it's a habit that's just part of your life!

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  12. Knot desire it? Sorry, shouldn't write comments using my phone... Knit despite, obviously 😎

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  13. Found myself nodding along as I read this (until I got to the netball!)It's a bit of a surprise when our bodies seem older than we think we are! I used to play netball but have downsized to walking netball, which is highly competitive and great fun. Have also found Nordic walking a good workout for the whole body, without having to go to the gym. I think the important thing is that when something doesn't work quite as well as it used to, that we try to do something about it before accepting it as 'just our age'.

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    1. I do so agree Anne. use it or lose it is a frequent saying round here!

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  14. Since turning 60, I am spending more time and money on maintaining my health, as we all are from the comments above, and it sounds as though you are doing all the right things. Finding what you enjoy is crucial - as you say, ploughing up and down a heavily chlorinated swimming pool for half an hour or so, especially in winter, has little appeal, but walking the dogs in the countryside around our home is always a great pleasure, as is gardening, although my back complains. I am a relative newcomer to pilates - started in September and am beginning to find my abdominal muscles, and enjoying the nurturing supportive class I have joined (as well as the cup of tea and chat some of us have afterwards). Not ready to be an old lady at all and hope to be an active one when the time comes. Great post!

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    1. it's interesting how many of us are trying yoga or pilates, or both. I think it's partly that they are very enjoyable in a way that slogging away in the gym is not for many people. I see you are another dog walker too!

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  15. So much of what you write resonates with me. I'm a few years older and dislike the strange sudden pains that come and then swiftly go (thankfully). I have been going to yoga for several years now and although sometimes its a struggle if I don't go I really miss it and notice the difference in my flexibility. I had thought moving to the country I would walk more but in fact it's less. Across the fields is very muddy currently and then in lanes you have to dodge very large tractors and fast cars. Excuses, excuses! But I do walk and I'm out in the garden most days.

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    1. I'm just the same with yoga. I think sometimes it won't matter if I miss a class or two but it does, it really does!

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  16. My mother and grandmother suffered from arthritis in their hands which didn't quite stop, but did slow down, their knitting, and I will hate having that happen as it well may. I very much relate to what you say about school "physical education" classes which alienated me from a natural inclination, I believe, to enjoy movement of my own choosing. Luckily, there was always a family push to walk, and then my husband introduced me to canoeing and hiking, and then I was active with the kids. . . . yet thanks to school, I always thought of myself as non-athletic. Currently, I'm working with a physio to get some kinks worked out so that I can begin building up my running distances again. Settling into a new yoga studio here, aiming at two classes weekly for a start, and eventually adding one or two sessions a week in our building's small gym. I have to admit that the equipment intimidates me a bit, triggering those high-school, non-athlete fears of being incompetent, but my sister wants me to book a few hours with her trainer to develop a routine. I suppose I just want to keep the machinery going as efficiently and maybe as joyfully as it can for as long as possible. ;-)
    (oh, and I should add that I loved Pilates as well -- ten years, twice a week, wonderful instructor who had a number of clients in their 80s and 90s -- she'd come in all excited because of progress they were making thanks to recovering their balance, which helped them regain a surprising degree of mobility. Apparently, lack of balance and the concomitant fear of falling is hugely responsible for a diminishment of activity in seniors. Something to keep in mind. . . at the moment, I'm sticking with yoga because it seems more affordable than the much smaller classes on the Pilates Reformer, which is what I used to love best.

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    1. I like your phrase about keeping the machinery going "efficiently and maybe joyfully". Yes, very much the case for me too. There is such pleasure in a body which is functioning well and such constraint when it doesn't. I watched my dad who had always been an intensely active person learn how to cope with inaction. I doubt whether I can ever appreciate how hard that must have been but it is doubtless part of my sense that, in the absence of incapacitating ill health, I have almost a duty to look after the ability to move.

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  17. Hi Elizabeth. I keep forgetting that we are the same age; kinda fun to have another benchmark person I can relate to. I am in the midst of a horrid time with my left knee. Basically it has hurt on and off since finishing my walk in France in October. I had mostly been ignoring it, but, fed up with the pain I went to the doc and he didn't think it was arthritis (good!) and suggested an exercise which I didn't do. Which was silly of me and yet why do so many of us not do what we are advised to do, or even know would be good for us? I really need to understand this. Anyway, a two day walk on very muddy terrain in mid Wales gave me a very uncomfortable second day of pain, so I went back to doctor. He mildly rebuked me and suggested a phisio. And an x ray. "We the d not to do an MRI for people our age". (I let that pass, but shouldn't have).He also gave me the same exercise and also thought it isn't arthritis, but damage to the meniscus. Which he said can be very slow to heal cos it doesn't have much of a blood supply. I came away feeling glad of his opinion, and with a new resolve to do the exercises. And have been doing, much to Anne's amusement- standing on the injured leg and dipping up a down. I understand this is a strengthening exercise for the muscles around the knee.
    Well a week of that plus short daily walks, cold compresses and massages hasn't made much difference. Which is a bit depressing. But I will persevere. If it isn't better in another week, I will re-consult the phisio and will see the doc and try and get the scan.
    Which is a long story, sorry. But it's in a context of hours and hours spent in the last 5 years of time spent in hospitals with a heart condition that came out of nowhere.
    I am coping with how I look, though I know that I am lucky being a man in this regard. We have a much easier time of it in this area. But I am struggling with what my body is doing. I feel angry (just a man thing?), Upset, insecure - and guilty. And frightened. It's just going to get worse, isn't it?
    You are wise to do what you are doing. And I'll try to do better by myself. But I am still left wondering why we find it so hard to do right by ourselves.

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    1. Thank you for replying so honestly Charles. Yes, I do think the anger aspect of the response to the body's failings might be more a male than a female response but I do recognise upset, insecurity and guilt. Guilt seems particularly pointless. No doubt I could have lived more healthily and even now could give up alcohol and go to the gym everyday but only if I were actually someone else. The best I can do with who I am in the life I want to lead seems to be what I should aim for. And I know that I am much better at doing things (eg more exercise) rather than not doing things (eg giving up drink or cheese). I hope you can find a way to look after your knee. No one else will!

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  18. Sorry, there are some typos. And to clarify, the phisio suggested the same exercise as the doc. Feel free to edit!

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  19. You could have written that post for me. I too was deemed un sporty and believed it. Hated netball and lacrosse. Swam for a few years but got so bored. Cycled round Lake Constance once and can hardly believe it now. But I love walking, not in the city where I mostly live but out on the coastal routes when it's not too muddy. I have a sore hip out of nowhere and am cross about that and the neck problem but have loved going to Pilates for the last ten years and hope my wonderful teacher never gives up. I'd like to find a yoga class. I tried following Adrienne online but can't make myself stay in the room for long enough! I've got a mat at home but something stops me from taking the time to settle to some stretches or strength exercises and it's not lack of time so what is it? A strange rationing of self care time. No wonder the L'Oreal slogan was so successful.. You have to believe you're worth it.

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    1. interesting how your phrase about "rationing self care time" echoes Charles talking about not doing the exercises the doctor suggested. it's a sort of self sabotage. I'm guilty of this too. I struggle to do things like yoga by myself but I am better at going to classes. the structure seems to make it more manageable!

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  20. We are the same age and share the same concerns about keeping mobility and flexibility through being active. For me it is the garden which acts as the motivating factor, and then provides a wealth of different activities from digging through raking to sawing! The pleasure this brings is immense and so satisfying.I enjoy walking too. As for giving up wine .... :-)

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    1. gardening is good because it just works itself into your daily life!

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  21. I am just a bit ahead of you, Elizabeth. I am happy to say that all my joints continue to allow me to do the things I've always loved to do. I walk every day but know that the addition of something for my upper body would go a long way toward maintaining my flexibility. I admire your move to new things like Pilates.....perhaps I'll give it a go too.

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    1. I'm enjoying the pilates but I am having to admit I need to do more hard aerobic stuff if I want to keep hill walking!

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  22. Spinning is good if your gym do classes. Enjoy being outdoors as much as you can and above all, love life! poemblog9.blogspot.com regards, Mark err actually you are only eight years older than me :)

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    1. I'm definitely an outdoors person and I do think that being outside lifts the spirits and makes you more physically active too.

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  23. I am 62, same age as you, live in the States and have to work full time mostly because of health ins. I had thought of giving up work and going on Obama Care, but that may all come to an end with all the changes Trump is bringing about. Not only that I now have to work in the city and catch a train every day, leave at 7:45 am and get home at 6:45 pm. My exercise is climbing the seven flights of steps every day up from the station platform and into our high rise office building, and I tell myself, it's good you can still do it. Starting in April I'm cutting back to a 4 day week because I can still keep health ins for my husband and I. Having been brought up in the UK I was used to NHI. So many Americans are caught in this vortex.

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